Pakistan: The Rope is Not a Solution

By Sarmad Ali* | IDN-InDepth NewsViewpoint

LAHORE (IDN) – The government of Pakistan, after the terrifying attack on a Peshawar school on December 16, which took the lives of 132 school students and nine staff members, and left numerous injured, decided to reinstate capital punishment.

No doubt, the whole nation is in great agony and grief. I, first of all, want to condemn such terror attacks and wish for this country to find a way out of this terrorism curse soon and we all shall resume peaceful and prosper lives.

The purpose behind writing this article is to show solidarity with those who have lost their loved ones in terror attacks in the past many years. The second purpose of this article is to put forward that the state of Pakistan has to challenge the terror ideology adopted by terror organisations operating with impunity in Pakistan and in its neighbouring country of Afghanistan.

Right wing elements in the country connected this recent terror attack to Indian intelligence agency RAW, which seems too loose an argument, one that carries no weight at all. This argument has managed to detract the general public from the real culprit that has been managing terror activists in Pakistan for many years.

Immediately after the terror attack, the political leadership and military heads sat together in Peshawar in order to draw out a map to help encounter terrorism in Pakistan. The leadership decided to embrace a proactive approach to challenge terrorism and terror-orientated activities in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s political leadership and the military heads decided to reinstate capital punishment in Pakistan and the establishment of military courts for quick disposal of terrorism related cases. This comes after capital punishment was banned in 2008 by the PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party) coalition government. Pakistan placed a moratorium on the death sentence in 2008 under international pressure exerted by leading human rights’ groups.

During 2008 and 2012, Saudi Arabia executed 502 people, Iraq 425 and the U.S., which pronounces itself as a custodian of human rights, executed about 279 people. Other countries like China and Iran executed a huge number of people between 2008 and 2013 despite international pressure. In Iran, between 2008 and 2013, about 2,032 inmates were sent to the gallows. About 6,544 inmates are serving death sentences in 32 jails in Punjab province only. There are 32 prisons in the biggest province of Pakistan, Punjab, and the authorised capacity to detain people in these prisons is 21,527.

However, research conducted by non-governmental bodies has shown that, at present, 52,318 inmates are in prison, much higher than the number authorised. Ten percent of inmates in these jails had been awarded the death penalty by different courts for different offences.

According to Amnesty International, Pakistan executed 135 inmates in 2007. In comparison to other countries that retained the death sentence, this number is very low. It is not out of place to mention that, in 1950, there were only two death penalty offences such as, murder and revolt against the country but now it can be awarded on 27 accounts, for instance smuggling and drug peddling.

Arguments against

My contention is that Pakistan has to challenge and overcome terror ideology wholeheartedly. The reinstatement of capital punishment is not a solution at all. Moreover, it has been decided worldwide that capital punishment is a barbaric, inhumane sentence.

It is not out of place to mention that innocents may also be sent to the gallows in Pakistan where the judicial system is in the hands of people with deep pockets and the courts have no propensity to conduct quick free and fair trials. Parliament has to introduce and amend terrorism related statues and acts quickly, and also introduce new provisions enabling the courts and law enforcement authorities to arrest and then conduct trials of arrested people fairly in a quick and precise manner.

I further contend that in a country like Pakistan, the non-penal social engineering approach should be adopted instead of penalising people. Yes, criminal law should be in place but it should be for the rehabilitation of people in jail instead of making them more stubborn and hardened criminals.

The most leading nations in Europe have abolished the death sentence and have adopted the life imprisonment sentence instead. Advanced capitalist countries like the UK abolished the death penalty in 1968 and other leading European countries followed the non-penal approach in order to make the criminal justice system work for the rehabilitation of inmates in jail.

My second contention is that connecting the death penalty with terrorism is false. Execution is no deterrence in curtailing terror activities in Pakistan. Terrorism has reached its zenith due to the non-practical approach taken by previous military generals. The current military generals seem keener to encounter terrorism, which is good.

My last argument is that the rope is not a social saviour. The modern and advanced capitalist country of the UK abolished capital punishment for murder in 1964 and, in 1998, abolished it for all offences, introducing the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment. Now, in the UK, a reasonable section of society demands the reinstatement of capital punishment for intentional murder.

The fact is that the movement against capital punishment had its origins over 100 years ago in an effort aimed at the medieval concept of retributive justice with reformative justice. Thus, in 1863, Venezuela became the first country in the world to abolish capital punishment.

There are 62 countries in the world that still maintain the death penalty while 92 countries have abolished it completely. Ten countries retain it but only for crimes committed during wartime.

Pakistan should also abolish it instead of glorifying the execution of inmates. Pakistan now has to cater to the terrorism ideology without wasting any time. The nation is in deep sorrow already due to recent terror attacks. Capital punishment is not a solution and no deterrence to crimes, especially the crime of terrorism.

*The writer is an advocate of the High Court. [IDN-InDepthNews – December 26, 2014]

2014 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

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