ISLAMABAD: When confronted with the fact that 65 convicts were waiting for their execution on death row in Pakistan, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MNA Tahira Aurangzeb bluntly asked to have capital punishment abolished in the land.
“I am against death penalty. Find some alternative punishment,” said Aurangzeb on Monday during question hour in the house.
But in a surprise move, Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Aijaz Virk said he, as an individual would oppose any attempt made at abolishing capital punishment. This is in contradiction of his party’s unspoken resolve to put executions in abeyance. Though one man was recently executed.
Virk referred to the law existing in Saudi Arabia and quoted from Islamic history to support his argument. “Pakistan’s name itself suggests it was formed on Islamic principles. How can we make legislation contrary to Islamic laws,” said the PPP lawmaker. He said it would be injustice to the families of murder victims.
Parliamentary Secretary Interior Rai Mujtaba Kharal told the house that no death convict was hanged during the last four years of the incumbent government’s term, except one soldier who was sent to gallows last month for killing another officer.
“The last civilian was hanged in November 2008,” said Kharal, adding that the army has its own appellate courts and the soldier executed was tried under army laws. He killed his Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO).
On MNA Aurangzeb’s suggestion for abolishing capital punishment, Kharal told the house that a summary in this regard was moved by the ministry of interior which was later sent to the law ministry. However, he said the matter was now in court. “So I would not comment,” said Kharal.
The Parliamentary Secretary went on to inform the house that popular opinion on the issue was also divided. However, the parliament could take up and debate on it to achieve consensus on the matter.
The parliamentary secretary was confronted by MNA Aurengzeb’s party colleague Abid Sher Ali. “Was it the ruling party’s tradition to give asylum to murderers? If Secretary can read Hadith and Islamic laws he should know that capital punishment is clearly provided there,” said MNA Ali.
“Think of the family that losses a loved one to murders,” he added. The PML-N legislator was backed by another member, Federally Administered Tribal Areas’ (FATA) Zafar Baig Bhittani. Quoting from Quran, he said that Islam gives the right to the family of the murder victim to avenge death or to forgive him. However, capital punishment was necessary as it works as a deterrent.
The parliamentary secretary for interior again invited the house for a debate on the issue to address all concerns. “The government would act upon whatever the parliament decides,” said Kharal.
Weakest economy in the region
The house on Monday was told that Pakistan was lagging way behind other four major economies of South Asian region on all fronts. Foreign Investment in Pakistan for the year 2012 remained US $766 million, lower than SriLanka ($956 mn), Bangladesh ($1193mn) and India ($39231mn).
Inflation in Pakistan remained highest among the four countries at 11 per cent while its imports were way higher than exports.
“Should we not consider banning the import of luxurious items for the time we achieve balance between our import-export,” suggested MNA Yasmeen Rehman.
Minsiter for Finance and Revenue, Abdul Hafeez Sheikh admitted in a written answer that Pakistan’s economy vis-à-vis other four countries did not remain healthy. However, he attributed the bad economic condition to natural disasters, security challenges, energy crisis, weak capital inflow besides other factors.