Stranded on death row

Pakistan is believed to have the largest number of death row inmates in the world


Yusra Jabeen March 06, 2016

As Pakistanis, we have seen a lot of senseless violence, irrational killings and mass murders in the form of bomb blasts, over and over again. This would explain why our idea of justice would resonate around the notion of ‘eye for an eye’.

After the deadly Taliban attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, in December, 2014, Pakistan lifted the seven-year moratorium on executions. Since then, more than 300 people have been executed according to Amnesty International and the Justice Project Pakistan. However, most of them were not even convicted of terror offences.

According to a report published in the BBC on December 16, 2015, “Pakistan is believed to have the largest number of death row inmates in the world. The government said in October that 6,016 prisoners were awaiting execution - other estimates have put the figure at about 8,000.” However, today I want to attempt the impossible – to introduce the idea of restorative justice to what I see as a highly emotional population of Pakistan. A google search will reveal to you that restorative justice is a theory of justice that “emphasises repairing the harm caused by criminal behaviour, and it is best accomplished through cooperative processes that include all stakeholders.” However, it is not only a theory - it has been done, by justice-loving victims of violence. Rais Bhuyan, a Bangladeshi man, was attacked post the 9/11 fiasco. However, he chose to work with his assailant. However, in Pakistan, we seek all our answers for justice in death, and only in death.

I am not saying that we need to be all-forgiving and hippie-like, and say life goes on. But I am saying there has to be a system, in which we can help people make better choices. Neither am I suggesting life-imprisonment as an alternative – after all, keeping them in prison for life is also where my tax money is going.

I am just saying we cannot continue to kill people who kill others to teach them that killing is wrong. If violence is to be eradicated, the state has to adopt a peaceful policy where it does not administer death. Nobody should have the right to play God, especially not the state.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2016.

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