Executions in Pakistan continue apace with another three murderers who committed their crimes in the last century hanged in the last two days. None of them had any connection with terrorism. Iran has executed nearly 1,000 in the last year and unknown thousands have been executed in China. Capital punishment is rising globally with Pakistan among the leaders in those judicially killed. Amnesty International monitors capital punishment and has published its report for 2015, which records 1,634 executions — a rise of 54 per cent over the previous year and the highest number since 1989. The actual figure is far higher as there are countries that do not provide data regarding capital punishment. The good news is that Fiji, the Republic of Congo, Madagascar and Suriname all abandoned capital punishment, thus reinforcing the long-term downward trend in states that carry out capital punishment. With Pakistan in the top five, it is reasonable to question what, if anything, has been achieved since executions restarted in March 2015 after the Army Public School attack in Peshawar. A total of 326 people were executed in 2015, the majority of them not convicted of any terror-related offences. There is a possibility that two of them were juveniles when they committed their crimes.
There is not a shred of evidence anywhere that capital punishment does anything to deter crime of any description. As far as Pakistan is concerned, executions can also have unintended consequences, as that of Mumtaz Qadri amply demonstrated. Were any other high-profile terrorist to be executed, there might be a similar response. There has been no diminution in murder rates, the bombers have gone about their business and the contract killers of Karachi and Quetta still find employment. The judicial system remains weak, and there is a reasonable chance that a fair trial in a capital case may not be automatically expected. Innocent people have in all likelihood been convicted of capital offences. Some of them are still on death row and there is every expectation that they will be hanged as well. The rope, both literally and metaphorically, is a road to nowhere.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2016.
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