Wrongful hangings expose flaws in justice system

Complicity on part of prisons, judicial authorities in Punjab cannot be ruled out

Hasnaat Malik October 23, 2016
AAG Punjab Ahmad Raza Gilani believes that the jail authorities should have sought the opinion of the prosecution department before going ahead with the hangings. PHOTO: ONLINE

ISLAMABAD: The wrongful executions of the two brothers in a southern Punjab district have exposed serious flaws in Pakistan’s criminal justice system.

Possible complicity of prisons and judicial authorities in Punjab cannot be ruled out in the hanging of the two brothers, who were executed under highly questionable circumstances in Bahawalpur last year.

PHC temporarily halts militant’s execution 

Sources told The Express Tribune that the provincial home department had already launched a probe into this ‘criminal negligence’, and officials concerned also sought legal opinion on the matter from the advocate-general’s office.

After these revelations, a debate started once again whether or not to abolish the death penalty in the country.

Case history

On October 6, while hearing seven-year-old jail petitions, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, acquitted the two brothers – Ghulam Qadir and Ghulam Sarwar. They had been condemned to death for killing Abdul Qadir, Muhammad Akmal and Salma Bibi on February 2, 2002 in Rahim Yar Khan district.

However, things took a dramatic turn when it transpired that the two brothers had been executed on October 12 last year.

The case landed in the Supreme Court seven years ago by way of jail petitions after the Lahore High Court dismissed the brothers’ appeals and upheld their death penalty.

Later, the apex court appointed Aftab Ahmed Khan advocate to plead the case on behalf of the two brothers in 2010.

On June 10, 2010, a two-judge bench, headed by Justice Raja Fayyaz Ahmed, took up the jail petitions for first time against their death sentence and granted leave only for re-examining evidence against them for the premeditated murder (Qatl-e-Amad) of Salma. However, the bench upheld their death sentence in two other murders.

On October 5 this year, the case was taken up again by the apex court, after which the bench found its order of June 10, 2010 to be ‘anomalous’ and decided to review it.

The ruling was intimated by the apex court’s registrar to the secretary of Punjab Home Ministry and the federal secretary interior.

On June 6, the bench resumed the case hearing, wherein Additional Prosecutor-General Punjab Ahmad Raza Gilani and the counsel for petitioners, Aftab Ahmad Khan, also opposed the sentencing of the two brothers on three counts of murder.

After examining the entire record, the court issued an 11-page judgment, in which it held that the prosecution had failed to prove its case against the appellants.

Justice Malik Manzoor Ahmad, while authoring the judgment, allowed their appeals and set aside the judgments under which they were awarded death sentences.

“The appellants, Ghulam Qadir and Ghulam Sarwar, are acquitted of the charges. Both of them shall be released forthwith.” Legal opinion on affixing responsibility.

Against execution: Activists denounce capital punishment

Aftab Ahmad Khan, the counsel for both brothers, told The Express Tribune that when the court issued orders acquitting the two brothers, he wrote a letter to their family, but received no response.

Later, he said, he approached the Supreme Court’s implementation branch for their release.

Finally, he personally talked with jail authorities in Rahimyar Khan and Bahawalpur, but was shocked to learn that both brothers had already been hanged last year.

The counsel said that he was moving an application in the apex court next week, requesting for launching a probe into the matter.

AAG Punjab Ahmad Raza Gilani believes that the jail authorities should have sought the opinion of the prosecution department before going ahead with the hangings.

Additional Advocate-General Punjab Qasim Chohaan contended that the apex court should have suspended the death sentences in its June 10, 2010 order.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2016.

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