Until May this year, a total of 465 prisoners have been sent to the gallows since Pakistan lifted a moratorium on the death penalty in December 2014 in the wake of a terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, a report by the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) has revealed.
According to the data gathered by the JPP, Pakistan has become the fifth most prolific executioner in the world after China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
Punjab, in this period, emerged as an overwhelming practitioner of the death penalty, accounting for 83 per cent of the executions, and 89 per cent of death sentences in the country.
The province witnessed only a 9.7 per cent drop in murder rates during 2015-2016, said the JPP report.
Sindh, on the contrary, had a drop of nearly 25 per cent in the same time period – with only 18 executions as compared to Punjab’s 382.
Anti-terrorism courts in the country, the report said, accounted for only 16 per cent of the executions.
In 2015, 65 people tried by ATCs were executed. However, from January 2016 to May 2017, only eight people tried by ATCs. The majority of death sentences that were carried out during that time were awarded by district and sessions courts, it added.
The government sought to justify lifting the moratorium for all 27 death-eligible crimes, claiming it was necessary to deter terrorist threats in Pakistan. But the JPP report says it was mostly hanging terrorists through military courts in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and through ATCs in Sindh.
Another trend that emerged was the number of executions spike in the wake of a terrorist attack that killed more than five people in Punjab. The trend indicated that the use of executions, like the lifting of the moratorium, was often a reactionary step.
In Punjab, another disturbing trend showed that executions were being used as a means to make room in prisons that faced overcrowding. Currently, 25 of the 27 prisons in the province are significantly over capacity and the highest number of executions takes place in the most overcrowded prisons, according to the report.