KARACHI: As the clock ticks and the hours go by, some 6,000 Pakistani prisoners on death row await to hear the verdict on how much life is left. President Asif Ali Zardari had granted a stay on the execution of the death convicts till June 30 this year.
Since 2008 none of the jailers across the country had to shed a red handkerchief, because President Asif Zardari granted a stay on executions reportedly when he took charge of his office in September 2008.
Article 45 of the 1973 Constitution empowers the president to pardon or remit convictions.
The article reads: “President shall have the power to grant pardon, reprieve and respite, and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court, tribunal or other authority”.
When officials at the presidency were asked, they denied knowledge about anything substantial being on the President’s table regarding this.
According to the presidency, after the passage of 18th amendment, once an ordinance is promulgated by the president, it needs vetting by the parliament to be endorsed, extended or validated. Once it gets proved, it goes to the presidency through law ministry to get promulgated but still it needs parliament’s approval.
Pakistan is believed to have one of the largest populations of condemned prisoners and inmates on death row in the world – 7,164 according to official prison records. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan puts the number at 8,000.
Spotlight on Karachi
The issue is more under a spotlight in Karachi, Pakistan’s most volatile urban hub, where a petition was filed by the Sindh High Court Bar Association pleading to direct the government for execution of the convicts on death row in Sindh to bring peace to the commercial hub of country, which is torn by frequent target killings.
Ali Muhammad Malik, a section officer for the interior ministry, filed comments in the SHC in response to the above stated petition, which stated that the President, under the constitution, has the power to reject the mercy petitions of the sentences of death. “President of Pakistan has granted stay to sentence of death up to June 30,” the ministry stated in its comments. “The policy is being reviewed,” it added.
Of lawyers and the death row – The missing link
The SHC Bar Association had taken the provincial government and chiefs of the police and paramilitary forces to court for failing to curb the killings of lawyers in targeted attacks.
Mustafa Lakhani, the Association’s President, had stated that the law and order situation in Karachi was deteriorating and the lives as well as properties of citizens, including lawyers, were not safe. “Since 2007, over 40 lawyers have been assassinated in Karachi,” he said, adding that law enforcers have failed to restore peace in the city.
The ministry stated that the federal government is making its utmost efforts to control the law and order situation in Karachi and the rest of the country to protect the lives of citizens, including lawyers.
The Rangers have been deployed in Karachi in aid of the police to improve the law and order and bring an end to the targeted killings, it informed.
The interior ministry said the IG Sindh and Director General of Rangers are making full efforts to control the law and order in Karachi to protect the lives and property of the citizens, including the lawyers. Rangers have been issued directives to remain vigilant in this regard and the meetings are frequently being held to review the peace situation in Karachi.
Lakhani pointed out that the death sentences awarded to the criminals were not being executed, which, according to him, encourage other criminals to commit crimes.
But the federal government refuted the allegations of corruption and claimed that it had deployed civil armed forces to control lawlessness in Karachi. “In the targeted attacks the personnel of the law enforcing agencies are also being killed,” it stated.
Headed by Justice Ahmed Ali M Sheikh, the bench adjourned hearing till July 4, as the petitioner Association’s lawyers have requested for time to go through the comments filed by the federal interior ministry.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2013.
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