President Asif Ali Zardari has been asked to pardon the death penalty of a female convict, who is clinically diagnosed with serious physical and mental ailments. Over 1,000 women, led by human rights activist and Supreme Court advocate Asma Jahangir and many other prominent female lawyers, have come to the aid of Kaneezan Bibi by signing a petition and maintaining that the woman’s sentence be commuted on humanitarian grounds. Kaneezan Bibi was convicted of murder in a trial court of Toba Tek Singh in January 1991. With the backing of the United Nations Guidelines of Restrictions and Safeguards for Death Penalty, which states that people suffering from any form of mental disorder shall not have the death penalty imposed on them nor should they be executed, we stand firm in asking the president to assuage Kaneezan Bibi’s death sentence.
Under Article 45 of the Constitution of Pakistan, the president “shall have power to grant pardon, reprieve and respite, and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court, tribunal or other authority”. Too many times in this country, we have tried people unjustly and wrongfully locked them up, while those suspected of terrorism have walked scot-free due to the police being unable to produce sufficient evidence in time. At other times, terrorists have broken out of jails and such incidents have even been alleged by some to have been inside jobs. This is now a chance for the state to act in a competent and responsible manner by showing mercy towards this woman.
If Pakistan goes ahead with this execution, it will reflect poorly on an already tattered image of the country in the global arena. The execution would also upset other countries and the UN. Pakistan may see itself facing extremely harsh criticism for its disregard of the UN guidelines and its lack of humanity shown, if Kaneezan Bibi’s sentence is not commuted. Taking these factors into consideration, we hope that the plea to the president will not go unheard and that he will make a sound judgment in the case.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2013.
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