Seventy per cent of the death sentences awarded by the country’s lower judiciary on drug smuggling charges are quashed by the higher courts later, statistics laid before the National Assembly on Wednesday revealed.
According to the data, 100 people have been sentenced to death on charges of smuggling narcotics into the country since 1997, when a stringent law prescribing capital punishment for drug pushers was enacted. However, the high courts and Supreme Court have set aside the death sentence for as many as 70 of them in the same period.
“The majority of these sentences were quashed by higher courts due to insufficient evidence or flaws in the trial process,” Raja Amir Abbas, a Supreme Court lawyer who has dealt with drug smuggling cases, told The Express Tribune. The minimum penalty for anyone found in possession of more than 10 kilogrammes of illicit drugs under the Narcotics Substances Act 1997 is a life sentence, he said, adding that a death sentence is the maximum penalty under the law.
Meanwhile, 444 people across the country are currently being tried in cases of drug offences punishable with death, the statistics revealed. The statistics were provided by interior ministry in response to a question by a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf lawmaker Shireen Mazari.
522 death sentences in five years
A total of 522 death sentences were awarded in the country over the past five years, the interior ministry informed the house. The death sentences were held in abeyance, however. All executions are held in abeyance until the matter is discussed by the prime minister and the president, the ministry said.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2014.