The Supreme Court summoned Attorney General for Pakistan Salman Aslam Butt to give a reply about inmates on death row awaiting execution in jails across the country.
A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk, on Wednesday took up a petition filed by the representative of the Watan Party. The petition seeks direction to the government for explanations of the inordinate and inexplicable delays in the execution of death-row prisoners.
The petition further states that besides murder, there are 27 offences in Pakistan which are legally punishable by death.
During the hearing, Deputy Attorney General Sajid Ilyas Bhatti submitted a report about death-row prisoners. The bench, however, observed that the report had already been submitted in the court last year. “Where is the attorney general for Pakistan (AGP)? The court had issued a notice to him on the last date of hearing,” Justice Nasirul Mulk asked Bhatti.
Bhatti said the AGP is in Karachi for appearance before the Sindh High Court in another case.
Justice Nasirul Mulk also asked Barrister Zafarullah, the counsel for the petitioner, what relief he is seeking from the court in this case and whether that relief amounts to giving an order for execution. The counsel said that the death-row prisoners should be released if the government does not want to proceed with execution.
The court again directed the AGP to appear in person and assist the court by answering questions raised by the petitioner in this matter. The hearing was adjourned until the last week of May.
According to the 2013 report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), authorities have executed only one death-row prisoner since 2009, with 8,526 on death row in prisons across the country.
The report further stated that courts continue to award capital punishment as 227 people, including three women and three Christians, were sentenced to death in 2013.
On December 5, 2013, the law ministry informed the HRCP that the government is maintaining a moratorium on death penalty but added, however, that the ministry is not in favour of the complete abolition of the death penalty in view of the prevalent law and order situation, particularly with reference to acts of terrorism. The ministry added that the death sentence under Hudood Laws also cannot be abolished in view of Article 2-A read with Article 227 of the Constitution.
“The issue of death penalty is related to the Ministry of Interior and Narcotics Control and provincial governments. This ministry is obtaining their comments and a final response shall be given after receipt of comments from all stakeholders,” the law ministry further said.
The HRCP has also urged the government to take concrete steps toward ending the death penalty and meanwhile persist with the suspension of executions.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th, 2014.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ