LAHORE: As many as 180 convicts in the country have been executed during the last six months. The Ministry of Interior Affairs has now announced a moratorium on executions till Eidul Fitr out of respect for Ramazan.
In a notification issued on June 13, the ministry imposed the moratorium and requested all provincial governments to comply with the order.
Punjab has been leading in the number of executions carried out so far, 153, followed by Sindh, 15, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 5, Balochistan, 5, and Mirpur Central Jail (AJK), 2. Of these, 23 were convicted of terrorism and 25 were tried under the Anti-Terrorism Act for heinous crimes including multiple murders, murder-robbery and gang rape. The remaining 132 convicts were executed on orders passed by additional district and sessions courts for crimes including robbery, kidnap for ransom, rape, and murder to settle personal scores. Tipu Salman Makhdoom, an advocate of the Supreme Court, said Pakistan had alienated itself in the comity of nations by lifting the moratorium on death sentence. He said several international human rights organisations had condemned the policy and Pakistan risked losing the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) Plus status. “Our criminal justice system is marred by police torture, poor legal representation, and unfair trials…these are some of the reasons behind the barrage of criticism against death penalty.” Makhdoom said there were also cases which failed to meet international standards for fair trial – these include cases in which the police adds Section 7 of the ATA to FIRs that have nothing to do with terrorism. Yet the courts do not question this practice, said Makhdoom. “Frequently, confessions are obtained through torture.”
As many as 8,000 prisoners have been languishing in various prisons of the country waiting for black warrants to be issued – many of them have been in jails since the ’90s.
As many as 5,472 death row prisoners, including 47 women, are incarcerated in the 25 Punjab prisons. Of these, 44 have exhausted all avenues of appeals. Their fate lies in the hands of jail authorities who will decide when to obtain black warrants for them from the respective trial courts.
DESIGN: NABEEL KHAN
The appeals for clemency of 392 convicts are pending with the president while one appeal is pending with the GHQ. No appeal from the Punjab is pending before the Federal Shariat Court, 875 appeals are pending before the Supreme Court and 4,162 appeals are pending before Lahore High Court.
The moratorium on executions was lifted on orders of the federal government on December 17, 2014, for terrorism-related cases after an attack on a school in Peshawar. The government later reinstated capital punishment for all death penalty offences.
Since then, the United Nations, the European Union, the Amnesty International, the Human Rights Watch and several local rights organisations have urged the government to re-impose the moratorium on death penalty.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2015.