On this day in 2015, Pakistan reinstated the death penalty for non terrorist-crimes eligible for capital punishment.
This action followed the reintroduction of the death penalty for terrorist crimes in December 2014 after 132 students and 9 members of staff died at the Peshawar School massacre; the deadliest terror attack ever seen in Pakistan. The decision has faced much criticism from international bodies who see such action as a step backwards for human rights.
A deputy director of Amnesty International stated:
This shameful retreat to the gallows is no way to resolve Pakistan’s pressing security and law-and-order problems
In 2008, the Pakistan People’s Party installed President Asif Ali Zardari who proceeded to issue an indefinite moratorium of prisoners on death row. Such precedent was challenged on the 14th November 2014 when Muhammed Hussain was hanged for murder, the trend to reversal of the moratorium solidified in the wake of the Peshawar Massacre, in the midst of continued tensions with the Pakistani Taliban Party. From this point, Pakistan has seemingly ignited an affinity for the penalty, becoming one of the world’s leading executioners with 400 prisoners hung within the first 18 months of reinstatement.
The implementation of the death penalty has aggravated debate surrounding its use; in violation of international law, residents of death row in Pakistan include those arrested under the age of 18 such as Shafqat Hussain sentenced at 14, whilst specific cases such as those of Abdul Basit, a paralysed man unable to fulfil his sentence without prolonged pain and suffering, have made the reinstatement questionable in its implementation. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, around 10% of those killed have been for terrorist related causes, with 73% of all cases being murderers, making government justification of ‘tackling terrorism’ dubious.
Despite international condemnation, the policy has been embraced more readily in Pakistan. A Gilani Research Foundation Survey found that 92% of Pakistanis were in favour of capital punishment for terrorism, although such findings by no means account for the broader approach adopted by government. With capital punishment being a potential sentence for crimes ranging from ‘Sabotage of the railway system’ to ‘Waging or abetting war against Pakistan’, the broader reinstatement holds far reaching consequences for citizens.
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