Barrister Sarah Belal, Director, JPP, lamented, on December 18, 2015, `Lifting the moratorium is a knee-jerk reaction. Our research shows that the government is clueless on who is an actual terrorist on death row and who isn't. Keeping that in mind, we're going to see some gross violations of rights.` According to the report, 80 per cent of those on death row have not committed acts of terror, but were wrongly convicted. Belal added,
They have the wrong people and terrorists roam free. Our criminal justice system is full of problems. We have problems in investigation system; there is capacity problem in our police department whereas bribery and political pressures further add to the miseries of the people. How can we execute a person when the criminal justice system is problematic? Therefore first we need to take measures to improve the system and then think about executing the criminals.Wrongful executions in Pakistan have come to light in several cases, including the case of two brothers, Ghulam Qadir and Ghulam Sarwar, of Bahawalpur who had spent 11 years on death row and were hanged on October 13, 2015, only to be acquitted by the Supreme Court on October 20, 2016.
Another disgrace was when, on September 26, 2016, the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty against a mentally ill man, Imdad Ali, convicted of murder, overturning a previous appeal and a court decision staying his execution. Imdad Ali, who is diagnosed with schizophrenia, has been on death row since he was convicted in 2001. According to the Reprieve Group, an anti-death penalty team, Ali's execution would be a violation of both Pakistani and international laws.
While, the actual target of NAP, the terrorists, often roam free, the problem is compounded further by the fact that several terrorist organizations in Pakistan continue to enjoy state support, creating systemic biases against a non-discriminatory policy of executing terrorists on death row. In a recent assertion, the Federal Minister for Interior Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan defended the terrorist Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) on the floor of the Senate (Upper House of Parliament), arguing that it was involved in 'charitable works'. On July 7, 2015, he argued, `Presently, JuD is engaged in charity and social work, operating hospitals, clinics, schools, ambulance service and religious institutions.` He went on to add that that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had listed JuD as a resurrection of LeT, but no 'supporting evidence' was shared with Pakistan to establish such a connection. The JuD, a front of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), is led by Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the mastermind of the November 26, 2008 (26/11) Mumbai (India) terror attacks. The US has declared a reward of USD 10 million against him.
Though the Government and the all-powerful military in Pakistan remain in denial, the Supreme Court, on July 2, 2015, asked the Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) why no action was being taken against terrorist organisations. Justice Jawad S. Khawaja remarked,
You have an action plan [National Action Plan (NAP)">, then why it is not being implemented? Why terrorist organisations are overlooked by them? Action should be taken against them as well. Governments should do their job. The Court will issue no directive. No one can heave a sigh of relief. Every day a terror incident is published in newspapers. This is the level of seriousness of governments that terror incidents are taking place every day. Tell us, what the government has done within six months and six days (sic).The press release issued by JPP on December 18, 2016, stated that there was a need to `revamp and reform Pakistan's criminal justice system`. However no significant efforts had been made in this direction, so far.
On the other hand the Pakistan Government has a totally different perspective on the death penalty. They claim that the policy of execution has proven effective as a deterrent against terrorism.
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management