Resuming Death Sentence: Best Reply to Terrorism?

By Muhammad DaimFazilaps

School auditoriums, which usually are used for student’s gathering for academic activities or celebrations, turned mourning ground for the parents of the barbarically slayed youngsters in the Army Public School Peshawar (APSP). The highly inhuman act has not simply trashed the nurturing dreams of 132 kids who were killed in the auditorium but also of those who witnessed slaughter of their colleagues. The carnage in a school, run by military, in the restive province of Pakistan Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has unleashed a new debate inside Pakistan and at some Human Rights forums. This debate is linked with the Pakistani government’s decision regarding resumption of death sentence immediately after ruthless Peshawar attack. Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif announced the lifting of the ban on death sentence which was imposed by former President Asif Ali Zardari. Mr. Zardari, after coming to office, announced the bar in 2008 and it lasted (except one case in 2012) until last year when newly elected PML-N government decided to lift it. However, soon after the announcement, Taliban threatened government to refrain from such moves because a large number of Taliban fighters were awaiting the executions at that time. The Taliban announced that any execution of their captives would result in the massive hike in the targeting of government apparatuses generally and the PML-N MPs in particular. Following the threats, no official execution was reported until December 19, 2014. The current decision of government to lift the bar from death penalties has witnessed dozens of hangings in less than a month and there are more than 8000 criminals waiting for their turn in the jails, the highest number of death row inmates in the world.

Pakistan is an Islamic state and most of laws are made following the scriptures of the Holy Quran and preaching of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H). Nearly 27 crimes are embedded with death penalties in Pakistan. However, despite being Islamic State and a massive pressure of Islamic clerics, Pakistan handled the domestic sway easily but failed to digest the international pressure and halted death penalties for more than five years.
The center of current debate is whether death sentence reduce the volume of serious crimes or does it impede the happening of terror related bouts. There are arguments and counterarguments in this regard. A state like Pakistan can justify the death sentence on two grounds i.e. religious obligations and public demand after the refreshed terrorist attacks. While the rest of the states, other than Islamic ones, can also validate the punishment if the ratio of crimes is shrank. For example, in the United States, form 1993 to 1997 US witnessed 26% decline in criminal activities and during this period the death sentence was a frequent retribution. Another example is of United Kingdom where the ratio of killing has doubled since 1964. Only first four months of 2014 recorded 573 killings in UK. Moreover, according to some studies, the criminals who were released from jails despite they were murderers, did this act again and 35 such cases reported from 2001 to 2011. Hanging of criminals by other countries like China, Iran, Singapore and Saudi Arabia is also on the rise and each of these states have lesser criminal happenings than those where death sentence either is completely vanished or is subject to temporary pause. An American author, Earnest Wan Dan, wrote in its 1983 column of New York Times that only death penalty will stop people from committing a sin or criminal act of killing. Several others have also put their weight in the favor of death sentence.

In the case of Pakistan, the country has long history of hanging individuals once sentenced by the higher courts. Even the former Prime Minister Zulifkar Ali Bhutto, the first elected PM, also fall prey to this punishment by a military dictator. The sufferers and other individuals of society in Pakistan also believe that the best answer to the innocent killing is no other than the hanging of the perpetrator. Moreover, Pakistan spends ample amount for the safety of high value targets detained in sensitive jails across the country and quite a few jailbreaks have also occurred in the past decade. Therefore, the advocates of death sentence stress the need of resumption of the punishment so as to minimize the dangers that the central jails are confronting with. However, this is not to say that all the individuals of Pakistani society have strict approaches, instead all want to see the society under pure Islamic laws and the rightful end of the dissidents. A sheer number of people who believe the death sentence is an inhuman act justify their narrative by saying that if the death penalty is intended to stop people from doing this act, why such exercise is still around us? Additionally, they assert such punishments only halts killing in one area that if someone has killed someone during rape or looting, and earned societal shame as well as death sentence by the court, the other may not commit such activity; not fearing from the death but the notorious label it could have later on. Another claim is made about the glitches pertinent in the judicial and prosecution system of Pakistan. The less cooperative role of Police with the victim families and political backing to judges of the courts, sometime results in the hanging of innocent ones thus, leaving a substantial room of ambiguities in the entire procedure. Moreover, Pakistan is undergoing to massive terrorism since 2001 but the suspension of death penalties came in 2008 and even before 2008, there was no debility in the terror menace neither the level of crimes decreased.
This debate is not going to end anytime soon. It will be extremely hard for Islamic states to completely abandon the death sentence punishment from the existent laws and it will equally be hard to endure public’s pressure in this regard. The human rights organizations have to cognize the snags of Islamic state governments. An international consensus to convert death row into lifetime prison can be the best alternate however; Human Rights activists and organizations have to present their narrative with more solid rationalizations.

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