The practice of capital punishment or the death penalty in Pakistan faced an indefinite moratorium in 2008 after former President Asif Ali Zardari of the Pakistan People’s Party took charge of the office. Benazir Bhutto, the former chairperson of the political party, strongly opposed the death penalty; her father, and former Prime Minister of Pakistan Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was sentenced to death and hanged after what many believe to be an unfair trial.
The laws of the penalty were revised after the massacre of innocent school children in Army Public School Peshawar on the 7th of December, 2014 and the penalty was put into effect for terrorist cases. By March 2015 the moratorium was completely lifted for any and all cases.
According to Amnesty International, there were about 8,500 inmates placed on death row by 2015. Amnesty International also confirmed 326 executions in 2015, 87 executions in 2016, and 65 executions in 2017. The Justice Project Pakistan has reported at least 7 executions in 2018 as of April 11th. Pakistan remains the “fifth most prolific executioner” in the world. Yet we must question if the penalty has had any notable effect on crime rates.
Punjab is accountable for 83% of the executions and has shown only a 9.7% drop in murder rates, whereas Sindh has shown a 25% drop in murder rate and accounts for only 4% of these executions. The correlation between the death penalty and crime rates is vague and thus reforms are required to establish an effective method of curbing crime.
The death penalty has failed to prevent crime and has been used increasingly to decrease the inmate population in the overcrowded jails of the country. Furthermore, cases of wrongful executions need to be addressed by the government. If the police and legal systems cannot ensure a fair trial, then the courts have no business whatsoever to place the accused on death row. More often than not, due to discrepancies in caste and class, the poor and the minorities have suffered at the hands of the law more than anyone else. Legal aid is difficult to get, so what hope is there for a fair trial based on evidence, rather than forced confessions through police brutality?
Pakistan has faced international criticism for lifting the moratorium for not one, but 27 different crimes. The death penalty is in direct violation of the right to life, and even freedom of speech, due to the blasphemy laws surrounding the penalty. Serious thought needs to be given to protect people of this country from being wrongly accused convicted, and executed. One can only hope that the next elected government will have the time to make amends. The current government is too busy defending itself in courts.