The Asian Human Rights Commission welcomes the postponement of the scheduled executions of condemned prisoners in Pakistan which were to take place from August 20, 2013.
A temporary stay on the hangings was announced on Sunday, August 18 in response to protests from outgoing President Asif Ali Zardari and various international human rights organizations. This stay is set to last until Zardari returns to Pakistan and can discuss the matter with incumbent Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Relative to this meeting, the Pakistani Taliban threatened retaliation should any of their members be executed.
In an alleged effort to curb crime and terrorism, the newly elected government of Pakistan Muslim League-N reiterated their refusal to renew the moratorium. They are especially concerned about the crime-ridden urban centers such as Karachi and conflict areas along the Northern border with Afghanistan. It seems that regional terrorism is merely a way for the Pakistani government to maintain control over domestic politics and policies. Control over killing people, be they convicts or innocent persons, demonstrates their hold on terrorism but which in reality they have little power to control and too often to condone.
Asian Human Rights Commission welcomes the courageous decision of President Asif Ali Zardari in taking the bold step in refusing to allow the schedule executions to go through.
President Asif Ali Zardari’s decision provides Pakistan with yet another opportunity to show concern in taking up the question of abuse of Human Rights in the country. Furthermore, the AHRC hopes that the Government of Pakistan will give serious thought to two vital questions. These questions are; lifting the moratorium on death penalties and due consideration for the international and domestic protests from Human Rights Organizations and Activists.
Since independence, Pakistan has increasingly incorporated Shariah law (fundamentalist Islamic law) into its common law system. It has increased the scope of crimes for which one can be put to death, including blasphemy against Islam. Would it not be better for the country as a whole, that Pakistan’s new government focus on the rampant impunity afforded Islamic terrorists?
In its interventions the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) reported on ‘the saga of the prisoners waiting in death row’. The number of death row inmates increased from 5447 in 2005 to 8300 today, prison capacity has not been increased to hold them, leaving them to subsist in inhuman and inadequate living conditions.
The Pakistani government has high hopes to put a stop to criminal activity, especially acts of terrorism. Many of the actors in this situation come from believers of a radical sect of Islam that promotes the idea that by being a suicide bomber, one can reach salvation. So, the mere threat of a death penalty would not be a deterrent for radical followers of such a devout, if mis-guided faith.
It is vital that the international community and the United Nations work together to put pressure on the Pakistani government to formally abolish the death penalty. Questions have emerged concerning the legitimacy of the judicial system that has been handing out these death sentences.
AHRC would like to place on record its concern about the Government of Pakistan’s refusal to sign and ratify the two optional protocols to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR.) AHRC would also recommend to the Government of Pakistan to strictly abide by international standards on the death penalty.
In summation, the AHRC urges the Pakistani government to:
Protect Pakistani citizens’ right to life by re-implementing the moratorium on all pending death penalty cases in both civilian and military courts.
Formally abolish the death penalty for all crimes under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
Respect the rights of prisoners by correcting the overcrowding and poor conditions within the prison system.
Ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights regarding capital punishment.
Source: Asian Human Rights Commission, 20/08/2013: http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-150-2013