Pakistan has executed more than 200 people since the reintroducing the death penalty in December 2014. At the time it was a measure to combat terrorism, after the massacre of almost 150 people in a Peshawar school. However, that seems to be long forgotten. Now the death penalty is focusing on rampantly clearing out jails- targeting the mentally ill and disabled as well.

Pakistan’s jail manual gives no instructions on how to execute disabled prisoners. One of the most recent cases of Abdul Basit, a prisoner who was paralyzed from the waist down after an illness he contracted in prison. He was convicted six years ago of murder but maintains his innocence. Prison officials have missed Tuesday’s court deadline to explain how they would hang a paraplegic man, because of which his hanging in Lahore was postponed last month. A petition for his pardon has also been dismissed.

Executions of the mentally ill violate the right to human dignity under the Constitution, and are an affront to Pakistan’s obligations under international law. Additionally, Section 84 of the Pakistan Penal Code does not allow the state to punish any person suffering from a “disorder of his mental capabilities” The fact that officials are prepared to hang Basit, despite knowing this, shows they are even prepared to bend Pakistan’s law to breaking point.

Basit is not the only one. Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), a non- profit human rights law firm providing direct pro-bono legal and representative services to the most vulnerable prisoners in our system have appealed many cases just like his. Zainab Malik, a project manager at JPP, said to the Nation that the trial is a repeated script of a lack of diligence by trial courts, procedural oversight, records that suddenly go missing and incompetent legal representation. Whilst the wealthy and influential escape through the loopholes, “the poor, mentally ill, powerless and members of religious minorities are rushed to the gallows”.

Mentally ill prisoners are stuffed in Pakistan death row cells alongside other inmates. These death row cells, measuring 8 by 12 feet, designed to house not more than two prisoners at a time. They currently hold on average 6 or more prisoners for over 23 hours a day. Whilst the Medical Health Ordinance was enacted in 2001 to provide protection and treatment to mentally ill prisoners the law receives little or no implementation nation-wide.

Pakistan has the world’s largest number of death row inmates, with more than 8,000 people reported to be awaiting execution, and it is on course to have one of the highest rates of executions in the world. The current government should revisit the moratorium over the death penalty to put a stop to a blatant violation of human rights.