Pakistan has carried out more than 332 executions since lifting the moratorium in December 2014. Recently, amidst another terror attack on the country, the Supreme Court has asked the federal government to respond to a petition requesting that the appeals of the many thousand prisoners on Pakistan’s death row be ‘fast tracked’. These proceedings only serve to highlight the chaotic state of Pakistan’s criminal justice system, in particular the handling of capital cases – arbitrarily and senselessly.

The petition noted that there were ‘7,124’ inmates on Pakistan’s death, who were at various stages of the appeal process and requested the early disposal of these appeals. The figure also included 532 mercy petitions before the president, where a number of these have been pending for 19 years while executions in 78 cases have been stayed on his orders.

Pakistan has the largest death row population in the world, and yet, there are no credible statistics on the exact number of prisoners sentenced to death in the country. Whilst it was reported here that there were 7,124 inmates on Pakistan’s death row, recent figures given in a report to the Senate put the figure at 6,016 – both starkly different from the figure of 8,261 that was provided by the Ministry of Law, Justice and Human rights in December 2014. But simply fast tracking the petition does nothing to answer the question of who we are actually executing, for what reason and who are waiting their turn.

In January 2015, the Minister of Interior, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, told the House that 332 convicted ‘terrorists’ were executed since December 2014. However, less than 1 in 6 of those being executed is connected to terrorism. A further analysis of those executed conducted by the Justice Project Pakistan has found that the vast majority of those being executed are not the hard-bitten terrorists that the government would like us to believe. Rather, the majority are people convicted of ordinary crimes, often in extremely unfair trials, relying on evidence extracted through torture, and some of them convicted as children.

As advocated by many activists, the application of the death penalty must be reconsidered unless the judicial system is overhauled to ensure that those awaiting the gallows are indeed guilty of the crimes they are charged with. Fighting the war on terror must not be used as an excuse to forget procedural safeguards and the entire purpose of the justice system, which is to ensure that only those that are actually guilty pay the price. The judicial process desperately needs to be transparent and accountable – in order to correctly use capital punishment to deter crime and terrorism in the country. Until then, the appeals of those on death row must be considered with the utmost care.