A group of United Nations human rights experts have reiterated their call on Pakistan to reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty - especially investigating cases where uncertain age determination processes have resulted in children being sentenced to death. They have made it clear that it is appalling that in a country where age determination techniques remain rudimentary, courts are confirming death sentences on children based on visual assessment by the police.

8,300 people are currently on death row in Pakistan – hundreds of them reportedly sentenced for offences committed as children. This week Ansar Iqbal, who claimed to be of 15 years old when arrested, was condemned to death. The execution was carried out only a few months after the hanging of Shafqat Hussain, Aftab Bahadur and Faisal Mahmood, all who claimed to be children at the time of their alleged offences.

In light of public opinion and widespread terrorism, the penalty seems to be one element that can deter murder and crime. However, the list of crimes can be changed or reduced so that only the worst crimes on the list result in a death sentence. In our hurt and rage over terrorist attacks, we forget that removing the death penalty does not mean that criminals will not be punished.

It is not immediately clear why the state should have the right to take the lives of prisoners, especially when depriving them of their liberty remains a significant punishment, incarceration serves to eliminate any threat that they might pose, and rehabilitation opens up the possibility of enabling them to eventually become constructive members of society.

Evidence suggests that the death penalty does not actually deter criminality. Since the moratorium was lifted, the government has been indiscriminate in its pursuit of ‘justice’, resolutely ignoring the fact that the serious issues with the criminal justice system in Pakistan all but guarantee innocents are being subjected to state-sanctioned murder. If the death sentence is to continue, as a nation we need to be sure that death is the answer when a man commits a crime, and that the answer is ethical, moral and just.