LAHORE - Pakistan sentences one person a day to death, according to data compiled by a non-government organisation.

Official number of prisoners on death row has dropped to 4,688 in 2018, from 7,164 in 2012, a significant drop compared to figures reported by the Ministry of Interior in 2014.

Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) says death penalty in Pakistan is among harshest in the world, accounting for 26 percent of the world’s death row, 13 percent of global executions, and 14 percent of worldwide death sentences.

The special appellate bench of Supreme Court of Pakistan has overturned 85 percent of death sentences on the basis of flawed investigations and mistrials reducing the death row population significantly.

A person has to spend on average 11 years on death row before execution or acquittal.

Mostly citing faulty investigations and mistrials, a special appellate bench, formed by the Supreme Court to adjudicate murder appeals, overturned 467 death sentences in 546 appeals.

The significant reduction in death row can be explained as there is reduction in death row population of Punjab – from 6,604 in 2012 to 3,890 presently. Despite this, Punjab accounts for 81 percent of executions from December 2014 to December 2017, and 89 percent of all death sentences issued during the same period.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh, death row populations have increased at a steady rate.

The decrease in Pakistan’s death row and the continuing rise of death sentences suggest a disconnect between the sentencing/trial courts and the appellate courts.

The study finds that on an average a prisoner has to spend 11 years on death row before a commutation of death sentence or acquittal by the Supreme Court.

Pakistan continues to dispense death sentences at a rate higher than the world average. Since 2004, Pakistan has handed out at least 4,500 death sentences. However, despite this, Pakistani prisoners account for a disproportionate 26 percent of the reported death row population globally.

In fact, 14 percent of death sentences worldwide have emanated from Pakistan. And since the six-year moratorium was lifted in December 2014, Pakistan carried out 13 percent of all global executions. At least 496 prisoners have been hanged so far.

An analysis of 150 executions from 2015 found that disputes over land or money accounted for 36 percent, and family disputes for 26 percent.

JPP Executive Director Sarah Belal said, “The facts are before us. The system is imperfect, wrought with inconsistencies and mired in red tape. It is becoming more and more difficult to justify dispensing a punishment that is irreversible, cruel and inhumane.

Too many mistakes are being made, and the Supreme Court overturning convictions at such a high rate is damning proof of that. A detailed reform of the death penalty is urgently needed, and until it is completed, a moratorium must be installed.”