In the dark gloomy interiors of death-row jails, 8000 inmates await execution. Found guilty by a justice system with flimsy evidence, these prisoners languish in pitiful conditions, awaiting death.

The fate of these prisoners hangs in the balance as the federal government has failed to come up with a clear-cut policy to deal with convicts over the last five years. Executions started occurring in December 2014 when Pakistan lifted a seven-year unofficial moratorium on the death penalty in response to the deadliest attack on Army Public School in Peshawar. Executions dropped drastically in 2016 and 2017, perhaps due to international condemnation of the use of the death penalty. It is debatable however, whether forcing inmates to live in anticipation in jail, of an execution which could occur any time, while the government delays in drafting a proper policy to deal with convicts, is a more merciful choice. Inmates on death row are often made to languish in 15 to 20 years before they are executed. Convicts are often humiliated, tortured, and abused in the prisons.

Sarmad Khoosat’s twenty-four hour live performance of an inmate on death row propelled many to look upon the death penalty in a new light. But for now, let us forget the debate on whether executions are ethical. The fact that so many inmates just hang in the balance awaiting the death penalty in our jails should tell us that our prison system is broken. It is also a fact that many mere criminal cases, which should go to the Session Courts are referred to the Anti-Terrorism Courts, which has a different threshold of evidence required, and much stricter punishment, which leads to a backlog of cases on the death row. From a purely mechanical point, our jails cannot accommodate so many prisoners. Jails being overpopulated lead to deteriorating of the conditions of the jails- making life much more difficult for the inmates than it already is.

The sheer number of prisoners whose lives have been hanging in the balance for many years should propel the federal government to focus on our jails and draft proper policies and legislation to deal with the currently ineffective system. The taking up of political cases has pushed civilian cases far back on the priority list and the next step is to make the judicial system for ordinary systems more efficient.