ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has initiated the process to review punishment in 27 crimes carrying death sentence to narrow down the scope of death penalty, The Nation has learnt.

The decision has been taken in the wake of the ‘scathing criticism on the excessive use of this penalty’ by UN Human Rights Mechanisms, Western countries, particularly EU member states as well as NGOs with global outreach, suggest documents exclusively available with The Nation.

In a communication forwarded by Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to UN in Geneva to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in November 2016, the concerns of the international community (UN Human Rights Mechanisms, EU member states, and NGOs) with regard to the death penalty in Pakistan were highlighted.

Keeping in view Pakistan’s review of reports on human rights conventions at the UN level and concerns of the international community, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs moved a summary to the prime minister wherein some recommendations were made with regard to imposition of death penalty in Pakistan which compelled the authorities to review punishment for the crimes carrying death penalty.

It is to mention here that National Action Plan for human rights, approved by the prime minister, has also proposed a review of existing legal framework in line with the national and international commitments related to human rights.

The summary for the prime minister, a copy of which is exclusively available with The Nation, said that the 27 crimes which carry the death sentence in Pakistan may be reviewed to narrow down the scope of the death penalty.

“Like other countries, a longer life sentence may be introduced for some of these crimes. A high-level committee may be constituted to look into the recommendations,” the summary suggested to the prime minister.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the summary, told the prime minister that after lifting a moratorium on execution of death penalty in December 2014, the country was facing severe criticism on the “excessive use” of death penalty by the UN Human Rights Mechanisms, Western countries as well as NGOs. The summary proposed that under the international humanitarian conventions ratified by Pakistan, the death penalty where permitted should apply to very serious cases.

“There is a need to review the existing provisions of CrPC and PPC to determine if the scope of the death penalty can be narrowed and the duration of a life sentence in certain cases increased,” the summary proposed. It further said that there was a need to clear the doubts of the international community particularly with regard to cases of persons with disabilities (physical or mental) or juveniles.

“At present, there is no provision in our domestic laws regarding prevention of execution or clemency for a disabled person on death row,” reads the summary. It further said that it needs to be ensured that no person below the age of 18 is awarded death sentence and death sentence may be converted to life imprisonment or pardon may be considered. The summary recommended that persons with disabilities, including persons suffering from mental and psychological disabilities, may not be awarded death sentence and their death sentence may be converted to life imprisonment or they may be pardoned. “Provisions for this may be incorporated in national laws as required,” the summary says.

In view of the above, the Ministry of Human Rights has proposed a consultative meeting to discuss a possible review of the 27 crimes. According to sources, a high-level meeting was held on 15 September, 2017, at the Ministry of Law and Justice to discuss the possible review of the 27 crimes. The crimes include ‘causing death to a person other than the person whose death was intended’ (Section 301 of PPC), ‘Qatal-e-Amad’ (Section 302 of PPC), ‘dacoity resulting in death’ (Section 396 of PPC), ‘terrorism’ (Section 7 of Anti-Terrorism Act), ‘airplane hijacking or assisting in hijacking’ (Section 402-B of PPC), harbouring hijacker (Section 402-C of PPC), ‘Zina’ (Section 5 of offences of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979), ‘rape’ (Section 376 of PPC), ‘Zina-bil-Jabr’ (Section 6 of offences of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979), ‘Zina or Zina-bil-Jabr liable to Tazir’ (Section 10 (4) of offences of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979, ‘kidnapping for ransom’ (Section 365-A of PPC), ‘drug trafficking-exceeding 1kg’ (Section 9 of Control of Narcotics Substance Act, 1997), ‘high treason’ (Section 2 of The High Treason (Punishment) Act, 1973), ‘successful mutiny’ (Section 132 of PPC), ‘waging or abetting war against Pakistan’ (Section 121 of PPC), ‘blasphemy’ (Section 295-C of PPC), ‘hurting persons travelling by railways and damaging property of railways’ (Section 127 of Railways Act, 1890), ‘false evidence resulting death penalty’ (Section 194 of PPC), ‘stripping off women in public’ (Section 354-A of PPC), ‘kidnapping for unnatural lust’ (Section 367-A), ‘kidnapping or abducting in order to subject to unnatural lust’ (Section 12 of The offences of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979), ‘kidnapping child under age of 14’ (Section 364-A of PPC), “punishment of ‘Haraabah’” (Section 17 (4) of the offences against property (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance), ‘offences in relation to enemy’ (Section 24 of The Pakistan Army Act, 1952), ‘disclosure of parole or watchword’ (Section 26 of The Pakistan Army Act, 1952), ‘mutiny and insubordination’ (Section 31 of The Pakistan Army Act, 1952) and ‘importing, exporting into and from Pakistan dangerous drugs’, (Section 13 of the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1930).

According to the sources, the ministry of human rights has supported the recommendations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on death penalty keeping in view Pakistan’s international commitments. It, however, suggested that the matter be referred to the Law Reforms Committee instead of constituting a new committee as proposed by the foreign office, to review the existing legislation in consultation with stakeholders.

The matter will be discussed at the next meeting of the stakeholders. In 2008, the government had placed a five-year moratorium on executing prisoners on death row which expired in 2013.

(Section 121 of PPC), ‘blasphemy’ (Section 295-C of PPC), ‘hurting persons travelling by railways and damaging property of railways’ (Section 127 of Railways Act, 1890), ‘false evidence resulting death penalty’ (Section 194 of PPC), ‘stripping off women in public’ (Section 354-A of PPC), ‘kidnapping for unnatural lust’ (Section 367-A), ‘kidnapping or abducting in order to subject to unnatural lust’ (Section 12 of The offences of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979), ‘kidnapping child under age of 14’ (Section 364-A of PPC), “punishment of ‘Haraabah’” (Section 17 (4) of the offences against property (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance), ‘offences in relation to enemy’ (Section 24 of The Pakistan Army Act, 1952), ‘disclosure of parole or watchword’ (Section 26 of The Pakistan Army Act, 1952), ‘mutiny and insubordination’ (Section 31 of The Pakistan Army Act, 1952) and ‘importing, exporting into and from Pakistan dangerous drugs’, (Section 13 of the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1930).

According to the sources, the ministry of human rights has supported the recommendations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on death penalty keeping in view Pakistan’s international commitments. It, however, suggested that the matter be referred to the Law Reforms Committee instead of constituting a new committee as proposed by the foreign office, to review the existing legislation in consultation with stakeholders.

The matter will be discussed at the next meeting of the stakeholders. In 2008, the government had placed a five-year moratorium on executing prisoners on death row which expired in 2013.