The government has decided to revise its earlier decision on the death penalty. While it is not a complete overthrow of the idea, the government is considering the use of it as minimum as possible.
The move comes after Pakistan was severely criticized in the United Nations (UN), Western Countries and international non-government organizations (INGOs). In the previous government of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), a moratorium for five years was imposed on the death penalty. However, in the aftermath of the bloody attack on Army Public School in 2014, the ruling party Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) lifted the sanction.
In a summary moved for the consideration of Prime Minister of Pakistan, 27 crimes, which can result in a death penalty of the convict, may be reviewed. The purpose of this whole exercise will be to narrow down the scope of the death penalty. In National Action Plan that is there for protecting human rights also highlights the need of revisiting the existing legal framework so that Pakistan can keep up with its international commitments regarding human rights protection.
It is encouraging that the government has realized that imposing the death penalty is not the solution to eradicate crimes from the society. Instead, the government needs to eradicate the conditions and environment that lead one to commit a crime.
The initiative is a laudatory one. However, the study of reports suggests that the issues of juvenile and people with mental disabilities are yet to find room for debate. Recently, we have witnessed the global uproar in the case of Imdad Ali– a mentally unstable person– whose plea was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2016.
While the philosophy behind capital punishment is to prevent crimes, reports suggest that even when executions are frequent and well publicized, there are no observable changes in the frequency of crimes. So any retributive value is short lived, lasting only until the next crime.
Also, it is important for the government to take steps required in order curtailing the propaganda of the conservatives on the issue. The fears are that religious parties may also oppose the move, as they see any such move a conspiracy against religion. The government can rely on the opinion of leading Islamic scholars of international repute like Tariq Ramadan who is opposed to the concept of capital punishment.
While the matter will be referred to Law Reforms Committee, the need is to work on the recommendations of Ministry of Foreign Affairs with diligence. Also, it is important to recall that most of these offenses that carry the punishment of death penalty enshrined since colonial times. It is not that Islam suggests capital punishment for all of these offenses under Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).