In the absence of a coherent and all-encompassing plan to deal with terrorism, lifting of the moratorium on death penalties and execution of “terrorists” on death row has emerged as a viable option, widely accepted by a populace distraught with grief and rage. The most immediate implication of this decision is the possibility of jailbreaks, which IG Prisons fears may be carried out in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa by militant organisations to rescue inmates. His concerns are not unfounded as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has previously conducted two successful jailbreaks in DI Khan and Bannu. The provincial government must ensure that security is beefed up, assistance is sought and secured if necessary. In Sindh, black warrants have been issued following the rejection of mercy petitions by President Mamnoon Hussain for six convicts belonging to the banned outfit, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), who may be executed any time. In Punjab, the LHC has ordered details pertaining to convicts currently on death row under terrorism charges for examination. All this activity is taking place absent any real plan or debate devoid of a realistice view on the possible outcome of this exercise.

Human Rights groups, such as The Justice Project Pakistan warn that the country’s Anti-terrorism courts operate on a broad definition of terrorism, hearing and issuing convictions in cases involving family feuds and revenge killings among others. Several prisoners currently on death row are not the ‘terrorists’ the public wishes to see hanged for retribution. There are also reservations surrounding the credibility of the process in place to extract convictions. It appears that the state, through courts, is going to exercise judgment to differentiate between terrorism convicts, picking out those that fit in the suitable category. Judges already exercise discretion, as they choose between awarding life sentences and death penalties for the same crimes. It would make some sense, if such action were to take place as part of a larger policy aimed at countering terrorism. So far, that policy remains missing. Executing terrorists will not solve all problems. Only a holistic approach towards the menace will yield results. A policy must have clearly defined objectives, allocation of resources and distribution of tasks, and accountability to keep track of progress. Executing death row inmates amounts to nothing substantial in comparison to what is actually required.