A death-row inmate in Peshawar has requested that a court suspend the “un-Islamic” practice of hanging prisoners because it is “too painful”, instead the Pakistan government should start using lethal injections.

The petition was filed by the defense lawyer of Jan Bahadur, who was sentenced to death by an additional district and sessions judge on Apr 7, 2000, in Takht Bhai in connection with a 1993 murder case. The petition has named the provincial government and the Council of Islamic Ideology as the respondents.

While cynicism would have us see this petition as another way to increase the lifespan of an inmate on death row who has exhausted all options like clemency and appeals, there is a case to be made here. The nation’s across the world who still constitute capital punishment are moving away from hanging and other antiquated methods of execution to the lethal injection – a relatively painless if not foolproof method. While there are concerns that wrongly administered injection could be equally painful and traumatic, it is generally seen as a more humane alternative.

The petitioner will have difficulty convincing the Peshawar High Court of that – especially on the grounds named in the petition. Hanging has historically been used throughout the Muslim world as the preferred mode of execution and even now most major Muslim countries use it; in fact punishments are harsher and more graphic in countries like the Saudi Arabia. It would be difficult to convince the judge that it is “un-Islamic” when all the arguments used are based on practices in the USA.

Furthermore since the death penalty has been instituted in the Pakistan Penal Code, and has been functioning as is for decades, only a piece of legislation can effectively change the law in this regard.

A debate on the humanity of our execution methods needs to be had, but it seems unlikely that it could be held in the present case.