Since Pakistan resumed executions on 19th December 2014, it has emerged that a significant proportion of the individuals currently facing execution were sentenced to death while still children. The execution of juvenile offenders is prohibited by international law, and Pakistan’s own law also prohibits the execution of child offenders. Yet, unfortunately for those who now face the gallows, this law remains largely unimplemented.

Authorities are set to hang Ansar Iqbal on the 29th of September, a man who says he was 15 when he was arrested for a murder he claims he did not commit. According to his lawyers, says he and a friend were arrested 16 years ago for the murder of neighbour, which the victim’s family said was over an argument at a cricket match. Iqbal says police framed him because he was poor by planting two guns at his house. The country’s courts have refused to examine Iqbal’s school records and birth certificate, the latter for them being dubious as it was only issued in 2015- an argument that seems quite senseless. This latest case only shines a spotlight on Pakistan’s crumbling criminal justice system.

In 2008, Pakistan ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which also prohibits the imposition of the death penalty on anyone who was under 18 at the time of the alleged offence. Again, this has been honoured more in breach, than in compliance.

In the face of a public campaign to save the life of Shafqat Hussain, the first of many child offenders to be told that he would be sent to the gallows (he was just 14 years old when he was arrested and he has always maintained his innocence), his lawyers have claimed that “It is widely recognised and acknowledged that torture by the police in Pakistan is systemic and indeed endemic. The fact that there is credible evidence relating to Shafqat’s confession being obtained though torture is a surprise to no one”. His case only reaffirms the fact that the criminal justice system has never been kind to the poor or helpless.

Under the guise of terrorism, Pakistan has gladly forgotten about any domestic commandments or international implications of its decisions. 8,000 prisoners on death row are now awaiting execution, with petitions for pardon pouring in. Abdul Basit, a paraplegic man, has been recently sentenced to death, while many others are hanging by a thread, waiting to confront their gruesome destiny. It is then no surprise that juveniles are condemned to the same fate. In most cases, justice is often lost before it is fought, and those without means are on the receiving end of harsh, often undeserved sentences.