By Sher Ali Khalti –
To award or not to award death penalty to killers of innocent people is the biggest question haunting the nation? Is it a violation of human rights or in accordance with the demands of justice is to be determined. This issue, which was under discussion for long, assumed extraordinary importance after the tragic killing of students at Army Public School (APS) Peshawar incident.
The whole country was shell-shocked and people from all walks of life were confused on how to deal with terrorists. Voices were raised by certain quarters who demanded that such elements should be taught a lesson. Many called for lifting of moratorium on death penalty which was in place since 2008, at least for the terrorists, their mentors and their handlers.
On the other hand, many people opposed the suggestion on grounds that death was not a deterrent for those who were ready to blow themselves up to death. Besides, they said most countries of the world had done away with death penalty saying it was against the principles of human rights. Chances of innocent people losing life due to loopholes in the criminal justice system were high in countries like Pakistan, they submitted.
Amnesty International (AI) – a global rights body-is one of the biggest opponents of death penalty and terms it ultimate denial of human rights. It also calls it a premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state. AI opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception and regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the convicts. This is a clear message to many states who have abolished death penalty for all crimes except treason.
In Pakistan, the PPP government once tried to abolish death penalty but it received stiff resistance from other political and religious parties that called the intended move un-Islamic. So, moratorium was the only option left for the government. This means death penalty was there and judges were awarding it but the elected governments were not allowing execution of judicial orders in such cases.
Allama Tahir Asharfi, Chairman, Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) is clear that terrorists and murders should get death penalty at any cost. “Pakistan is a sovereign and Islamic state and no law contradictory to Quran and Sunna can be introduced here.” He says Islam allows death penalty and Surah Al-Baqra (Verse 178) sheds light on this. It states: ‘’O you believe! Al-Qisas (The law of equality in punishment) is prescribed for you in case of murder; the free for the free, the slave for the slave, and the female for the female.” But if the killer is forgiven by the brother or heir of the killed against blood money, then adhering to it with fairness and payment of the blood money to the heir should be made in fairness.
Ashrafi says justice delayed is justice denied and points out flaws in the criminal justice system that hampers dispensation of justice in Pakistan. For example, he says, there are flaws in the evidence act. The witnesses have no security and they fear killing at the hands of murderers. He says there shall be no mercy for those who spread havoc on earth. “Fasad fil Arz” cannot be tolerated and it is the duty of the state to protect its citizen from the cruelty of terrorists. “They must be hanged without delay. If this is not done people will have no option but to surrender before barbaric forces. Hanging of terrorists is a demand of justice as it consoles heirs of victims to an extent,” he adds.
I A Rehman from Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) contradicts Ashrafi’s assertions. He says death penalty is a violation of human rights and not a punishment. He demands that death penalty must be stopped at once. If a criminal is kept in life imprisonment, it will be a big punishment for him. “When a state decides to hang someone, it is actually playing role of an individual. No individual has the right to take life of somebody.”
Rehman says death penalty is not a solution. In defence of his argument, he says: “We are inhabitants of modern and civilized world. No one can be haunted by the old and tribal laws. A normal person cannot commit murder of someone .If he commits he must be kept in rehabilitation center so he comes again to normal life.’’
He elaborates that all human progress is enrooted in survival of life. “Self-protection is the basis of human civilization. Punishment has cropped into our social structure by a concept that superior can punish the inferior. State, as an individual, cannot be permitted to take life of other individual on base of power,’’ he assets.
Haji Adeel, Central Leader, Awami National Party (ANP) does not agrees with I A Rehman. He says It will be injustice if terrorists are admitted in rehabilitations centers. “Bed of roses is not made for terrorists who shall be sent to gallows. Talibans, ISIS and other militants are beasts. They must be hanged at public places. I would suggest that open courts are held all over the country where death penalty shall be announced for terrorists in front of people.”
He says KPK is the most affected by terrorism and its people know how it feels like to lift dead bodies and severed limbs of dear ones. He questions how can Ban Ki Moon realize the gloom of dead children’s mothers? “We have seen blood all around. We are victims of Taliban and our state has become a laboratory for their heinous experiments. I would request the world to let Pakistan decide how to crush terrorists. If hanging a murderer is violation of human rights, then who will protect the rights of those who were killed and their heirs.
A leading lawyer dealing in criminal cases states that it is a very tricky situation as terrorism charges are often leveled needlessly. So, it will have to be ensured that only real terrorists are executed. He says USA is considered torch bearer of democracy but even it believes in execution of hardened criminals.
Death penalty, he says, can be abolished in the developed world but not in Pakistan where ground realities are totally different. Pakistan is the only country in the comity of nation who has suffered so much due to the ongoing global war against terrorism. There is a pressure of UN on Pakistan to stop hangings but the country will have to identify its direction itself.
He says it is true that terrorists are ready to die but their handlers and masterminds love life. “These people shall be hanged as they are operating from prisons.” He says military courts are a necessity as judiciary is reluctant to try terrorists due to the fear of retaliation. The military courts shall try terrorists and must not threaten the democratic government and its institutions, he suggests.
According to statics of Amnesty International, 140 countries have abolished the death penalty. In 2012 only one country Latvia abolished the death penalty for all crimes .In 2013,22 countries around the world were known to have carried out execution and at least 57 to have imposed death penalty.
There are few names of countries that have abolished the death penalty on all crimes are ,United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, France, Australia, Italy, South Africa ,Spain, Switzerland, Poland, Canada and Belgium. While in China, U.A.E., Egypt .Iran, Iraq Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, death penalty is practiced. The U.S. is considered torch bearer of democracy believes in death penalty while India is the country that claimed biggest democracy in the world also believes in execution.