ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan categorically stated on Wednesday that the government did not plan to abolish death sentence or convert it into life imprisonment.
“The present government is not doing it. It cannot even think of it. We will not convert death sentence into life imprisonment,” the minister said in the Senate in response to a question raised by PPP’s Karim Khawaja who had sought a policy statement on the matter.
Chaudhry Nisar disclosed that in 2011 the previous government had proposed that death sentence should be converted into life term, but there had been no progress on the matter.
Former president Asif Ali Zardari had announced a moratorium on execution and the present government is observing it.
The minister said that courts had sentenced 13,223 people to death since 2002, but only 501 of them had been executed. He said 10,910 death penalties had been announced in Lahore, 1,301 in Peshawar, 541 in Karachi, 449 in Quetta and 22 in Gilgit-Baltistan. Of the 501 executions, 415 were carried out in Lahore, 64 in Peshawar, 15 in Quetta and seven in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Later, two walkouts by the opposition disrupted the proceedings when Chaudhry Nisar refused to withdraw his reply to a question about the number of deaths in terrorism-related incidents which the opposition believed based on incorrect information. The proceedings remained suspended for more than an hour after the walkout with opposition senators refusing to return to the house and insisted on an apology over what they called the minister’s improper and un-parliamentary behaviour and withdrawal of the reply.
Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq managed to bring back the opposition senators, but they again walked out when the interior minister did not withdraw the reply.
The second walkout forced Chairman Nayyar Bokhari to adjourn the proceedings to Thursday morning.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement did not join the walkouts. The opposition announced that it would decide about boycotting the session or submitting a privilege motion against the minister at a meeting on Thursday morning.
The disturbance started when Zahid Khan of Awami National Party claimed that the interior minister had provided incorrect information in his reply to a question about the number of terrorism-related incidents and suicide attacks in the country since June and the number of civilians and security personnel killed in these incidents.
The ANP senator who had raised the question said that over 150 people had been killed in three to four major attacks, including the one on a Peshawar church, but Chaudhry Nisar said that only 120 people had died in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 136 terrorism-related incidents. When the minister said that replies had been submitted by the provincial governments, Zahid Khan asked why he had presented the figure without verification.
Leader of Opposition Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan spoke in support of the ANP senator and asked the minister to take notice of the wrong reply.
There was a rumpus in the house when Chaudhry Nisar described the opposition leader as an opportunist. All opposition members rose to their seats and protested against the minister’s remarks.
“Stop shouting” were the only words of the interior minister heard in the press gallery amid the noisy protest.
In his written reply, the minister informed the house that 358 people, including 167 security personnel, had been killed in 413 incidents of terrorism since June. The highest number of 136 incidents was reported in KP, followed by 123 in Balochistan, 94 in Fata, 46 in Sindh, 13 in Punjab and one in Islamabad. It also said that 120 people had been killed in KP, 134 in Balochistan, 59 in Fata, 38 in Sindh, six in Punjab and one in Islamabad. In reply to another question, the minister said 12,404 people had died and 26,881 suffered injuries in terrorism-related incidents since 2002 -- 4,390 in KP, 3,851 in Fata, 1,955 in Balochistan, 1,354 in Punjab, 646 in Sindh and 208 in Islamabad. He said the government had paid Rs5.65 billion as compensation to the families of the dead and to the injured.
PPP’s Farhatullah Babar expressed surprise over the figures and said that different leaders and government functionaries had in the past stated that 50,000 people, including 6,000 policemen and security personnel, had died in terrorism-related incidents in the country.
But the interior minister said he was giving the official figure from the government’s record. He also informed the house that 6,149 terrorists had been arrested since 2002 -- 3,512 in KP, 1,449 in Balochistan, 532 in Punjab, 495 in Sindh, 90 in Islamabad and 71 in Fata.