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ISLAMABAD: Lawma­kers on both sides of the aisle, while condemning the rape and murder of a girl in Kasur, on Wednesday called for “exemplary” capital punishment for those involved in the incident, even as they were informed that as many as 51 prisoners on death row were languishing in various prisons.

Taking part in a debate on the motion “to discuss the situation arising out of rape and brutal murder of seven-year-old girl Zainab in Kasur” that was moved last week by Federal Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordina­tion Riaz Pirzada, lawmakers deplored that it had been over a week since the horrific incident had taken place, but the police and intelligence agencies were yet to trace the culprits.

As opposition members pointed fingers at the Punjab government for not being able to prevent child abuse in the province or making concerted efforts to arrest the culprits behind them, some treasury members suggested that the issue should not be politicised because such incidents occurred all over the country.

“Such incidents are being reported from all four provinces but only Punjab is being targeted for political point scoring,” said Shaista Pervaiz of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

51 prisoners in death cells awaiting execution, says interior minister

Shahida Akhtar Ali of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) was of the view that such crimes could only be prevented through speedy trial of the accused. She said that protecting children from such abuse was the collective responsibility of the nation.

She said that incidents like the one in Kasur were condemnable regardless of which province they had occurred in.

Chief whip of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Aijaz Jakhrani said the Kasur incident had jolted the country and the chief justice of Pakistan had to take suo motu notice because of the government’s failure to catch the culprits. He said the Punjab government kept making tall claims about development and improvement in the security situation, but it was unable to trace the culprits in the Kasur incident.

The PPP MNA indirectly attacked the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government in Khyber Pakhtun­khwa, saying that a similar incident had been recently reported in the province.

Later, in an apparent reference to the reported rape and murder of four-year-old Asma in Mardan, Ghulam Ahmed Bilour said besides discussing Zainab’s case, lawmakers should hold a debate on the case reported in KP province.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) did not waste time in pointing out that several similar incidents had been reported in Sindh, where the MQM’s rival PPP was in power.

The MQM’s Abdul Waseem said he wanted “to hold up a mirror” to the PPP as local waderas (feudal lords) in the interior of Sindh even had private prisons where they committed excesses on poor people.

Interestingly, though no one concluded the debate from the government’s side the motion has not been included in the agenda issued for Thursday’s session.

During the question-hour, the National Assembly was informed that there were 4,937 prisoners who had been awarded capital punishment for their crimes and were languishing in jails across the country. Of those, 51 were waiting for execution of the sentences against them.

This information was placed before the house by Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal in response to a question asked by Asiya Naz Tanoli of the PML-N.

Giving a break-up of the statistics, the minister said of the 51 prisoners, 42 were being kept in jail cells in Punjab, seven in Sindh and two in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Of the 4,937 prisoners who had been awarded capital punishment, 4,125 were kept in various jails in Punjab, 519 in Sindh, 204 in KP, 72 in Balochistan and 17 in Gilgit-Baltistan.

The minister informed the house that in Punjab, the highest number of death row prisoners — 412 — were languishing in Central Jail, Faisalabad, followed by 307 in Central Jail, Bahawalpur, 292 in Rawalpindi’s Adiyala Jail, 273 were in Lahore, 259 in Multan, 250 in Sahiwal and 238 prisoners were kept in Gujranwala jail.

Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2018

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