The National Assembly (NA) Human Rights Standing Committee on Thursday opposed a polarising amendment to the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) providing for public hanging of abductors who kill or sexually assault minors, intended to serve as a deterrent against cases like that of six-year-old Zainab Amin in Kasur.
The amendment ─ proposed by the Senate Standing Committee on Interior ─ entitled the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2018, seeks to modify the PPC Act 1860's Section 364-A (kidnapping or abducting a person under the age of 14).
Section 364-A currently reads: "Whoever kidnaps or abducts any person under the [age of fourteen] in order that such person may be murdered or subjected to grievous hurt... or to the lust of any person [sic] shall be punished with death."
The amendment suggested by the Senate committee seeks to add the phrase, "by hanging publicly", after the word "death" in the current legislation.
The bill seeks the same amendment to the CrPC, 1898, Schedule II, Column 1 against Section 364-A.
However, the proposed amendment was strongly opposed by certain members of the Senate committee who were not in favour of public hangings. Senator Farhatullah Babar recalled a public hanging in Lahore during the era of military dictator Ziaul Haq, saying: "We should not revert to that."
"If the law is amended today, the demands will not stop and calls for hanging everyone will be raised," he had added.
The NA committee chairman, Babar Nawaz Khan, today said that the recommended amendments were opposed by the body.
The committee rejected the hanging of criminals in public squares. "This is a democratic society, not the era of a military dictator," the committee said.
"No one can be censored in a democratic society," Khan said, asserting: "Criminals are not hanged in public in a democratic society. Instead of hanging criminals in public, we need legislation."
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MNA Sajid Nawaz, however, called for public hangings to be aired live on television.
The proposed amendments to the law follow the arrest of Zainab's suspected murderer and rapist. The victim's family and senior Punjab government officials have been advocating public execution of the man suspected of a string of rapes and murders of minors in Kasur.