ISLAMABAD: The idea of public hanging for rapists became a moot point in the Senate on Tuesday as members from both sides of the aisle came up with arguments for and against the proposal.
As discussion on the motorway gang-rape turned into a debate on the proposal to hang rapists in public, the Peoples Party’s parliamentary leader in the house rejected the suggestion, saying that it would not work.
“The prime minister has finally broken his silence by calling for chemical castration of rapists, but public hangings and castrations have not proved to be a deterrent anywhere. They only brutalise society further.
“This is a diversion from the real, more pervasive issue of improving the investigation and prosecution process,” Sherry Rehman observed.
Recalling the “regressive laws” introduced by military ruler Gen Ziaul Haq, she said: “By bringing back Zia’s policies, we are not doing good to anyone. Calling for public hanging is a way to divert people’s attention.
Opposition stages walkout against ‘govt’s intent to build Kalabagh dam’
“Zia started this, but did the crime rate drop? No. This is not ancient Rome where they used to say ‘we have to keep people busy with bread and circus’. This will only lead to people taking law and order into their own hands.”
She said there were examples to prove that public hangings did not deter criminals as after the public hanging in 1981 of the killer and rapist of Pappu, a minor, 11 reported cases of rape were committed against children as young as four years of age between 1983 and 1992. Four of the cases took place in Lahore, where the public execution of Pappu’s rapist was carried out, she pointed out.
Highlighting the main problems, she said real issues were being brushed under the carpet because it was easy to call for public hangings and ignore the long-term systematic changes that were required.
“Most rape cases go unreported because of police, legal and societal problems. Focus on enforcing already existing laws,” she emphasised.
Calling out the Lahore CCPO for his “callous, sexist statement”, Ms Rehman said: “Instead of doing his job, the CCPO tried to become the guardian of public morality. This was not the time to ask why she did not check on her car’s petrol. His late apology now seems meaningless.
“Then we had ministers supporting his victim-shaming while the PM kept quiet for days. What kind of message is being given to the public? That our women should not go out and just stay home. Are women and children not safe in this Naya Pakistan?”
Former Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani also opposed public hangings and endorsed the view that it would brutalise society.
“Why the state does not learn from history. Zia did the same, but did it help eliminate rape and other heinous crimes?” he asked.
Mr Rabbani said political movements could not be crushed by flogging activists in public. “Public hanging is no solution. The solution lies in enforcement of the rule of law,” he remarked.
Raza Rabbani called for removal of the Lahore CCPO for his remarks.
Senator Mohsin Aziz of the ruling Tehreek-i-Insaf said public hangings would serve as a deterrent and not entertainment. “Such kind of legislation is essential to curb heinous crimes like rape,” he stressed.
He conceded that the CCPO’s remarks were inappropriate, unfortunate and condemnable, but in the same breath showered praise on him by saying he was the “man who proved his mettle by taking on mafias”.
PPP leader Rehman Malik surprised many by supporting the proposal to hang rapists in public.
He termed the gang-rape incident a national tragedy and said: “I think such people should be hanged publicly to create deterrence.”
He also pointed out that the law already provides death sentence for rapists.
Sirajul Haq, the emir of Jamaat-i-Islami, said Sherry Rehman’s objections to public hanging were unjustified because such punishments would save millions of children from heinous offences.
The Minister for Narcotics Control, Azam Khan Swati, expressed support for harsh punishments in public and called for legislation to decide such cases within a month. “Islamic punishments are harsh, but they serve as deterrence.”
Pervaiz Rasheed of the PML-N called for removal of CCPO Umar Sheikh. He said institutions which should serve as voice of the masses were being weakened.
Mushahidullah Khan, PML-N’s parliamentary leader in the Senate, criticised Senator Mohsin Aziz for defending the CCPO.
Disorder gripped the Senate when Mushahidullah Khan took a jab at the MQM by recollecting the 2012 factory fire in Baldia Town, Karachi. “People responsible for the tragedy are a part of the ruling coalition now,” the senator observed.
The opposition staged a walkout from the house as a mark of protest against the “government’s intent to build the controversial Kalabagh dam”.
The objection was raised by the opposition on the basis of a written reply showing the Kalabagh dam in “implementation stage”.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan assured the house that the government had made no decision on the matter.
Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani pacified the opposition by holding out an assurance that no decision would be made without the consent of provinces and approval from the Council of Common Interests.
Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2020