Against capital punishment

Published October 10, 2020

ON the World Day against the Death Penalty (Oct 10), Pakistan presents a chilling picture. It is a land where the chorus for sending individuals to the gallows, which is the most favoured deterrent against crime, is on the increase. There is no question of analysing the facts; anger simply spills over and is channelled in never-ending demands for exemplary retributive justice. There are several examples of how this anger builds up. The voices demanding the public hanging of little Zainab’s rapist-murderer in Kasur a couple of years go rose to a crescendo as investigators, the epitome of incompetence, irresponsibility and insensitivity, fumbled like lost souls in search for clues. More recently, when the motorway gang rape case was reported, it was their utter mistrust in the criminal justice system that compelled people to call for capital punishment — a penalty this paper firmly stands against — as well as a summary trial and public execution. The most worrying part was the government’s approval of such sentiments. Indeed, it appeared to be trying to gain political capital out of it all by claiming that it was in favour of not just capital punishment but also carrying out the sentence in public.

This country is no stranger to botched trials extinguishing innocent lives. We are all aware of the number of instances where those declared killers turned out to be innocent when their case was appealed in the higher courts. Only yesterday, an article on these pages informed us that 80 times out of 100, a prisoner on death row is acquitted by the Supreme Court during the appeals process. This number itself should settle the issue about death penalty in a country which is reported to have some 4,000 condemned prisoners. There is no justification for taking a fellow human’s life. To facilitate a process that takes the accused to the gallows is even more difficult to justify when the criminal justice system is flawed at so many levels. A single wrong conviction is one too many.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2020

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