Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pakistan: 7,046 death row inmates awaiting execution

Appeals of 5,378 pending in provincial high courts, 1,031 in apex court

The Supreme Court was informed on Wednesday that 7,046 inmates on death row are awaiting execution across the country.

The Interior Ministry, through the attorney general of Pakistan's office, on Wednesday submitted complete details of the prisoners on death row in different prisons of the country. Petitioner Barrister Zafarullah Khan of the Watan Party has drawn the Supreme Court's attention to the ordeal faced by such inmates. According to the details provided by the ministry, 5,378 appeals against the death sentence are pending in the provincial high courts and 1,031 in the Supreme Court.

The province-wise breakdown of death row prisoners is: Punjab, 4,981; Sindh, 266; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 102; and Balochistan, 29. Meanwhile, 532 mercy applications are pending before the president. It has also been learnt that the president has stopped the implementation of 78 capital punishment sentences, whereas the GHQ has pending with it appeals of 6 military personnel, while the Federal Shariat Court has 21 appeals.

It is noteworthy that the PPP government, which had announced a moratorium on executions in November 2008, carried out its first execution last year when Muhammed Hussain, a soldier who was convicted and sentenced to death in 2009 for murdering 1 of his colleagues, was hanged in November 2012. This is not the 1st time that the ordeal of inmates on death row has been highlighted before the Supreme Court. In 2008, the court had taken up a suo motu notice on a news report that 7,000 inmates on death row were waiting for their execution.

The court had asked the government if it was serious about bringing out any legislation to commute death sentences into life term. On June 21, 2008, former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had announced that his government would recommend to the president to commute death sentence of thousands of prisoners into life imprisonment as part of a birthday tribute to slain PPP leader Benazir Bhutto. According to reports, 62 countries in the world still maintain death penalty, while 92 countries have abolished it completely. Ten countries retain it, but only for the crimes committed during war times.

During the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto government in the 1970s, life sentence was increased to 25 years from 14 years with the aim to completely abolish capital punishment in the years to come. But the Ziaul Haq regime retained both the 25-year life sentence and death penalty.

Source: Daily Times, February 27, 2013