08 January 2020 :Pakistan sanctions the death penalty for 27 offences (1), including blasphemy, stripping a woman in public, terrorist acts, sabotage of sensitive institutions, sabotage of railways, attacks on law enforcement personnel, spreading hate against the armed forces, drugs, sedition and cybercrimes.
On 17 December 2014, Pakistan lifted the six-year moratorium on the death penalty in terrorism-related cases, a day after the Taliban-perpetrated massacre at a military-run school in Peshawar in which 150 people, including 134 children, were killed. In December 2014, after the lifting of the moratorium, Pakistan hanged seven people sentenced to death, all for crimes of terrorism. On 3 March 2015, the federal government formally lifted the moratorium on death penalty of all the condemned prisoners.
The last execution before the lifting of the moratorium took place on 15 November 2012, when a soldier, Muhammad Hussain, was hanged at a jail in Mianwali city, Punjab Province, for murdering his senior officer Havaldar Khadim Hussain. His hanging ended a de facto moratorium on executions that had been observed since December 2008, when another soldier, Shahid Abbas, was executed for murder. In 2008, Pakistan executed at least 36 people, a significant decrease from 2007, when 134 convicts were executed. Since then, every three months the President’s Office had issued a letter which had put a stay on all capital punishment – a routine that had been in operation for the following years.
After the lift of the moratorium, at least 501 executions were recorded, more than 80% percent of the total executions have been carried out in Punjab province only.
In 2018, 14 executions were carried out, in four cases by a sentence issued by ATC. The global number is lower than 66 executions were carried out in 2017, 44 of which were of terrorists convicted by military courts; than the 87 executions (including 7 convicted terrorists) of 2016 and the at least 326 people, including 30 convicted terrorists, executed in 2015.
According the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, in 2018 courts awarded the death sentence to 346 people, including three women.
According the Justice Project Pakistan 4,688 prisoners are on death row, which is one of the highest figures in the world and at least 42 are women.
Prisoners in Pakistan, especially those on death row, live in cramped, overcrowded cells and often face abuse. In Punjab convicts are on death row in 30 jails with a total of 812 death row cells that are usually small rooms that measure 9x12 feet, have attached toilets and are cordoned off by walls that are approximately three feet high. On occasions, as many as 12 inmates have to crowd into one cell, charge rights groups. A survey by the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan, an advisory body to the government, says three to six prisoners are usually kept in a single death cell.
The Report “No Mercy: A Report on Clemency for Death Row Prisoners in Pakistan” launched on 12 April 2018 by Justice Project Pakistan, quotes the Ministry of Interior as stating that the president’s office had rejected 513 mercy petitions by condemned prisoners – 444 of which were from the first 15 months after the resumption of executions in December 2014. These data are the same released in 2016, in a written response to a question raised by Jamaat-e-Islami Senator Sirajul Haq by the Minister of Interior for the period 2011-2015. As of 15 April 2016, only 38 mercy petitions of condemned prisoners who were awarded a death sentence were pending with the Interior Ministry, of which 13 cases were under submission to the President Secretariat for decision, the document said. “Appeals of these condemned prisoners have already been rejected by higher courts,” the Interior Ministry said.
It is a tradition that nobody is executed in the (Islamic) fasting month of Ramadan and an official in the federal interior ministry confirmed that a notification had been issued to halt executions during Ramadan, which in 2018 started on 14 May to 14 June.
The executions are usually carried out before sunrise. The condemned has a final meal, bathes and then has time to pray before being led to the gallows. Executioners cover their face with a black hood and tie their hands and legs before hanging them.
In 2017, Pakistan was revised under the UPR and the wake of the ‘scathing criticism on the excessive use of this penalty’ by UN Human Rights Mechanisms, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs moved a summary to the Prime Minister with some recommendations on the imposition of the death penalty which compelled the authorities to review punishment for the crimes carrying death penalty. It is to mention that National Action Plan for human rights, approved by the Prime Minister, has also proposed a review of existing legal framework in line with the national and international commitments related to human rights.
In view of the above, the Ministry of Human Rights has proposed a consultative meeting to discuss a possible review of the 27 capital crimes and a high-level meeting was held on 15 September, 2017, at the Ministry of Law and Justice to discuss the possible review.
Pakistani law has a maximum punishment of the death penalty, or life in prison for a murder. Theoretically, the religiously stipulated retributive punishment corresponds in kind and degree to the crime. In practice, hanging rather than harm in kind is the punishment for murder in Pakistan.
However, under Islamic laws, victim families can strike an out-of-court deal with the murderers, usually for a payment of Diya. In that case, the victim’s families generally appear in court to testify that they have pardoned the murderer in the name of God. The court must decide whether to accept the pardon, but judges generally follow the decision of the family.
During the year, death row inmates were spared after they were pardoned by the victims’ families.
The death penalty on juveniles
On 1 July 2000, the military Government promulgated the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000 (JJSO) abolishing the death penalty for children under 18 years of age. The law also barred juveniles from being tried as adults and accorded them legal assistance at the expense of the State. However, the provisions in the JJSO are “in addition to and not in derogation of, any other law for the time in force and children are liable to the death penalty under other laws.”
The procedure in most cases is that if a lawyer pleads this point, then the court directs that the suspect’s age be determined medically. And if it is proved that the suspect is not an adult, then the case proceeds according to the procedures laid down in the JJSO.
In December 2001, President Pervez Musharraf issued a new decree commuting all juvenile death sentences to life terms.
These steps did not do away with the juvenile death penalty completely however. Other minors are still not being given legal assistance despite the obligation posed by the JJSO. Moreover, the Ordinance was immediately applicable to the whole of Pakistan except Provincially-Administered Tribal Areas (PATA).
The last execution of a juvenile offender took place on 13 June 2006, when Mutabar Khan was executed at the Central Prison of Peshawar after his conviction for murder in 1998. Mutabar was 16 years old at the time of his arrest in 1996.
An estimated 800 of those facing execution in Pakistan may have been sentenced to death when they were children, a report released on March 18, 2015 has revealed. Justice Project Pakistan and Reprieve conducted a study of 30 prisoners close to execution and discovered that 10% were arrested and sentenced to death while still children. Should this figure hold true across the entire death row population, there could be over 800 people convicted as children among the more than 8,000 prisoners currently sentenced to death.
What is shocking is that in many cases, when the minors were being tried in the lower courts, their lawyers did not use the argument that they were juveniles and hence, leniency should be exercised. Had their lawyers done so, perhaps most of them would not have been given the death penalty. These data was confirmed in the Justice Project Pakistan's report titled Death Row's Children – Pakistan's Unlawful Executions of Juvenile Offenders, released in February 2017. The report attributed low birth registration, weak implementation of the juvenile justice law, and lack of age determination methods as primary reasons for several juveniles being sentenced to capital punishment and executed in the country.
In August 2017, the UN Human Rights Committee issued its concluding observations and recommendations, following the review of the initial report of Pakistan. On the death penalty, the Committee was particularly concerned that juveniles and people with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities were reportedly being sentenced to death and executed.
As reported in the Annual Report “State of Human Rights in Pakistan 2017” by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), a notable development in the area of juvenile justice was the establishment of the first child court in the country on 19 December 2017 at the Judicial Complex in Lahore. This court is mandated to deal with all cases involving children. On the legislative front, a new law titled Juvenile Justice System Bill 2017 was tabled in the National Assembly on 24 May 2017 and was referred to the Standing Committee on Human Rights. This Bill aims to strengthen the existing criminal justice system for juveniles and achieve speedy disposal of cases by introducing the option of diversion for the first time in Pakistan, establishing juvenile justice committees for each session division and focusing on social integration of juvenile delinquents. The Standing Committee approved the Bill on 4 July 2017 and recommended it to be passed by the NA. No further progress was seen on the Bill by the end of the year. Despite recent developments, the overall juvenile justice system in the country continued to suffer from fundamental weaknesses due to poor implementation of the law.
The war on terror
On 31 March 2017, President Mamnoon Hussain gave his formal assent to the Pakistan Army Act 2017 and the 23rd Constitutional Amendment Bill, the two pieces of legislation aimed at granting legal cover to military courts, which extended the operation of the military courts for another two years.
On 6 January 2015, Pakistan’s Parliament passed a constitutional amendment that allows a parallel system of military courts to try Islamist militants, significantly enlarging the army’s power. The new law, which was passed by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Parliament, is the central plank of the government response to the attack on the Peshawar school on 16 December 2014. The military has pushed for the new courts, arguing that a weak civilian judicial system has failed to bring Taliban and other Islamist militants to justice. The law that authorizes the courts is to remain in effect until February 2017, then postponed for two years. The government has promised to use that time to reform the broken civilian justice system, meanwhile the move was severely criticised by human rights activists and institutions as denying individuals their right to a fair trial under Article 10-A of the Constitution and Article 14 of the ICCPR. Several lawyers challenged the constitutionality of the military courts in the Supreme Court. But on 5 August 2015, Nasir ul Mulk, the chief justice, announced that all “petitions have been dismissed.” The Supreme Court has ruled that secret military courts are legal and can pass death sentences on civilians, a judgment that critics say further strengthens the military’s grip on power at the expense of civilian authorities.
Particularly worrying is the opacity with which these courts have operated. Proceedings of military courts, their judgments, reasoning and evidence, and details about the alleged offenses for which suspects were tried have been kept secret. The trials were closed to the public and families of the accused. In an analysis of HRCP and JPP data further shows that almost 25 percent of the total executions have been carried out on the Sessions Court’s verdict. Though a two-member bench of the respective high courts validate the Sessions Court’s judgment however if no one pursues the cases in the high court then the lower court’s judgment will be upheld. Nearly half of military court’s death row prisoners are from Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Most death sentences since 1997 have been handed down by special anti-terrorist courts set up by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif's government to combat growing terrorist attacks in the country. The jurisdiction of these courts gradually evolved to cover political charges and cases involving gang rape and violence against children. These courts hold trials within seven days. Convicted persons have to appeal within seven days, and the appeal must also be heard and decided within a week. These provisions contravene Article 14(3)(b) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which entitles any person charged with a criminal offence to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence. Murder carries the religiously stipulated retributive penalty, where the punishment corresponds in kind and degree to the crime, unless the victim’s family waives the penalty, usually for a payment of diya. In practice, hanging rather than harm in kind is the punishment for murder.
As reported in the Annual Report “State of Human Rights in Pakistan 2017” by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), during the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, concern was expressed at the use of military courts to try civilians for terrorism-related offences. The concluding observations of the UN Human Rights Committee on Pakistan's initial report also expressed concern at the extension of the jurisdiction of military courts to consider cases of persons detained under the Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation (AACPR). It noted with concern the number of civilians, allegedly including children, that had been convicted or sentenced to death in secret proceedings, and that some 90 percent of convictions were based on confessions.
In 2018, of the 14 executions, 4 were issued by ATC. In 2017, of the 66 executions, 44 were for terrorism according to military courts. In 2016, of the 87 executions, 7 were for terrorism and in 2015 of the 326 people executed, 30 were terrorists. According the NGO HRCP, in 2017 at least 34 people have been sentenced to death by the Ati-Terrorism law.
The death penalty for apostasy and blasphemy
The death penalty is imposed in Pakistan for several crimes, including capital offences under Sharia Law, such as blasphemy and sexual relations between partners not married to each other. The death penalty is used in that cases in contravention of international law and standards for acts which are not considered crimes under international law. During the third time Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Pakistan rejected recommendation to repeal of blasphemy laws.
The law against blasphemy was introduced under the dictatorship of General Zia ul-Haq in 1985. The law prescribes the death penalty for anyone insulting the prophet Mohammed, other prophets or the sacred scriptures. Under section 295-C of the Penal Code: “Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”
Since Zia’s rule, many hundreds of people have been prosecuted under the blasphemy law. No one has been put to death for a blasphemy conviction and most death sentences for blasphemy are overturned on appeal by higher courts. But dozens of people awaiting trial or acquitted of blasphemy charges have been slain by religious fanatics, and lawyers in defending those accused of blasphemy cases have frequently been attacked. Judges have been attacked for dismissing cases and many of the accused face years in jail as their trials drag on.
Not only Christians, but also the nation’s Shiite Muslim minority has been victimised by extremist Sunni Muslim groups for years. Members of the smaller Ahmadi sect, viewed by most Pakistanis as traitors to Islam because they revere another prophet in addition to Muhammad, have been frequent victims of suicide bombings, kidnappings and other attacks.
Besides being used as a tool to bully Christians, Ahmadis or other minorities, the law against blasphemy is often used by some Pakistanis embroiled in property disputes. Usually, evidence in blasphemy cases is scant, apart from the accounts given by the accusers.
The controversial Islamic Hudud [Koranic punishment] Ordinances - passed in 1979 as part of Zia ul-Haq’s Islamisation programme - deal with adultery and fornication (Zina) offences, crimes related to theft, alcohol and drug consumption, and false accusations in court (Qazf). One of the most controversial provisions states that a woman must have four male witnesses to prove rape or face a charge of adultery herself. Men and women found guilty of adultery face stoning or 100 lashes.
On December 1, 2006, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf signed into law a bill amending the country's Islamic rape legislation. The bill places rape laws under Pakistan's British-influenced penal code and scraps the harsh conditions placed on rape victims. The amended law would drop the death penalty for people found to have had sex outside of marriage, though they still would be subject to a five-year prison term or $165 fine.
Judges also will be able to choose whether to try a rape case in a criminal court or Islamic court.
Despite the 2006 law, in remote areas of the Country where tribal and feudal systems still dominate, the tribal jury (jirga) continues to operate as the people’s recourse to the law – instead of the police – for resolving inter-tribal disputes and questions of “honour.” Under tribal codes, women are seen as men's property and an allegation of unfaithfulness is punished by death. A woman suspected of having extramarital relations is declared a kari (sinful) and tribal honour requires a family member to kill her.
By the Criminal Laws Amendment Act of 2006, honor killings are to be treated as aggravated killings but in practice, honor killings may be treated more leniently than murder. The government-appointed National Commission on the Status of Women said the law was a weak one as it did not cover the crime fully, but nevertheless a step in the right direction. The law was changed after a prolonged protest by women's and human rights groups. According to the non-governmental Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), hundreds of women are killed every year in Pakistan in the name of ‘honour.’
Hudud ordinances prevail on the domestic legislation also concerning juveniles.
At least 1,472 people — both non-Muslims and secular Muslims — have been charged under Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws since 1985.
At least 69 people over alleged blasphemy since 1990, have been extra-judicially killed according to an Al Jazeera tally.
According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, while not a single convict has ever been executed for blasphemy in Pakistan, there are currently about 40 people on death row or serving life sentences for the crime.
According to HRCP data, released on 28 february 2018, the ratio of the death penalty on blasphemy charges is less than one percent against the overall crimes. As per the data total 10 persons have been awarded death penalty on the charges of Blasphemy from December 2014 to February 2018. Interestingly all the ten persons awarded death penalty are from Punjab province.
In 2017, 5 death sentences have been recorded for blasphemy. And at least 3 in 2018.
In 2018, Asia Bibi was released by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The death penalty on women
In Pakistan, according to the Justice Project in Pakistan there are 42 women on death row out of a total of more than 4,688 people sentenced to death. Pakistan executed 9 women and the last execution occurred in 1985.
According to HRCP data, 3 women were sentenced to death in 2018.
In 2017, Pakistan underwent its third Universal Periodic Review by the United National Human Rights Council and accepted 168 reccomendations while it noted 117, among which those on the death penalty (abolish the death penalty, declare an official moratorium on the death penalty, ratify the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, repeal all provisions providing for mandatory death sentences with a view to abolishing them).
On 19 December 2018, Pakistan voted again against the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly, as the spokeperson of the Foreign Office Mohammad Faisal has clarified regarding wrong counting of Pakistani vote in favor in the UN General Assembly.
(1) The 27 capital crimes are:
‘causing death to a person other than the person whose death was intended’ (Section 301 of PPC), ‘Qatal-e-Amad’ (Section 302 of PPC), ‘dacoity resulting in death’ (Section 396 of PPC), ‘terrorism’ (Section 7 of Anti-Terrorism Act), ‘airplane hijacking or assisting in hijacking’ (Section 402-B of PPC), harbouring hijacker (Section 402-C of PPC), ‘Zina’ (Section 5 of offences of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979), ‘rape’ (Section 376 of PPC), ‘Zina-bil-Jabr’ (Section 6 of offences of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979), ‘Zina or Zina-bil-Jabr liable to Tazir’ (Section 10 (4) of offences of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979, ‘kidnapping for ransom’ (Section 365-A of PPC), ‘drug trafficking-exceeding 1kg’ (Section 9 of Control of Narcotics Substance Act, 1997), ‘high treason’ (Section 2 of The High Treason (Punishment) Act, 1973), ‘successful mutiny’ (Section 132 of PPC), ‘waging or abetting war against Pakistan’ (Section 121 of PPC), ‘blasphemy’ (Section 295-C of PPC), ‘hurting persons travelling by railways and damaging property of railways’ (Section 127 of Railways Act, 1890), ‘false evidence resulting death penalty’ (Section 194 of PPC), ‘stripping off women in public’ (Section 354-A of PPC), ‘kidnapping for unnatural lust’ (Section 367-A), ‘kidnapping or abducting in order to subject to unnatural lust’ (Section 12 of The offences of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979), ‘kidnapping child under age of 14’ (Section 364-A of PPC), “punishment of ‘Haraabah’” (Section 17 (4) of the offences against property (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance), ‘offences in relation to enemy’ (Section 24 of The Pakistan Army Act, 1952), ‘disclosure of parole or watchword’ (Section 26 of The Pakistan Army Act, 1952), ‘mutiny and insubordination’ (Section 31 of The Pakistan Army Act, 1952) and ‘importing, exporting into and from Pakistan dangerous drugs’, (Section 13 of the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1930).