Crime and punishment

Certain penalties are disproportionately applied to the most vulnerable of Pakistan’s population.

By Wajahat Ali Malik | October 2020

Capital punishment is a strict violation of human dignity and is at its extreme when a juvenile person below the age of eighteen is handed a death sentence or executed. The Constitution of Pakistan protects the human rights of its citizens. Article 9 of the Constitution has assured the security of lives of its citizens and that no person shall be deprived of life or liberty, save in accordance with law. Similarly, article 14 of the Constitution has assured the inviolability of dignity of every citizen of Pakistan. These two rights, right to life and right to dignity, as mentioned in our Constitution, are guaranteed even to a person who has been found guilty or sentenced for heinous offences; these two rights are also protected under other domestic laws of Pakistan. But the setback is that like other 160 countries, Pakistan has enacted legislation prohibiting the sentencing and imposition of the death penalty against juvenile offenders. Despite this prohibition, hundreds of suspected juvenile offenders have been sentenced to death by courts in Pakistan. The reason for awarding this brutal punishment to juveniles is quite obvious - lack of implementation of the juvenile justice system in Pakistan.

On 17 December 2014, a day after the massacre of more than 140 persons, including 132 young students and 9 teachers by terrorists at the Army Public School and College in Peshawar, the Government of Pakistan lifted a six-year de facto moratorium on the death penalty as a necessary measure to curb terrorism. The resumption of executions was initially applied only to individuals convicted of terrorist offences. However, in March 2015, without any public justification, the moratorium was lifted for all those awarded the death penalty under Pakistan’s criminal laws, including for non-terrorism related offences. Since December 2014, the Government of Pakistan has executed 515 condemned prisoners, which has made Pakistan one of the most prolific executioners in the world and has ranked it at number seven in the world in 2019 in terms of executions, according to the Amnesty International Global Report on Death Sentences and Executions 2019. The 515 executed convicts were tried and awarded capital punishment by criminal courts, anti-terrorism courts and military courts. Out of these 515, only 30 percent were convicted for crimes of terrorism. Thus, the government’s narrative that executions were reinstated as a necessary measure to curb terrorism is unjustifiable.

They were tried and sentenced as adult offenders.

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