Central & South Asia

Death penalty back in Pakistan

New government allows moratorium to expire, prompting rights group to criticise the move as "shocking and retrograde".

Last Modified: 05 Jul 2013 08:58
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Many of Pakistan's crowded prisons lack basic facilities for inmates [EPA]

Pakistan's new government has allowed a ban on the death penalty to expire, in a move condemned as "shocking and retrograde" by London-based rights group Amnesty International.

A presidential order imposing a moratorium on the implementation of the capital punishment, issued in 2008, expired on June 30.

Under the previous government led by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), no one except a soldier convicted by court martial was put to death since 2008.

The PPP suffered a crushing defeat in elections on May 11, which swept to power the centre-right Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

In Pakistan, all executions must be approved by the president. The PPP's Asif Ali Zardari is due to step down in August and the parliament controlled by the PML-N will elect a new head of state.

"The new government has decided to deal with all cases of execution on merit," the interior ministry spokesman Umer Hameed told the AFP news agency.

"The government has given clear instructions to see all such cases on a case-by-case basis and there will be no general amnesty for the convicts waiting for execution."

'Special category'

The interior ministry spokesman said up to 450 convicts were awaiting execution and their cases would be examined, adding that the government would show sympathy towards convicts who fell into a "special category" such as women and the elderly.

In a statement this week in response to rumours ahead of the decision, Amnesty International said, "As long as the death penalty is in place, the risk of executing innocent people can never be eliminated," 

"The systemic fair trials violations in Pakistan not only exacerbate this risk, but also put Pakistan in breach of its international obligations," Amnesty said, calling a possible decision "shocking and retrograde".

Many of Pakistan's crowded prisons lack basic facilities for inmates and the country often deals harshly with prisoners.

It also suffers daily attacks blamed on armed men linked to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, as well as chronic crime in its largest cities.

Various Pakistani officials have said that capital punishment is key for deterring crime in the country.


Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
The conservative UMP party suffers from crippling internal divisions and extreme debt from mismanagement.
More than fifty years of an armed struggle for independence from Spain might be coming to an end in the Basque Country.
After the shooting-down of flight MH17, relatives ask what the carrier has learned from still-missing MH370.
Human rights and corporate responsibility prompt a US church to divest from companies doing business with Israel.
Afghan militias have accumulated a lengthy record of human-rights abuses, including murders and rapes.
join our mailing list