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EU Revives Pakistan Death Penalty Debates

Published: 17/12/2013 04:47:53 PM GMT
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ISLAMABAD – A demand made by the European Union for abolishment of death penalty has revived debates in Pakistan, putting the right-wing and left-wing at loggerheads. “Abolishment of death penalty does not mean that we are sympathizing with criminals and terrorists,” Asma Jehangir, a human rights activist and a former president of Supr...(more)

ISLAMABAD – A demand made by the European Union for abolishment of death penalty has revived debates in Pakistan, putting the right-wing and left-wing at loggerheads.

“Abolishment of death penalty does not mean that we are sympathizing with criminals and terrorists,” Asma Jehangir, a human rights activist and a former president of Supreme Court Bar Association, told OnIslam.net.

“It simply means that the present day investigation and prosecution system is so corrupt, which gives relief to influential and suppress the weak and poor.

Call for Canceling Death Penalty: Islamic View

“If you hang person, and later it is proved that he was innocent, then how will you bring him back,” she asked.

Debates about the death penalty started after the EU demanded its abolishment to allow Pakistani businessmen and traders an access to European markets.

Currently, there are over eight thousands prisoners who have been handed down death penalty for different crimes ranging from terrorism to murder and from drug smuggling to kidnap for ransom.

However, not even a single prisoner has been hanged during last six years, except a few armed forces personnel tried and convicted under court martial law.

The last Pakistan Peoples Party government had hinted at abolishing the death penalty, but it could not translate its words into action because of a possible tough resistance from religious parties.

The right-wing Pakistan Muslim league (PML), that came into power in the wake of a landslide victory in May 2013 general elections, issued death warrants of four Taliban militants convicted for attacking army headquarters in Rawalpindi in 2009.

However, it immediately withdrew the warrants fearing a backlash from Taliban.

For Jehangir, the death penalty should be abolished, saying that the chances for wrong conviction in current investigation and prosecution system are higher.

“That’s why we demand abolishment of death penalty,” she maintained.

She observes that life sentence is equally hard and justifiable punishment for hardcore crimes like murder, rape, and kidnap for ransom.

“Putting a convict behind the bars for the whole life is equally hard punishment, in fact even harder. If you hang him, he will die in seconds or minutes, but if you put him behind the bars for rest of his life, no punishment can be harder than that,” she argued.

License To Kill

Facing growing opposition, Pakistan’s scholars asserted their support for the death penalty as coping with the Islamic Shari`ah.

“First and foremost point is that no law repugnant to Islam can be introduced in implemented in accordance with the constitution of Pakistan,” Dr Fareed Ahmed Piracha, a religious scholar and deputy secretary general of Jamat-e-Islami, the country’s one of the two mainstream religious parties, told OnIslam.net.

“In Quran, the law is blood against blood. There is no substitute for that unless the heirs of the deceased forgive the killer.”

He added that the annulment of capital punishment will grant a license to kill to terrorists and killers.

“I wonder why so-called human rights groups do not voice for the rights of those people who dear and near ones have been killed, kidnapped, raped, and mutilated by these hardcore criminals?,” he asked.

“Even if we put these hardcore criminals behind the bar for rest of their lives, do you think they will rest and wait for rest of their lives in jail? Certainly Not. They will have enough time to harm or put extreme pressure on the victims’ families to forgive or have an out-of-court settlement with them.

“Therefore, the demand for annulment of capital punishment is illogical, and unconstitutional “, he maintained.

Mufti Naeem, the principal of International Binoria University Karachi, agrees with Piracaha.

“We cannot change the Shari’ah laws just to appease European Union or any other group or individual,” Myfti Naeem said.

“Those who are demanding for abolishment of capital punishment, must meet the heirs of those children who were kidnapped for ransom, and killed, those minor girls who were raped and killed, and those women who were dishonored and killed, before demanding for that,” he argued.

Mufti, however agreed that there were many discrepancies in incumbent investigation and prosecution procedures, however, thought, it mostly favored the accused rather than the aggrieved party.

“In any case, these discrepancies and lacunas must be eliminated for real dispensation of justice. We too demand that,” he maintained.

The government, however, does not seem to be in mood to abolish the death penalty at least in near future.

Advisor to prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, who holds the charge of foreign ministry as well, has ruled out the possibility of abolishment of death penalty on EU demand.

“Capital punishment cannot be abolished right away,” Sartaj Aziz, who has been assigned the task to reshape the country’s foreign policy by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, told reporters referring to a question vis-à-vis EU’s demand for abolishment of death penalty in order to get “fast access” to its internal markets.

“This is a serious issue. It requires in-depth deliberations and proper legislation, which cannot be done overnight,” he maintained.

A recent survey by Gallop Pakistan found that the majority of Pakistanis oppose the abolition of death penalty.

The poll found that 82 percent of Pakistanis support the death penalty against heinous crimes as murder, rape and kidnap.

It showed that 63 percent support the death penalty for murder, 29 percent for rape, 10 percent for drug trafficking, and 15 percent for sedition.

Only 10 percent of respondents said they oppose the capital punishment in any case, whereas 8 percent declined to reply.

Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net - Read full article here

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