Capital punishment in Pakistan
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in Pakistan. Although there have been numerous amendments to the Constitution, there is yet to be a provision prohibiting the death penalty as a punitive remedy.
A moratorium on executions was imposed in 2008, but it was lifted for terrorism-related cases as of 16 December 2014, following the massacre of 132 students and 9 members of staff of the Army Public School and Degree College Peshawar. Pakistan carried out 326 executions in 2015 and 87 in 2016. Hanging is the only legal method of execution.
- 1 A brief overview of the Constitution
- 2 Islamic views on Capital Punishment
- 3 Crimes Punishable by Death
- 4 Second Optional Protocol to ICCPR
- 5 2008-2014 moratorium
- 6 International criticisms
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
A brief overview of the Constitution
The 1973 Constitution of Pakistan is divided into twelve parts, with over 250 articles. This fundamental document asserts individual rights and protection, such as the status of women, the right to fair trial, and the right to life. Nevertheless, despite the fundamental right to life entrenched in its Constitution, the Court has jurisdiction to sentence a person to death. As part 6 of the Constitution gives the Court the right to find an individual guilty of any crimes punishable by death under the Penal Code (Act XLV of 1860), or any other relevant law.
Nevertheless, the Constitution contains a vivid preamble which states that Pakistan ought to follow and operate by Islamic laws and teaching. Whilst retaining the democratic principles entrenched in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that of all man are created equal and therefore, should equally be judged under national law The Constitution is a balance between two worlds, Islamic and non-Islamic. Article 31 of the Constitution talks about the ‘Islamic way of life’ meanwhile part 9 contains Islamic provisions.
Islamic views on Capital Punishment
As an Islamic state, Pakistan has to follow Islamic laws, and as a matter of fact, Islam does not reject capital punishment. The Qur'an 6:151 States “…take not life, which God has made sacred, except by way of justice and law. Thus, does He command you, so that you may learn wisdom” This scripture of the Qur'an illustrates that, although Islam grants the right to life as seen in the fundamental principles above, it also permits individuals lives to be taken only in ‘ways of justice’.
However, although capital punishment may be allowed, the Qur'an predominantly teaches forgiveness and peace. Muslims believe that capital punishment is a most severe sentence but one that may be instructed by a court for crimes of suitable severity, as seen above this is a perfectly painted picture of what the Constitution does. Although murder is deemed as a big sin in most religion, it is also punishable by death in many countries including Pakistan.
The crucial point to note is that one may take a life “by way of justice and law” in Islamic teachings and belief. Henceforth why most Islamic states will continue to allow capital punish clauses in their fundamental documents. As the death penalty can only be applied by the court as a remedy to the victim and their families, in most serious criminal cases. This is often the problematic reasons why most Islamic Republic States like Pakistan will continue such practice.
Crimes Punishable by Death
The Pakistan Penal Code contains 27 different offenses punishable by death, including blasphemy, rape, sexual intercourse outside of marriage, assault on the modesty of women, and smuggling of drugs. This Code draws its origin from the Indian Penal Code, after several amendments from different governments in Pakistan, the Code is now a mixture of Islamic and English law. This Code provides explanations, definition, and punishment for all type of offenses.
Section 302 of the Code governs the punishment for murder, also known as Qatl-i-amd, which is then divided into three categories. The first dealing with death as qisas, this is the Islamic word meaning retribution, this permits the state to take one’s life for murder, which is also known as equal retaliation, an eye for an eye type of law. The second type under section 302 is ta'zir, this is death or imprisonment, this word is an Islamic legal term referring to an offence punishable at the discretion of a judge or state. The third is any punishment of imprisonment. The Code also punishes any act of rape with death or imprisonment, not less than ten years depending on the ‘severity’ of the case. Section 376 states that if and when the act of rape is committed by two or more individuals with common intention like gang rapes the criminals should meet the fate of death or life imprisonment.
Although in many countries insults or defamation of any religion such as Islam is not a crime, in Pakistan this is one of the biggest crimes one can commit. Blasphemy is deemed as a crime not only under the Code but also under Islamic law. This is controversial, as many people believe that this should not be punishable as it violates the fundamental freedom of speech. The Code address the penalty and offenses relating to religion under section 295B and C. Subsection B punishes any defamation made against the Holy Qur'an with life imprisonment. Whereas, punishment under subsection C is for any written or spoken words direct or indirect made to defile the ‘sacred name of Prophet Muhammad’ will be punished by death or life imprisonment. Other crimes punishable with death are those of Fasad fil-ardh, which is any offence of treason (this could be when one leaves Islam to join foreign faiths to combat Islam), homosexual acts (this is prohibited under Islamic laws and teachings) and piracy of any kind. Islam permits the death penalty for anyone who threatens to undermine authority or destabilise the state. N
One of the first international treaties to place limits on the death penalty was the 1929 Geneva Convention, this restricted death to prisoners of war taken in armed conflict. The ICCPR was adopted with the aim of restricting the death penalty only for ‘most serious crimes’ in accordance with states law. Although Article 6 of the ICCPR does not expressly prohibit capital punishment, the Human Rights Committee said its drafting ‘strongly suggests the abolition is desirable’. Despite the lack of such a mandatory requirement, the movement towards abolishing the death penalty worldwide has been increasing rapidly in the last sixty years, particularly since the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. At the beginning of the 20th century, only Costa Rica, San Marino and Venezuela had permanently abolished the death penalty. At the current time, 133 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.
Second Optional Protocol to ICCPR
The United Nations Economic and Social Council published the Safeguards Guaranteeing the Protection of the Rights of Those Facing the Death Penalty, attempted to define the meaning of ‘most serious crime’ in 1984. It asserts that such type of crimes should not go beyond international crimes with lethal or grave outcomes. However, as noted above every state has deferent views to what is a serious criminal offence for their nation.
The Constitution of Pakistan empowers the President to pardon or remit convictions. The Pakistan Peoples Party government, whose former chairperson Benazir Bhutto was a well known opponent of the death penalty, came to power in March 2008, and installed its President, Asif Ali Zardari on 9 September 2008. Upon taking charge of the office, he issued an indefinite moratorium on executions. The moratorium ended on 14 November 2014 when Muhammed Hussain, a soldier, was hanged for murder at Central Jail Mianwali.
On 17 December 2014, after the Peshawar school attack, in which the Pakistani Taliban murdered 132 children and at least nine others, the authorities announced the moratorium would be lifted for terrorism cases. Executions immediately resumed, with dozens more following.
Finally on 10 March 2015, Pakistan lifted the moratorium on the use of capital punishment in the country entirely.
Amnesty International argue that at least 8,200 prisoners were under the death penalty at the end of 2014 and at least 8,500 were thought to be on death row as of June 2015. In October 2015, Minister of State for Interior Muhammad Baligh Rahman told the Senate that there were 6,016 death row inmates in the country, but it is not clear whether he was referring only to inmates whose death sentences had been finalized on appeal. Amnesty also alleged that since the lifting of a six-year moratorium on execution, there has been more than 400 carried out by the Pakistani Government. Amnesty found that not only that is a violation of the right to life, but on many occasion, capital punishment is usually imposed after an unfair trial by both the military and the civil courts.
Asian Legal Resource Center
In a recent article, “Pakistan: Government Undermine The People’s Right to Life” the Asian Legal Resource Center at (ALRC) addressed its concerns to the UN Human Right Council about the Pakistani Government's clear violation of Article 6 of the ICCPR. Furthermore, the ALRC states that Article 9 of Pakistan Constitution states that “No Person shall be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with law,” yet the country’s civilian and military courts are sentencing people without following due process. Even the façade of the rule of law has taken a back seat as the State gropes in the dark to deter terrorism with judicial and quasi-judicial terror. They argue that the Pakistani Government are not following international principles or instructions of ‘most serious crimes’ when ordering the killing of vulnerable people usually for the most pity crimes. According to the Human Rights Watch, in 2016 85 people were executed
- 2014 Peshawar school massacre
- Capital punishment in India
- Crime in Pakistan
- Law of Pakistan
- Human rights in Pakistan
- Application of Islamic law by country
- See, the Constitution of Pakistan 1973, Articles 200 to 205. Also see, http://na.gov.pk/uploads/documents/1333523681_951.pdf. Retrieved September 8th, 2017.
- "Death sentences and executions in 2016". amnesty.org. Retrieved August 21, 2017.
- (Section 368 Code of Criminal Procedure)
- See, http://na.gov.pk/uploads/documents/1333523681_951.pdf. Part 1 “Fundamental Rights and Principles of Policy”, Articles 9, 10, 11 and 12. Retrieved September 7th, 2017
- See, http://na.gov.pk/uploads/documents/1333523681_951.pdf. Mainly Part 6 of the constitution, Articles 175 to 204. Retrieved September 7th, 2017.
- See, the Pakistan Penal Code (Act XLV of 1860), ss 203 to 460.
- See, Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- See, http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/islamethics/capitalpunishment.shtml. And http://corpus.quran.com/translation.jsp?chapter=6&verse=151. Different version of that scripture. https://www.thoughtco.com/capital-punishment-in-islam-2003792. Retrieved September 7th, 2017.
- See this page for the list of countries who still practice capital punishment. http://www.criminaljusticedegreesguide.com/features/10-countries-that-still-embrace-capital-punishment.html. Also see, http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/guides/znhf9j6/revision/4. Retrieved September 7th, 2017.
- http://www.commonlii.org/pk/other/PKLJC/reports/47.html. Missing or empty
- See, http://www.lawsofpakistan.com/pakistan-penal-code-1860-pdf-downlaod-updated-ppc/. Retrieved September 7th, 2017.
- See, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qisas. Retrieved September 7th, 2017.
- See, s 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code http://www.pakistani.org/pakistan/legislation/1860/actXLVof1860.html. Retrieved September 7th, 2017.
- See, sections 295B and C of the Pakistan Penal Code.
- See, http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/islamethics/capitalpunishment.shtml. Retrieved September 7th, 2017.
- See, the Global voice of the Legal Profession “The Death Penalty Under International Law: A Background Paper to the IBAHRI Resolution on the Abolition of the Death penalty”, at p 9.
- The Global voice of the Legal Profession “The Death Penalty Under International Law: A Background Paper to the IBAHRI Resolution on the Abolition of the Death penalty”, at p 9.
- See, https://www.ibanet.org/Human_Rights_Institute/About_the_HRI/HRI_Activities/death_penalty_resolution.aspx. Retrieved September 7th, 2017.
- "Capital punishment in Pakistan". Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Archived from the original on 2 December 2012. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
- "Pakistan lifts death penalty moratorium after Taliban school attack". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Associated Press. 17 December 2014. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
- "Pakistan death row inmates face imminent execution". BBC News.
- Sim, Shaun (10 March 2015). "Pakistan Ends Death Penalty Moratorium". International Business Times. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
- See, Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide “Pakistan”, https://www.deathpenaltyworldwide.org/country-search-post.cfm?country=Pakistan#f4-2. Retrieved September 7th, 2017.
- See, https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/asia-and-the-pacific/pakistan/report-pakistan/. Retrieved September 8th, 2017.
- See full Article of the ALRC at http://alrc.asia/article2/2016/03/pakistan-government-undermines-the-peoples-right-to-life/
- See, https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/pakistan#699e6e. Retrieved September 8th, 2017.
- Pakistan: Death Penalty Worldwide Academic research database on the laws, practice, and statistics of capital punishment for every death penalty country in the world.
- Punjab set to oppose abolition of death penalty
A “MOST SERIOUS CRIME” PAKISTAN'S UNLAWFUL USE OF THE DEATH PENALTY 
Pakistan: Death penalty for blasphemy on Facebook