Pakistan suspends executions during first Ramazan till Eid-ul-Fitr

Prison authorities across the country will not be carrying out executions from the first of Ramazan till Eid-ul-Fitr, media reported.

The decision to temporarily suspend the death penalty comes in view of the sanctity of the holy month. President Arif Alvi will also deliberate upon and is expected to grant presidential pardons over the course of Ramazan.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government had imposed a moratorium on capital punishment after coming to power in 2008.

The moratorium was, however, lifted by the Nawaz Sharif-led government through an executive order after the 2014 terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar.

The decision was endorsed by parliament through 21st Constitutional Amendment in January 2015 which sought to establish military courts for speedy trials in terrorist offences and acts threatening the security of Pakistan. The move was part of the National Action Plan, a comprehensive strategy to deal with the menace of terrorism.

Since then, Pakistan has executed almost 500 prisoners. The number accounted for 13 per cent of the total executions carried out globally between 2015 and 2017.

There are currently 289 death row prisoners at the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, 12 out of whom are women who have challenged the death penalty in apex and high courts. At least 18 of the death row prisoners are awaiting a decision on clemency pleas.

According to a report of the Justice Project Pakistan, ‘Counting the Condemned’, Pakistan has sentenced 4,500 people to death and executed around 821 over the last 14 years. The Supreme Court has overturned 85 per cent of the death sentences during appeals in the last three years.

According to a military tally, the federal government had referred 717 cases to military courts this year, of which 546 were decided. A total of 310 terrorists were awarded the death penalty, while 234 were awarded rigorous imprisonment of varied durations ranging from life imprisonment to five years in jail and two others were acquitted.

The military says that 56 condemned prisoners have been executed after final decisions from the top judiciary and rejection of clemency appeals by the president and the army chief.

Crimes punishable by death in Pakistan

Article 10 (a) of the Constitution of Pakistan grants every citizen the right to a fair trial, Article 185 (2) (a) allows the court to award capital punishment to an individual found guilty of any crimes punishable by death as defined in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

The 27 offences punishable by death in the PPC include blasphemy (295-C of PPC); high treason (Section 2 of the High Treason Act, 1973); murder (Section 301 of PPC); hijacking (Section 402-B, C of PPC); waging or abetting war against Pakistan (Section 121 of PPC); Rape (Section 6 of the Zina Ordinance, 1979); adultery (Section 5 of the Offence of Zina Ordinance, 1979); mutiny and subordination (Section 31 of the Pakistan Army Act, 1952); abetment of mutiny (Section 132 of PPC); offences in relation to enemy, treachery, mutiny, and cowardice (Section 24 of the Pakistan Army Act, 1952), arms trading (Section 13-A(1) of the Pakistan Arms (Amendment) Ordinance, 1996), giving up military passwords, intentionally using unassigned military passwords (Section 26 of the Pakistan Army Act); stripping a woman’s clothes (Section 354-A of PPC), abduction to subject someone to unnatural lust (Section 12 of the Offence of Zina Ordinance, 1979); kidnapping or abduction of minor (Section 364-A of PPC); kidnapping for ransom or extortion (Section 365-A of PPC); importing, exporting into and from Pakistan dangerous drugs (Section 13 of the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1930); importing, exporting inter-provincially or manufacturing drugs (Section 14 of the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1930); drugs smuggling (Section 9 of the Control of Narcotics Substances Act, 1997); gang rape (Section 10(4) of the Offence of Zina Ordinance, 1979); sabotage of the railways system (Section 127 of the Railways (Amended) Act, 1995); Haraabah (Section 15 of the Offences Against Property Ordinance, 1979); scheduled offence likely to create terror or disrupt sectarian harmony (Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997); aggravated murder (Section 302 of PPC); robbery resulting in death (Section 396 of PPC) and Bearing false witness intending or knowing the accused may be convicted of a capital offence, if an innocent person is convicted and executed as a result (Section 194 of PPC).