Sajjad Malik –
When Pakistan hanged four militants at the start of December for involvement in a 2014 school massacre in Peshawar, a victim’s father not just welcomed it, but demanded more extreme treatment of convicts.
“They should have been hanged in public, just like they killed our children in broad daylight,” Nasir Ullah said.
Ullah’s 15-year-old son was killed when militants stormed a school in the north-western city on December 16, 2014 and killed at least 150 people, mostly students. The attack shocked Pakistan, though the country was not a stranger to violence and had already suffered around 55,000 deaths since 2001 due to insurgents’ violence, according to Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan.
In a knee-jerk reaction to the attack, the government decided to lift a more than six-year-old self-imposed moratorium on the death penalty and hanged two militants — already in custody on different charges on December 19 – days after the attack.
At first, the hanging penalty was only meant to be for militants.
But, in March, the government began to apply the punishment for every death row prisoner, resulting in a wave of executions.
So far, at least 310 convicts have been hanged, according to independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
More are in the line, as there are more than 7,000 death row prisoners in Pakistan, according to the Interior Ministry.
But the upsurge in executions has sparked a debate about the efficacy of the extreme punishment in rooting out terrorism.
Execution has failed to stop militancy in the country as “those wearing suicide vest cannot be afraid of death sentence, as they are already going to die,” security analyst Hussain Soherwordi said.
But it might have a restraining act on those who have yet become militant, or on some smaller extremist groups who were supporting militants, he said. “I think Taliban, Al Qaeda and those vowing allegiance to the IS are not going to be affected by the executions, but ordinary criminals may think twice before killing someone,” he said.
Lawyer Ghulam Muhammad Chaudhry said state execution has helped in deterring crime, especially in revenge cases, since people feel justice has been done. “A number of revenge murders are avoided, as heirs of victims feel that they can get the justice through courts when those involved in heinous crimes are hanged,” he said.
Chaudhry said that Pakistan needs to improve socio-economic conditions if it wants to abolish the death sentence, as there are several factors which prompt people to commit crimes like murder.