Zardari welcomes continued ban on death penalty

Zardari welcomes continued ban on death penalty\106\story_6-10-2013_pg7_6

Staff Report

ISLAMABAD: Former president Asif Ali Zardari has welcomed the government’s decision to continue with the policy of previous government on informal moratorium on executions and called for a thorough review of the death penalty in the country in light of prevailing objective conditions on one hand and religious obligations on the other.

Senator Farhatullah Babar, spokesperson to Zardari, said that the former president noted with satisfaction that in deciding to continue with the moratorium policy the government was not deterred by the usual political compulsions and pressures to reject each and every policy devised by a previous government regardless of its merit.

“Continuing with rational policies of the predecessors is a sign of wisdom and political maturity that must be encouraged and welcomed,” he quoted the former president as saying.

Zardari recalled that in his addresses to the joint sessions of parliament he had repeatedly called for rationality in deciding to continue or terminating policies of previous governments.

Babar said that proponents of death penalty often argued that Islam ordained the death penalty.

“According to a large number of eminent religious scholars, Islam provides for death punishment only for murder and fasad-fil-arz (mischief on land) but in Pakistan over two dozens offences carry death penalty. This makes it necessary that the list of offences carrying death penalty is reviewed,” he said.

A review of offences seems to be the first logical step to move towards formalising the informal moratorium decision, he said, adding that the PPP would support the government in carrying out a review of the list of offences carrying mandatory capital punishment.

He said capital punishment was irreversible and no remedy is available if later it was established that the executed person was innocent. The nation has still not recovered from the after effects of execution of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto through dubious and politically motivated proceedings.

He said that even in countries with strong and efficient justice systems the death penalty has been abolished due to possibility of wrong conviction.

“In Pakistan, weaknesses of the justice system are too obvious and the chances of miscarriage of justice too high. It is this fear of miscarriage of justice that lies at the root of the dictum that a dozen culprits may walk free but not one innocent person be hanged,” he said.

He said that Pakistan has also signed and ratified a number of international agreements that “obligates us to accept the international human rights mechanisms”.

The second protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) signed by Pakistan calls for abolition of the death penalty and cannot be ignored for too long, he said.

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