Bringing down the crime graph.
Capital punishment is in vogue almost universally, except in several EU member-states. Convicts are given lethal injections, blind-folded and shot by a firing squad, or hanged and put to sword in such countries as mainland United States (34 American states), China, Russia, India and almost all the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia. Pakistan is no exception.
Three months ago, the government of Pakistan lifted a self-imposed moratorium on capital punishment, after having enforced it for nearly 18 years. With the result, over 8,000 convicts continued to languish in jails, escaping gallows for several years. Most of them are guilty of murder, involved in acts of terrorism and sectarian violence, and other heinous crimes. A large segment of public opinion attributed the rise in crime to the moratorium. This may be partially true.
Pacifists and some sections of civil society continue to oppose the hanging of convicts. They were more concerned about protecting a human life than sympathising with the crime. For them, it was more of a moral, humanitarian issue. Large income disparity, abject poverty both in urban and rural areas, and illiteracy, in large part, drive deviants to commit unspeakable crimes. Addressing these critical issues and providing equal opportunities to people can bring down the crime graph. According to them, human behaviour can be reformed.
Over three dozen convicts have been hanged recently in various jails of Pakistan. Thousands more are awaiting their ignoble fate in the coming weeks and months. The international reaction to these executions has been muted. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the EU made demarche to the government of Pakistan, urging Islamabad to exercise restraint in sending convicts to the gallows. They conveyed that in principle, they were supportive of human life and opposed to capital punishment. They asked Pakistan to review these cases and provide another chance to these delinquents.
Predictably, Islamabad's reaction was one of dismay and disapproval. It took their censure as direct, unacceptable interference in their internal affairs. Pakistani officials termed their criticism as "value judgement", calling on them to understand the situation in Pakistan. Criticism is easy but their assistance to countries such as Pakistan, which are faced with critical challenges, is negligible, well below the magnitude of the threat posed to their social stability.
A spokesperson of the Pakistani Foreign Office in a recent statement said that the restoration of death penalty was not a violation of any international law. In this regard, Pakistan, as a state party, was acting in full compliance with the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. She added that all such issues are addressed in accordance with the country's constitution and laws. There is nothing extra-judicial or arbitrariness.
For many, taking a human life in pursuance of man-made laws is detestable. Only God, who gave life, can revoke it. Man should not arrogate himself to taking God's functions. Crime is not instinctive. It is learned and inseparable from human behaviour. Felonies, misdemeanours and murder will exist as long as there is poverty, ignorance and greed. An egalitarian society may also decrease the intensity and number of crimes if there is equality before law and equal protection of law sans discrimination of creed, language and gender, and the rich and poor are treated equally by the law.
-- The writer is a former member of the Foreign Service of Pakistan
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