Zardari welcomes continuation of moratorium on death penalty

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

Spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar 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.

Mr. Asif Ali Zardari recalled that in his addresses to the joint sessions of Parliament he had repeatedly called for rationality in deciding to continue or terminate policies of predecessor governments with a view to continuing good policies in national interest.

Spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said that the 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 in the land) but in Pakistan over two dozens offences carried death penalty. This makes it necessary that the list of offenses carrying death penalty is reviewed, he said.

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

Farhatullah Babar said that 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 Pakistan’s first directly elected Prime Minister Shaheed 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 on the ground of possibility of wrong conviction. In Pakistan the 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.