» 07/04/2008 PAKISTAN Pakistan bans the death penalty by Qaiser Felix The bill launched by the premier to commemorate Benazir Bhutto was ratified by the government and now awaits President Musharraf’s signature. Welcomed by human rights groups, who are demanding improved rehabilitation programmes for prisoners.
Karachi (AsiaNews) – An end to the death penalty in Pakistan: the historic decision, approved by parliament and launched by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, now awaits the signature of President Musharraf before becoming law, but the act should be pure formality.
Information Minister Sherry Rehman announced Parliaments turning over a new leaf yesterday: a ban on capital punishment, and all death row sentences commuted to life in prison. It is a personal success story for the premier who had pusher for the reform to honour the anniversary of the birth of Benazir Bhutto, the leader of Pakistan’s People’s Party assassinated December 27th last.
"We welcome the decision made by the government of Pakistan”, said Nadeem Anthony of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, adding that "there is still more to be done particularly in the field of prisoner rehabilitation, so that they may one day be reintegrated into society”.
According to Nadeem the number of “sentences” and “executions” in Pakistan is among “the highest in the world: according to HRCP study at the moment in Pakistan there are 7,500 prisoners are on death row, including a few women ". It must also be underlined that “the imposition of capital punishment has not contributed to reduce the crime rate”, that human rights are “fundamental norms” and the death penalty is a “misconception of justice and denial of fundamental right to life”.
Currently it is still not clear if the criminals to benefit from the norm will include those accused of drug trafficking, terrorism or espionage. Islamists are strongly opposed to the move and see the commuting of the sentence as being opposed to the Koran: the Catholic Church for its part is fully behind the initiative, having long defined the death penalty as “inhuman” particularly because it denies the possibility of repentance and forgiveness.