Gallows for poor only

With the lifting of moratorium on death penalty last December, one of the death row prisoners is Shafqat Husaain, who was sentenced in 2004 at the age of 14.

A watchman by profession, Shafqat Hussain was sentenced by an Anti-Terrorism Court to death for kidnapping and killing a seven-year-old boy. But there is a question mark over how the confession was extracted. There are claims that Shafqat confessed to the crime following several days of torture in police detention.

Pakistan’s bad name in unfair trials apart, the country is a signatory to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. The sentence goes against the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance that clearly states that a suspect under 18 cannot be awarded the death sentence.

There are currently over 8,000 people on death row in Pakistan. Legal aid group Justice Project Pakistan, which works to champion the rights of such prisoners, says that it is the largest number of prisoners facing the death penalty in the world. Justice Project Pakistan fears that there will be a significant number of cases where convictions were obtained under duress or a sentence was given to a minor. In research which was conducted in conjunction with the Yale Law School, nearly 2,000 cases of torture in Faisalabad were documented. Interviewees accused police of manufacturing evidence and torturing suspects.

Given this, it seems only those who cannot pay their way through the system end up at death row. The other day there was a news that the mother of Shafqat Hussain may not come to see her son before he is sent to the gallows because the family cannot afford to send her to Karachi. So, you will die if you are poor.

2350 hours
Saturday 28 February 2015

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