Death Row

At the time of Pakistan’s independence in 1947, only two crimes, murder and treason were punishable by death. Today, there are 33 crimes that merit the death penalty. Majority of these offences fail to meet the “most serious crimes” threshold thereby violating Pakistan’s international obligations under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Pakistan ratified in 2010.

In December 2014, Pakistan lifted a seven-year moratorium on the death penalty. Coming in the wake of the tragic terrorist attacks on the Army Public School in Peshawar, the resumption of executions initially applied only to individuals convicted of terrorist offenses. Yet in March 2015 and without public justification, the government lifted the moratorium for all death-eligible crimes. As a result, an estimated 6-8,000 individuals were at risk of execution.

Thereafter, Pakistan quickly went from a non-executing state to the “third most prolific executioner in the world.” Since lifting the moratorium, Pakistan has executed 500 people in 4 years. Pakistan’s death row population currently stands at 4,688.
Pakistan’s use of the death penalty is among the harshest in the world, accounting for 26% of the world’s death row population, 13% of global executions, and 14% of worldwide death sentences. Since 2004, Pakistan has handed out at least 4,500 death sentences, an average of one per day. Every 7th person sentenced to death and every 8th person executed in the world is a Pakistani.The application of the death penalty in Pakistan is replete with routine miscarriages of justice resulting in wrongful convictions and botched executions. Despite sporadic efforts at reform, the system remains incapable of reliably administering the irreversible sanction of death. Pakistan’s criminal justice system fails to uphold key procedural and substantive safeguards.


Abdul Basit

For more on this topic, read our following reports: