PAKISTAN. PEOPLE EXECUTED IN A HURRY
August 1, 2006: Pakistan has resorted to hurried executions to reduce congestion of overcrowded jails holding death row inmates as also to deal with the spiralling crime rate in the country, a human rights body has claimed.
About 41 persons have been hanged so far this year, said Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Director I A Rehman.
Figures released by the HRCP, which is headed by noted human rights activist Asma Jehangir, show that some people sentenced to death can wait up to 15 years in jail before their sentence is either commuted or they are hanged.
"In contrast, people accused of terrorist offences - such as attempting to kill the president or a senior member of the establishment - can be sentenced and hanged within two years," Rehman was quoted as saying by BBC.
There could be several reasons for the increased number of hangings, but one explanation was the government's desire to lower the number of people on death row throughout the country who were estimated to be in excess of 3,500 people, he said. Another reason for the increased number of executions was a spiralling crime rate, coupled with moves recently introduced by the government for offences such as drugs dealing, gang rape and kidnapping to be punishable by the death penalty, he said.
Terming the executions as "brutal", Rehman said, "the sad fact is that the increased number of executions have not really raised eyebrows or generated many public complaints. Pakistan has become a brutalised society where people are exposed to killings on an almost daily basis."
The HRCP director said officials in Punjab were being overwhelmed by last-minute mercy petitions and applications for clemency and wanted to "clear the system".
Previously, only murder and sedition were dealt with by capital punishment, Rehman said adding many people convicted under the rules approached the end of the appeals process.
Pakistan's interior minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said that decisions as to who should be executed and when were the sole responsibility of courts. (Sources: Times of India, 01/08/2006)