LAHORE: In a drastic change from his earlier stance, former law minister of Punjab and PML-N’s MNA Rana Sanaullah says that Pakistan should move towards abolishing the death penalty. “Pakistan needs to fall in pace with the global consensus on the death penalty,” said the senior politician this Monday when asked a question by voicepk.net on abolishing the death penalty.
In March 2013 (just two months before the 2013 general elections in which the PML-N emerged as the leading party) Rana Sanaullah expressed his unwavering support for capital punishment during a televised debate on the death penalty, aired on Express News.
“The death penalty is necessary because in Islam, in the Quran, Allah has ordained the death sentence for certain offenses. I do not believe that the stance of 141 countries (that do not have the death penalty) or that of anyone else is above what has been ordained in the Quran,” he said when posed with the question whether or not capital punishment was justified. “Murder, dacoity and sedition deserve the death penalty.”
The debate included a poll with students of Quaid-e-Azam Law College who voted in favour of the death penalty. At the time, leading human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir debated in favour of abolishing the death penalty citing publications that found that it was certainty of evidence that deterred crimes rather than the severity of punishment.
A 2009 study published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology found no evidence that the death penalty deterred crimes. Furthermore, a 2019 report found evidence that “policies that increase the likelihood of being caught deter crime more effectively than those that increase punishment.”
According to Amnesty International, 142 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or practice, while 106 countries had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes by the end of 2018. Currently, 56 countries retain capital punishment, among which Pakistan was ranked 5th by Amnesty International for the highest number of state executions in 2017.
Rana Sanaullah was granted bail in the recent narcotics case due to lack of evidence. The Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) failed to follow due procedure in the retrieval of the contraband. The footage retrieved from the Punjab Safe City Authority contradicted the time of arrest reported by the ANF.
The former Law Minister was arrested on July 1st by the ANF while in transit at the Islamabad-Lahore motorway for possession of 15 kilograms of heroin – the ANF alleged it had recovered the contraband from his car during arrest. Sanaullah was charged with Section 9 (C) of the Control of Narcotic Substances Act 1997, a non-bailable offence carrying the death penalty. Up until his bail in late December, he had spent around 6 months in judicial remand in a death cell.
The LHC’s detailed judgment also made note of Sanaullah’s bail petition, which reiterated that his arrest was an act of political victimization as he is a vocal leader of the Opposition.
Sanaullah has labelled the entire ordeal a “fake case”.
In 2020 Rana Sanaullah’s perspective in favour of the death sentence has evolved.
“The entire world has moved toward reformation of its prisoners,” he said. “Pakistan is stuck somewhere in the middle – we are not reforming our prisoners, and we cannot torture them. In cases where people are wrongly sentenced to death, we are held accountable not just by local NGOs but by the international community as well.”
“It’s important that we move toward reformation of our prisoners and deter people from committing crimes, especially heinous offenses like murder and dacoity,” he said in his closing statement to voicepk.net.