September 15th, 2020

By Ahmad Saeed


Prime Minister Imran Khan’s proposal to publicly execute or chemically castrate the rapists involved in the motorway case has been termed an unworkable idea and completely contrary to international law that has been ratified by Pakistan, say senior lawyers.

In a television interview, PM Khan had said that in cases like the motorway gang rape, culprits should be like hanged at a public place or chemically castrated because it was a heinous crime that destroyed the life of the victim. At the same time, though, the Prime Minister also said that he has been advised that such punishments would not be accepted by the international community.

In 1994, the Supreme Court of Pakistan declared public hangings un-Islamic and in contradiction with constitutional rights.

Although the punishment of chemical castration is enacted in some countries including a few states of the United States it is not common and is carried out rarely.

Human rights lawyer Kamran Arif says that Pakistan is a signatory of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) and the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which forbids Pakistan from giving such cruel punishments to any culprit.

Arif further says that in Pakistan, there is always a debate on severe punishments after incidents like the motorway gang rape, while real issues about the legal system such as weak prosecution and flawed investigation are put on a back burner.

“Ending rape culture is not an easy task,” he says. “It cannot be resolved by passing a law. We still have capital punishment for the rape so it does not matter if you execute the culprit publically or not.” Arif said that it was the certainty of the punishment instead of the punishment being harsher which was a better deterrent of a crime.

Nida Aly, executive director of the Asma Jahangir (AGHS) Legal Aid Cell also said that crime rates have dropped in countries around the world that have improved their prosecution systems by abolishing harsh punishments, including the death penalty.

Azam Nazir Tarrar, senior lawyer and chairman of the executive committee of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) said that such harsh sentences were imaginary and could not be enforced under the current criminal justice system, which needs a complete overhaul.

Meanwhile Supreme Court lawyer Kamran Murtaza also termed the proposal of severe punishments as contradictory to Article 14 of the Constitution which ensures protection of human dignity. “If Pakistan tried to implement such punishments, there would be a strong reaction from the international community which we would not be able to tolerate,” he says. “Our Prime Minister does not even think about the kind of statements he is giving and what are to be the consequences. Already we are already surviving on aid and if we try to carry out such punishments, the world will block our financial aid.”