4,500 languishing on death row in Pakistan


10th October 2020

by Ahmed Saeed


The World Day Against the Death Penalty is marked on October 10 to raise awareness about the condition of death row inmates. About 106 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes while 8 countries abolished it for ordinary crimes only. Some 56 countries including Pakistan still retain the death penalty. Pakistan executed at least 15 people in the year 2019.

Pakistan had put a moratorium on the death penalty in 2008 which was lifted in 2014 after a terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar. The country has executed more than 500 people in the last 6 years, and has more than 4500 death row inmates.

In Pakistan, 27 offences under different laws are punishable by death. These crimes include adultery, disclosure of military passwords, and sabotaging railway tracks.

Given the lacuna in the criminal justice system, rights organisations have demanded the government to again put a moratorium on the death penalty. Since 2010, the Supreme Court has upheld only 22% of death sentences given by lower courts or high courts. It means that a large number of death row inmates lost precious years of their lives languishing in death cells in very inhuman conditions.

In a most horrific incident of a miscarriage of justice, two brothers Ghulam Sarwar and Ghulam Qadir were hanged to death by jail authorities in 2015. But their appeal was still pending in the apex court, which exonerated the Ghulam brothers from the case one year after their execution!

Despite being a victim of criminal negligence by the state, the family of Ghulam brothers is still waiting for an official apology from the state.