Daily Archives: June 18, 2008

Pakistan: Abolish the Death Penalty

I am posting this news release by HRW on this important subject. Opinions and views are invited from the readers. The commonly cited argument in favour of death penalty is ‘culture’ and ‘deterrence’. But, how effective has been the death penalty when the justice system is on the brink of a collapse…?
Immediate Moratorium Should Precede Abolition
[New York, June 17, 2008] – The newly elected government in Pakistan should abolish the death penalty, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani.

“Until the death penalty is abolished by an act of Parliament, Pakistan should announce an immediate moratorium while the government establishes a commission to review the application of the death penalty, the offenses for which it can be applied, and implements reforms to ensure that international fair trial standards are met.

Human Rights Watch stated in its letter that crimes carrying the death penalty have significantly increased in recent years under the government of Pervez Musharraf, resulting in a much higher number of death sentences and executions. Out of the more than 31,400 convicts in the country, nearly a quarter – more than 7,000 individuals, including almost 40 women – have been sentenced to death, and are either involved in lengthy appeals processes or awaiting execution. In 2007, 309 prisoners were sentenced to death and 134 were hanged. Most of those sentenced to death are poor and illiterate. Some face discrimination as members of religious minority communities. Many were held without due process of law and faced trials that did not meet international fair trial standards. Continue reading

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What exactly were the ex-servicemen of Pakistan doing while in service?

All the X-men

Shahzada Irfan Ahmed and Aziz Omar

Air Chief Marshal (R) Asghar Khan

Former Air Chief Martial Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Asghar Khan was the first politician to become famous for his remark in 1977 that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto should be hanged by Kohala Bridge near Rawalpindi.

Asghar Khan’s critics, though relatively small in number, call him a power-hungry person who entered politics in 1968 after resigning as chairman PIA. At that point in time, a movement against Ayub Khan had started paving way for new leadership eager to make its mark in the national politics. He is also criticised for accepting a one-year extension in his service from Field Marshal Ayub Khan.

He is known for his hawkish stance vis-a-vis an accord with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, thereby limiting the scope of a political solution and paving the way for a martial law. In May 1977, he addressed a letter to the three services chiefs openly asking them to revolt against Bhutto. He had asked the addressed officers to differentiate between a lawful and an unlawful command and save Pakistan. This controversial letter is considered instrumental in encouraging Gen Ziaul-Haq, the then chief of army staff, to make a coup. Little wonder, Gen Ziaul-Haq offered him a slot in his cabinet after the imposition of martial law in 1977. To his credit he declined to accept this offer.

Lt Gen (R) Faiz Ali Chishti

The head of ex-servicemen society, Lt Gen (retd) Faiz Ali Chishti, had a main role in the military coup of 1977. He was the Corps Commander of Rawalpindi at that time and had worked out the details of the coup. Interestingly, he declares the imposition of martial law by Gen Zia-ul-Haq was right but rejects the way he tried to handle things afterwards.

Chishti says he was against the awarding of death sentence to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. It has been reported that towards the end of Bhutto’s tenure, he sat in one of the cabinet meetings with his feet facing Bhutto. It was again Chishti who reportedly overlooked/interfered in all the local bodies’ elections held from 1979 to 1985 on the behest of Gen Ziaul-Haq. It is believed that Chishti advised Gen. Zia a lot on different matters. He has also confessed that though he could easily remove Gen. Zia he submitted his resignation to him which he tore apart. Gen Chishti (retd) also held the portfolio of Labour and Manpower in Gen Zia’s first cabinet formed after the imposition of martial law.

Lt Gen (R) Asad Durrani

A former head of the ISI and now an active member of the ex-servicemen society, Durrani has confessed to having distributed millions of rupees among the politicians in the 1990 elections. During his career, he held the posts of Director General of the Military Intelligence (MI) and later the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). His role in the formation of Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) is an open secret. PPP’s former interior minister Lt-Gen Naseerullah Babar even announced on the floor of the National Assembly in 1996 that Durrani, then DG ISI, had distributed Rs 140 million among some politicians for this purpose. This amount, he said, had been withdrawn from Mehran Bank and given to Durrani by Mirza Aslam Beg to ensure that IJI was brought to power. Aslam Beg had submitted in the court that it had been routine for the ISI to support the favoured candidates in elections under the directives of successive chief executives. Durrani did not deny the allegations and submitted an affidavit listing the politicians to whom the money had been paid. The affidavit said: “It was in September 1990 that I had received instructions to provide ‘logistic support’ for disbursement of donations for the election campaign of the IJI.”

Durrani has also enjoyed ambassadorial positions in Germany (1994 to 1997) and Saudi Arabia after the military coup of 1999. It was only after completing his term as ambassador during the Musharraf regime that Durrani started criticising Musharraf. Continue reading

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