The death penalty is justified today

Published: December 18, 2014

There are nearly 700 terrorists on death row at the moment. PHOTO: AFP

Two recent terrorist attacks have proven to be a watershed in our history.  First, the unfortunate siege at the Karachi airport which resulted in the loss of many innocent lives and thereby, creating a proverbial consensus among many Pakistanis in support of a military operation.

Since then, there have been debates on what a successful military operation entails. The commentators have regularly suggested that a military solution must accompany certain policy changes such as terminating the distinction between good Taliban and bad Taliban, reversal in our Afghan policy and developing a counter-terrorism strategy.  However, it failed to mark any seismic shift in our policies.

The second is Tuesday’s massacre in Peshawar where the Taliban killed over 130 children. The images are enough to break any brave heart and have left many of us stunned, speechless and horrified at the fact that human beings could do this to innocent, harmless children who play no part in this war whatsoever. Moreover, the cry of ‘enough is enough’ from many Pakistanis has never been so clear and loud.

More importantly, what happened in Peshawar has raised amongst us every kind of existential question. Many, shedding their petty rivalries, have clearly noticed the reality check that this attack has brought upon our nation. But the tragedy is that it took 148 innocent lives for our conscience to wake up.

Likewise, the most important question that this incident has raised amongst the political class and media debates is exposing us to the shortcomings and loopholes in our Anti-Terror Legislative Regime – which has to be the first step in fighting the menace of terrorism. In that regard, the decision to reinstate executions is a highly welcomed development.

We need to understand that in a country like Pakistan, where we have a poor policing system and a complete absence of high security prisons, not executing the convicted terrorists creates more security risks. This was manifested during the incident of the Bannu jail break of 2012 and DI Khan jail break of 2013, where the militants successfully freed hundreds of prisoners including the high target, Adnan Rashid, who was responsible for trying to assassinate Pervez Musharraf during his presidential regime.

Coupled with the fact that our prison system is so inadequately equipped and corrupt that these militants are well positioned to easily coordinate and carry their terrorist activities across the country while in detention, considering the easy access to technology inside the prisons.

There are nearly 700 terrorists on death row at the moment. Executing them all is the only effective way to deal with this scourge of militancy. Such an exemplary punishment for those who have no fear in taking over a 100 innocent lives might also discourage any potential future terrorists. There is no point in keeping them in jails and spending huge amounts to keep a check on these militants. Rather we need to get rid of the existing terrorists currently lingering in jails and arrest more.

However, we must also realise that the successful prosecution of suspected terrorists also entails that we build a proper mechanism to ensure the security of the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) judges and witnesses – a crucial part of any counter-terrorism prosecution. Due to threats to their families and children, many judges are reluctant to pass such sentences and instead choose to acquit these militants. The same is true for the lack of a witness protection program.  The most relevant case is that of the Geo TV reporter, Wali Khan Babar’s murder. Throughout the investigation, all the witnesses taking part in the case were killed.

However, there are many who would also argue for incompatibility of death penalty with human rights. I agree; it’s an inhumane act. But we must also realise that given our current situation, execution of terrorists is a good deterrent. The fact also being that by not doing so, we are risking innocent lives by protecting those who do not believe in any human rights, religion or humanity. Thus it is a ‘necessary evil’.

All those who are against the death penalty, think about the parents and families of those 132 children. Try explaining to them how you think the murderers of their little angels do not deserve such a retributive death. Go see what is left of the institution these innocent lives thought to be a safe haven for them.

You don’t have to be a parent or a relative of the 148 innocent lives that were lost to agree that the death penalty is justified today; you just need to be human.

Lifting the moratorium on the death penalty

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Kashif Ali

Kashif Ali

The writer holds Masters in governance and public policy from Germany and works in the development sector. He tweets as @s_kashif8 (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    well to give them the death penalty you have to first make sure your judiciary is not being pressurised into granting them bail. A terror suspect has JUST been granted bail by an ATC, which i find an abhorable incident.Recommend

  • Visibly

    The death penalty is never a solution.
    You may perhaps succeed with killing a terrorist, but you may also succeed with killing Asia Bibi.
    And will any of these killings prevent the next event, whether it is a terrorist attack (where most of the terrorists expect, even welcome, the possibility to die), or blasphemy cases?Recommend

  • Visibly

    And by the way; I come from Norway, with Breivik killing innocent children. The wish for death penalty did not change after the event, even among family members of those that died. Countries with death penalties are violent, and they don’t become less violent by the death penalty. The goal should not be death penalty but how to make the society less violent.Recommend

  • Ali Fayyaz

    I think Kashif article has depicted proficiently well enough arguments to
    support death penalty imposition which is perhaps the only readily solution available
    in the country like Pakistan. Although, It can be arguable that strict sharia
    law impose such a severe punishment or not hence it’s also very much clear from
    the perspective of Islamic law where
    death penalty is appropriate in certain cases specially where miscreants
    undermine the authority to destabilise state and its sovereignty i.e. Fasad fil-ardh (‘spreading mischief in the land’. Thus death penalty should be associated
    with the use of capital punishment as retribution for the largest variety of

  • Muhammad Waqar

    I think you did not read the news….. death penalty is only lifted for the terror related cases…………Recommend

  • ab1990

    obviously norway is an oil rich country which can feed criminals for 1000 more years freely. Not every other country can.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Most of Pakistan’s ills can be traced back to our inept judicial system.Recommend

  • Makes sense

    Absolutely right.Recommend

  • Arshad

    Death penalty is just a cosmetic step,,,revenge and highly senseless
    action on the part of the State…State need to address the root
    causes…and we all aware that moratorium is not the cause of terrorism
    in Pakistan….Recommend

  • Anoop

    Hafeez Saeed let off by courts, so was Malik Ishaq. Both out preaching hatred. Masood Azar was never arrested. Lakhwi granted bail

    So foot soldiers will be hanged, while the Big Fish escape, eh?Recommend

  • Visibly

    It is a slippery slope. To be honest, I think a large number of Pakistani would rather see Asia Bibi hanged than the usual Taliban terrorist. And from Aljazeera:
    ” Several non-terrorism related offences in Pakistan are often tried
    under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), as doing so hastens the trial under Pakistani law.

    Sarah Belal, executive director at JPP, said her organisation had
    noted “consistent abuse of procedural safeguards” in trials held under both civilian and military courts.

    “The people of Pakistan think that when you’re executing terrorists,
    you’ll be killing those who were responsible for the Peshawar attacks. What you will [largely] see will be regular criminals – people who are accused of murder, robbery, property disputes – being executed.”Recommend

  • Visibly

    In a Western country, ruled by law, a death sentence is more expensive than life in prison. In the US, it has been estimated that the cost is 10 times higher due to legal proceedings and type of prisons required. That it may be cheaper in Pakistan just reflects that the charged criminal does not have adequate possibilities to appeal. It is a sign of that the death penalty is likely to also affect innocent people/unsound trials. E.g, the blasphemy cases.Recommend

  • ab1990

    The west are really sympathetic to criminals while victims cry all their life. When it comes to death sentence cost I can only laugh at the justice systems.

    The victims cry and suffer all their life when someone near to them dies by murder or terrorism while criminals enjoy free food for life.Recommend

  • Abdullah

    It is but this penalty should be lifted for all cases. A murderer deserves to be punished if murdered person’s relatives don’t forgive him. Of course this is more justified, because he did so worse to the person that no worse can be beyond that, he stole his right to live, what can be more worse than that?
    It might appear very logical to someone to let the murderer live but what’s the guilt of murdered? Someone might say that why should we kill another person when one is already killed. Holy Qur’an answers it that you have life in qisas. i.e. no one else will have courage to do this again.Recommend

  • Abdullah

    You are right that moratorium isn’t the cause of terrorism but this moratorium itself is such an unjust act. The prohibition should be lifted for all cases. Not just for terrorists. Murderer is murderer whether he is a terrorist or not.Recommend

  • Arshad

    Death penalty is not justified in any circumstances especially in Pakistan, where the criminal justice system is corrupt and police is ill trained…torture is rampant in police custody,,innocent tortured to confess….and Yes..Murderer is Murderer whether its an individual or the State….Recommend