The death penalty is justified today

Published: December 18, 2014
Email

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.

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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 (twitter.com/s_kashif8)

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