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Sunday April 14, 2024

Senate rejects bill seeking public hanging of rapists

Upper house of parliament rejects bill presented by JI’s Senator Mushtaq with majority vote

By Nausheen Yusuf
February 19, 2024
(Left to right) Senators Ishaq Dar, Mushtaq Ahmed, and Sherry Rehman, addressing the Senate session, on February 19, 2024, in this still taken from a video. — YouTube/@SenateofPakistanOfficial
(Left to right) Senators Ishaq Dar, Mushtaq Ahmed, and Sherry Rehman, addressing the Senate session, on February 19, 2024, in this still taken from a video. — YouTube/@SenateofPakistanOfficial

The Senate on Monday voted against a proposal to publicly execute individuals convicted of rape as the majority of parliamentarians expressed strong opposition, deeming such a practice ineffective in preventing sexual crimes.

The upper house of parliament rejected the move to amend the Pakistan Penal Code,1860, and Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, through the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill 2023 with a 24:14 vote.

The bill presented by Jamaat-e-Islami’s (JI) Senator Mushtaq Ahmed was supported by Senators Mehr Taj Roghani, Kamran Murtaza, Maulana Faiz Muhammad, Hafiz Abdul Kareem, Kamal Ali Agha, Abdul Qadir, and others.

The senators who had voted against the bill called for improved prosecutions, investigations for combating sexual crimes, and a better jail environment to ensure that such heinous crimes are averted in the future.

Defending his proposal after it had been defeated, JI’s Mushtaq said the senators did not talk about the “basic issue” and noted that the lawmakers spoke about “brutality” becoming rife due to public executions, but it’s already rife.

“I want to halt brutality through public executions. Did the motorway rape case woman and Zainab have no respect? [How] does a rapist have respect?” he wondered, claiming that publicly hanging such criminals would act as a “deterrence”.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl’s (JUI-F) Faiz Muhammad, backing Mushtaq, said that culprits who commit such heinous crimes should be hanged publicly.

Voicing concerns, Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Senator Sherry Rehman strongly opposed the proposal, calling it a counter-effective measure in deterring sexual crimes, and urged improved prosecutions and investigations to address the matter.

Speaking during the session of the Senate, she said: “The Peoples Party has always had a principled stance against the death penalty, whether public or private.”

“While the PPP staunchly condemns rape as a heinous and grave crime, calling for the death penalty or public executions, as seen in various countries, have not proven to be effective in deterring sexual crimes. We must prioritise enhancing prosecutions and investigations rather than resorting to barbarism and violence within society.”

She added that there have been historical attempts at public executions during Ziaul Haq's era which failed to reduce crime.

“If public hanging is advocated for one crime, it will be demanded for other offences as well. The PPP focuses on the importance of addressing the prevailing anger towards violence and sexual crimes through comprehensive measures, including improved funding for the police, enhanced criminal investigations, and better training for officers handling rape cases.”

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Senator Sadia Abbasi said she opposes the bill as it would make the society more violent. “People were publicly flogged in this country [...] we saw the reaction that took place within the nation and abroad.”

PML-N’s Senator Ishaq Dar also backed the voices against the bill, noting that the death penalty exists in the law. He also deemed the bill “inappropriate” and said that criminals should not be publicly executed.