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Opinion

May 2, 2015

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One hundred

Many of our laws and their implementation are highly flawed. It is important to speak out for justice, even for suspected terrorists and killers

Since that fateful day in Peshawar, things have not quite been the same in Pakistan. There was an uproar like never before against terrorist groups and any sympathy for those captured and tried for such crimes has been eroded. The country united in its in outrage against terrorism like never before. Support for the military’s ongoing operation increased and so did calls for blood.
The moratorium on death penalties was lifted first for those convicted on terrorism and then for other crimes as well. Since then one hundred individuals have been hanged. A milestone that should not be celebrated no matter which side of the debate on capital punishment you support.
Amnesty International took the opportunity to once again criticise the Pakistani government’s decision to lift the moratorium, citing our poorly implemented judicial system. The flaws in our criminal justice system are so many and so big that it is entirely plausible that of those hanged, some were either entirely innocent or deserved lesser sentences than death.
Within the country, support for capital punishments has not wavered. Tired of endless bloodshed and mayhem caused by terrorists, this is a nation that wants change and if that change will come about at the cost of lives of a few convicted men, then so be it. We have already lost so many innocents – why have any sympathy for convicted killers?
It is hard to argue with the pain, anger and desperation behind this need to avenge death and to put a stop to this madness. But there is a very real danger that in our quest for greater safety we are going to end up giving up on our freedoms.
The problems with our justice system are very real and well documented. Anyone who has ever had to deal with the law and its representatives can attest to this. Giving this system free reign to

sentence people to death for crimes that include not just terrorism and murder but also blasphemy can very easily result in the deaths of more innocents wrongfully imprisoned and convicted to settle personal scores and to become scapegoats while the real criminals and terrorists roam free. There should at least be a debate on how we need to revamp this system and put in place more checks and balances before allowing it to convict people to the fullest extent.
Slowly but surely we are giving up on holding public discourse. A civil society that had started to gain ground and find a voice is now being muzzled again. The majority of public opinion has swung in favour of continuing with violent tactics to fight crime and terrorism and understandably so, but there are other freedoms that are being snuck away from us under the guise of increased state protection for the people.
The cybercrimes bill, if it passes will be just another way in which the state silences dissenting opinion. Once it comes into force, the bill will be more about regulating opinions and bringing them in line with what the state wishes for rather than about capturing criminals.
The death of Sabeen Mahmud too, shows an increase in the attempts to control the activities of civil society but making sure that the next time someone decides to bring to light a topic that is deemed unsuitable for public discussion, they will think of Sabeen and then do some self-censorship.
Upholding and adhering to laws is how a state is held together. But many of our laws and their implementation are highly flawed. It is important to recognise this and to speak out for justice to be done, even for suspected terrorists and killers.
The writer is a businessstudies graduate fromsouthern Punjab.
Email: [email protected] gmail.com

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