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NA resolution: Most western countries are against public hanging

National

February 9, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The western capitals have sought assessment of their missions in Islamabad about the resolution adopted by the National Assembly asking for public hanging of convicts in child molestation. Well-placed diplomatic sources told The News here on Saturday that most of the western countries are opposed to death penalty terming it as serious violation of human rights and dignity.

The resolution of National Assembly Pakistan mid this week was sponsored by sitting State Minister Engineer Ali Muhammad Khan which is an expression of desire of the government party that child killers and rapists should not only be given the death penalty by hanging, but they should be hanged publicly. Engineer Ali Muhammad Khan resolution was approved by the house through voice vote with majority, and it is a non-binding resolution but expresses the will of the government in this regard.

The western countries have noted it with “concern” that Pakistan’s prime minister has personally spoken of public hanging of such criminals. The state minister made statement on this count in the National Assembly, and it attracted the support of the government legislatures.

The sources reminded that some western countries have reservations about the structure of legal system and penalties in certain crimes which are in accordance to the aspirations of the people of Pakistan, especially, in blasphemy laws. Engineer Ali Muhammad while piloting the resolution in the National Assembly told the fellow legislatures that the Quran commands us that a murderer should be hanged. The majority of lawmakers approved the resolution, Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari stressed it was not sponsored by the government. The resolution "on public hangings was across party lines and not a govt-sponsored resolution but an individual act. Many of us oppose it - our human rights ministry opposes this," Mazari tweeted. Child sexual abuses are rampant in the country.

In October 2018, a child rapist in an infamous case in Kasur, near Lahore, that sparked nationwide protests was hanged after trial in the court of law. In that case, the six-year-old victim, Zainab Fatima Ameen, had been attacked by a 24-year-old man who went on to confess to her rape and murder. Authorities in Kasur also uncovered a massive pedophilia ring in 2015. In a scandal that rocked the country, at least 280 children were sexually abused by a gang whch blackmailed their parents by threatening to leak the videos. Amnesty International voiced its concern over the resolution of National Assembly, while urging Pakistan to focus on better protections against child abuse, including through fair trials without recourse to the death penalty. "Public hangings are acts of unconscionable cruelty and have no place in a rights-respecting society," Amnesty said in a statement.

Human rights organisations have long called on Pakistan to reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty, which was unannounced imposed earlier and lifted after the Army Public School (APS) massacre in Peshawar in 2014 that killed 151 people, most of them students.

In March 2016, a law criminalising sexual assault against minors, child pornography and trafficking was introduced. Previously, only acts of rape and sodomy were punishable by law. The sources said that diplomats posted in the federal capital are engaged in gathering impact of the resolution and approaching the high ups for official position of the government with regard to the public hanging of the criminals who have been targeted in the resolution.

The sources said that the government is prepared to brief official position to the diplomats interested to gather the government position on the question of public hanging of the offenders. Interestingly two more federal ministers have publicly opposed the idea of public hanging and they are Law Minister Senator Barrister Farough Nasim and Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhary who is also a lawyer. The federal cabinet members are divided on the question of public hanging and they are engaged in tweet quarrel. The sources maintained that the ministers who are openly differing with the stated point of views of the prime minister on the subject are defying the discipline. It is unlikely that Prime Minister Imran will intervene and try to stop the tug of war since some stalwarts of the government consider such argumentation is part of strategy to divert the attention of public opinion from the soaring issues.