Death penalty moratorium lifted completely in Pakistan: Officials

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has lifted its moratorium on the death penalty in all capital cases, officials said Tuesday, after restarting executions for terrorism offences in the wake of a Taliban school massacre.

54fedd29628e1The interior ministry has directed provincial governments to proceed with hangings for prisoners who had exhausted all avenues of appeal and clemency, a senior interior ministry official told AFP.

Another government official confirmed the news.

Pakistan has hanged 24 convicts since resuming executions in December after Taliban militants gunned down more than 150 people, most of them children, at Peshawar’s Army Public School.

The partial lifting of the moratorium only applied to those convicted of terrorism offences, but officials said it has now been extended.

“The government has lifted the moratorium on the death penalty,” the senior interior ministry official told AFP. “The interior ministry has directed the provincial home departments to expedite the executions of all condemned prisoners whose mercy petitions have been rejected by the president.“

Until December’s resumption, there had been no civilian hangings in Pakistan since 2008.

Only one person was executed in that time ─ a soldier convicted by a court martial and hanged in November 2012.

Rights campaign group Amnesty International estimates that Pakistan has more than 8,000 prisoners on death row, most of whom have exhausted the appeals process.

Supporters of the death penalty in Pakistan argue that it is the only effective way to deal with the scourge of militancy.

Read more: Death penalty debate

The courts system is notoriously slow, with cases frequently dragging on for years, and there is a heavy reliance on witness testimony and very little protection for judges and prosecutors.

This means terror cases are hard to prosecute, as extremists are able to intimidate witnesses and lawyers into dropping charges

Rights groups and the European Union have been highly critical of the resumption of executions.

Editorial: Death for terrorism

First, consider how ineffective capital punishment would be in the case of those militants who resort to suicide bombing as their primary weapon of death and destruction. Indoctrinated to the point where the perpetrator does not expect to emerge from the attack alive, how can the death penalty be expected to deter others of his ilk?

Secondly, in recent years, domestic and international human rights organisations have repeatedly raised the concern that the high number of people on death row for terrorism-related convictions points to an overuse by Pakistan of its anti-terrorism laws.

A joint report released recently by Justice Project Pakistan and Reprieve states that “instead of being reserved for the most serious cases of recognisable acts of terror … [it is] being used to try ordinary criminal cases […]”. In such a situation, the lifting of the moratorium will undoubtedly lead to serious miscarriages of justice.

Besides, the death penalty will always remain a cruel and inhumane form of punishment, even if those sentenced to die are found guilty of having perpetrated the most barbaric of acts.

PM Nawaz supports Raza Rabbani appointment as Senate chairman

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while addressing political leaders on Tuesday announced the government’s support for Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Raza Rabbani.


During a meeting at the PM house, the premier further said that the appointment of a chairman for Senate should be decided after consultations with all parties.

The luncheon meeting was held in honour of political leaders and heads from PPP, Awami National Party (ANP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI), Pakistan National party (PNP) and Pashtunkhwai Milli Awami Party (PKMP) attended the meeting, according to a report published on Radio Pakistan.

The premier said that the ruling Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) initiated the process of holding consultations with all political leaders to come to a consensus on national issues, which yielded positive results.

He mentioned that PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari held a meeting on Monday for all parties to come to a consensus on a candidate for Senate chairmanship and said that his party too endorses Raza Rabbani, in order to further promote the culture of mutual consensus between political parties.

PM Nawaz further added that the government along with other parties made serious efforts to put an end to horse trading in the politics.

The opposition parties unanimously nominated on Monday PPP’s Raza Rabbani as their candidate for the office of Senate chairman.

Mr Rabbani’s name was announced by ANP President Asfandyar Wali Khan in the presence of representatives of all opposition parties represented in the Senate after a nearly four-hour meeting at Zardari House.

Mr Rabbani will be the joint candidate of PPP, ANP and Balochistan National Party-Awami (BNP-A).

Asfandyar Wali, talking to reporters, had claimed that three sitting Fata senators were also part of the opposition alliance whereas one Fata senator belonged to the JUI-F.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the JUI-F chief, had attended the meeting for some time, but he was not present at the time of the announcement, indicating that the Maulana still wanted to keep his options open as he was scheduled to have a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday.

Siraj pleads for unanimous candidates

Haq urged upon political parties for consensus on the judicial commission to get PTI back to the parliament.. — White Star/File

LAHORE: Jamaat-i-Islami emir and Senator-elect Sirajul Haq has appealed to the leadership of both the PML-N and the PPP to put forth unanimous candidates to the offices of Senate chairman and deputy chairman so as to create an atmosphere of reconciliation and to end the political crisis in the country.

54fe45e32752dA consultative meeting of the JI chaired by Mr Haq here on Monday was of the view that the election to the Senate chairman and deputy chairman should facilitate the resolution of the political crisis lingering on in the country.

The JI chief also stressed upon the leadership of major parliamentary parties to evolve consensus on the Judicial Commission so that the Tehreek-i-Insaf could return to the parliament.

Meanwhile, PML-Functional president and Pir of Pagaro Sibghatullah Rashidi called on Sirajul Haq at the JI headquarters here. He was accompanied by Pir Sadruddin Rashidi and Muhammad Ali Durrani. JI secretary-general Liaqat Baloch, deputy chief Hafiz Idrees, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chapter chief Prof Muhammad Ibrahim were also present.

Talking to the media after the meeting, the PML-F chief regretted that most of the politicians talked of their own parties but nobody talked of strengthening the federation. Some politicians had formed their own groups within their parties, he lamented. He said it was high time that the politicians rose above their party considerations and seriously thought of pulling the country out of the crisis it was in and solving the people’s problems.

Referring to the political situation of Sindh, he alleged all the state institutions there had been ruined and none could function independently. If the situation was not brought under control, he warned, the country could face a storm.

The Pir also suggested that the PPP and the PML-N should elect the offices of the Senate chairman and deputy chairman through mutual understanding.

Mr Haq said the JI and the PML-F had common viewpoint in important political issues and both wanted supremacy of the Constitution, rule of law and a strong federation

‘The court delivered half justice to my client’

ISLAMABAD: Within minutes of the verdict, a celebratory sense enveloped the Islamabad High Court (IHC) premises where Mumtaz Qadri’s supporters distributed sweetmeats to anyone who was willing to share their joy.

54fe3a823d39fTheir happiness was shared by those who defended Mumtaz Qadri in the court.

While the IHC upheld the murder case against Qadri for killing former governor Salman Taseer, his lawyers were happy the terrorism charges against Qadri had been dropped, thanks to their efforts.

Mumtaz Qadri, who was employed to provide security to Taseer, killed the latter in January 2011 in Islamabad. He was convicted by the Anti Terrorism Court (ATC) in October the same year, under both section 7 of the Anti Terrorism Act (ATA) and under section 302 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) respectively.

With the terrorism charges dropped, glorifying Qadri will no longer be a crime

IHC division bench comprising Justice Noorul Haq N. Qureshi and Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui set aside his conviction under section 7 of the ATA but upheld the death sentence under 302 of the PPC. This means that Qadri is guilty of murder but not terrorism.

Following the announcement of the verdict, Qadri’s lawyers gathered in the office of the president of Islamabad High Court Bar Association (IHCBA).

They congratulated retired Justice Mian Nazir Ahmed, the senior counsel of Mumtaz Qadri, and distributed sweetmeats among the lawyers.

Some of them even made impromptu, fiery speeches and chanted slogans in favour of Taseer’s killer.

After witnessing these celebrations for a short while, IHCBA President Raja Aleem Khan Abbasi, who has strong affiliation with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), left the room, saying that he was due in a case.

Once the excitement died down, Qadri’s counsel Justice Nazir told Media: “The glass is half full and not half empty; the court has delivered half justice to my client.”

Explaining the significance of the judgment, he said that “it will no longer be an offence to praise him (Qadri) as the terrorism charges have been dropped,” adding that under the Protection of Pakistan Act (PPA), “glorifying a terrorism convict has became a cognizable offence”.

But now that Qadri was no longer a ‘terrorist’, glorifying him was no longer a crime, he added.

However, this is not all the verdict has done. There was also some talk that Qadri’s team could appeal that his trial had been an unfair one – the trial had been carried out in an Anti-Terrorism Court although now Qadri is no longer charged with a terrorist act.

When Justice Nazir was asked if Qadri’s lawyer would request the court to remand this case back to the sessions court for retrial as the ATC cannot try ordinary murder cases, he replied: “If the case returns to the trial stage, it may be transferred to the military court.”

He said that the future strategy would be evolved after consulting other lawyers and Qadri’s father.

“Everyone will be involved in deciding whether or not we will go to the Supreme Court to appeal the fact that his conviction and death sentence (for murder) had been upheld,” he said.

The government lawyers, on the other hand, were tight lipped and would not explain whether or not the state would appeal the decision.

Advocate General Islamabad Mian Abdul Rauf said he could not comment when asked if the government was challenging the order or not.

A senior law officer of the federal government, on the condition of anonymity, predicted that there were few chances of the government going into appeal.

“It will be difficult for the government to challenge the decision as lawyers were reluctant to appear in this case, on behalf of the government,” he said.

Legal experts pointed out another loophole that will work to Qadri’s advantage with this judgment.

Raja Amir Abbas Hassan, an advocate of the Supreme Court, said that a conviction under only the PPC (and not the terrorism law) meant that Qadri was now guilty of a compoundable offence.

Those guilty of a compoundable offence can try and opt for an out-of-court settlement, which is not possible if someone is convicted at the ATA. Advocate Hassan pointed out that Qadri could go free if the Taseer family pardoned him.

Heavy security was deployed in and around the IHC building in preparation for the verdict’s announcement. Special contingents of anti-riot police were deployed at the entrances of the IHC. Entry into the courtroom where the verdict was announced was also restricted. A deputy registrar and an assistant registrar were also present inside the courtroom to monitor the situation inside the court.

7,000MW to be added to national grid by 2017, IMF assured

The assurance was conveyed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to IMF mission.—AFP/File
The assurance was conveyed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to IMF mission.—AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The government assured the International Monetary Fund on Monday that 7,000MW of electricity would be added to the national grid by 2017 and tax base expanded for generating more revenue to support development and social sectors.

The assurance was conveyed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in back-to-back meetings with the newly-appointed IMF mission led by Herald Finger currently on an introductory visit to Pakistan.

The IMF delegation comprised Harald Finger, IMF Mission Chief to Pakistan, Tokhir Mirzoev, Resident Representative of IMF to Pakistan and Masood Ahmad, Director Middle East & Central Asia Department. It was the first official visit to Pakistan by Mr Finger and Mr Mirzoev after recent shake-up in IMF staff for Islamabad.

Take a look: Pakistan’s fuel crisis weighing on credit worthiness: Moody’s

Prime Minister Sharif welcomed and congratulated Mr Finger and Mr Mirzoev on their new assignments. He acknowledged the financing of $6.64 billion from the IMF to support Pakistan under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) approved by the IMF Board in September 2013.

He said his government was taking measures for increasing tax base in the country to generate more revenue for spending on development and social sectors.

An official statement quoted the visiting delegation appreciating the positive economic indicators in Pakistan. The IMF mission congratulated the prime minister and his team on the rise in foreign exchange reserves, reduction in budget deficit and an increase in GDP, showing restoration of economic stability and hence it was high time for Pakistan be part of the group of dynamic emerging markets.

The assurance was conveyed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to IMF mission

Mr Finger is reported to have said that he was impressed by the economic headway Pakistan had achieved in the past months and hoped that things would further improve in the next three years.

The official statement quoted IMF Director Masood Ahmed as saying that Pakistan’s economy presented a totally different picture now compared to what it was 18 months ago. There was comparative economic stability and this could serve as a good foundation to further build up the economy in future, truly turning Pakistan into an emerging economy.

He emphasised focus on broadening the tax base, improving investment regime and enhancing competitiveness of the economy.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said Pakistan had met all structural benchmarks and quantitative performance criteria set for the sixth review. He also mentioned the problems that the government had inherited in the form of energy shortages, a weakened economy and scourge of extremism.

He said a number of power projects had been undertaken and 4,000MW projects were already ensured to be added to the national grid soon which would ultimately reach 7,000MW by 2017. Further, the Chinese side had also undertaken to set up power plants on government-to-government basis which could produce up to 10,000MW of electricity.

Mr Dar said Pakistan had incurred over $100bn in economic losses because of terrorism and suffered 50,000 casualties, including 5,000 military personnel, in the war on terror. He said the government had pursued the path of dialogue to resolve the issue of militancy, but finally it had to resort to a full-fledged military action.

He said the Zarb-i-Azb Operation was laun­ched with vigour which had yielded results as high-profile targets had been eliminated. “We have shared details with the donors at three conferences held over the past few months aimed at drawing up plans for rehabilitation of IDPs and people affected by floods.”

The finance minister said the government had extended due care to social protection measures. The present government had enhanced the number of recipients to 4.8 million under the income support programme and aimed to achieve target of 5m beneficiaries by the end of June this year. The government had declared the National ID card number as the National Tax Number to facilitate individual taxpayers, he added.

He claimed to have passed on to consumers the full benefit of decrease in oil prices and against all forecasts, did not enhance the prices for March and instead made adjustments in GST to keep the prices level.