Rights activist asks Pakistan president to halt death sentences
Chairman of the Ansar Burney Trust International Ansar Burney has requested President Asif Ali Zardari to halt death sentences till the final decision by the government on their fate.
Burney, who is also an expert advisor/member of the United Nations Human Rights Council Advisory Committee and a former federal minister for human rights, made this request through a letter sent to the president by fax and registered post.
Referring to his previous letter dated October 10, 2008 regarding the conversion of the death penalty of all condemned prisoners in Pakistani jails into life imprisonment, Burney recalled that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in his address to the National Assembly on June 21, 2008 had stated the Ministry of Interior would soon be sending a proposal to the Presidency recommending the conversion of all death sentences into life imprisonment.
He also recalled that Federal Minister for Law, Justice and Human Rights Farooq Naek during a visit to Kot Lakhpat Jail (Lahore) on October 6 last said the proposal was also currently under consideration of the Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights.
“Once again he announced today i.e. on 2nd of Jan 09 that the summary to convert death sentences into life imprisonment has been sent to Ministry of Interior,” Burney pointed out in his letter dated January 2, 2009.
Burney said when forwarded to the Presidency by the current government, this proposal would be a huge humanitarian gesture and one that would potentially save the lives of thousands of human beings as 60 to 65 per cent condemned prisoners facing death sentences are innocent.
“Even some of the condemned prisoners are in the death cells (worst hell within hell) since more than 20 years. During this period of injustices some of them become mentally ill, tuberculoses patients, crippled and even physically worst. Some of them in death cells have spent more than life imprisonment, and you cannot hang such persons who had already completed their life sentences,” he argued.
Burney said while this recommendation or proposal is being considered, drafted or prepared by the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights, many condemned prisoners are still in danger of being hanged. Four condemned prisoners have already been hanged since the announcement by the prime minister on June 21 last, he pointed out.
“For the reason, the Ansar Burney Trust International would like to request you Honourable Mr President, in the greater interest of humanity, human dignity and human rights, to order an immediate halt of all hangings in the country until the mentioned proposal is prepared and forwarded to the Presidency,” he stated.
“The halting of any hangings will ensure that the maximum number of condemned prisoners benefit from this great humanitarian gesture by the government. It will also ensure that time is not used as a discriminatory factor against these condemned prisoners while they wait for this proposal which could save their lives,” he added.
Burney said that such a move would earn the president not only great respect and praise from the national and international humanitarian organisations, but would also earn him praise and prayers from the thousands of condemned prisoners and their families.