Archive | March, 2015

Why Moeed Pirzada is WRONG

18 Mar

So here is why Mooed Pirzada is wrong:

He says: ” Human Right NGO’s have planted this lie in public mind that somehow Shafqat Hussain was only 14 when he committed murder on 10th April 2004 or when he was first tried in Aug 2004. This is simply not true.”

I say: Well, calling something a lie doesn’t make it a lie. Substantiate it. There is enough evidence to conclude that it isn’t a lie: Shafqat’s family produced his birth certificate, there is AMPLE evidence of torture by the police, which just for Mr. Pirzada’s information, has tainted all the evidence obtained through said torture.

He says: “May be he was 22, or 21 or 20 in 2004 and may be he looks young. The idea that ATC in Karachi and Sindh High Court were trying a 14 year old and no one noticed that, not his lawyers and parents is simply ridiculous.”

I say: Is it though? Is it ‘simply ridiculous’ that we don’t notice when minors are tried in Pakistan and sentenced to death? Around 40,000 children are annually imprisoned in Pakistan. Did Mr. Pirzada know this? That is 40,000 people under the age of 18 that are kept in jails with hardened criminals. I’d say THAT is ridiculous. I’d say a juvenile justice system that can’t differentiate between child-offenders, who need rehabilitation, and hardened criminals, who need retribution, is ‘simply ridiculous.’ Who speaks up for these 40,000? No-one at all. So now that we’re finally speaking up for ONE of them, Shafqat Hussain, we’re going to pretend like we don’t actually have a problem at hand? Sorry, Mr. Pirzada, my conscience doesn’t allow me to do so.

He says: “Tests always have error margins which lawyers may have been thinking of exploiting but now it will be difficult because all tests have to corroborate each other and with physical and physiological examinations.”

I say: Oh thank you for educating us on the error margin that tests have. What about the error margin in Pakistan’s criminal justice system? We have laws without evidence criteria and torture-extracted confessions being deemed admissible in court: is that not an error? And where someone’s LIFE hangs in the balance, is this margin of error something we’re ready to accept?

Stop encouraging blood-hungry vengeance. Violence only breeds more violence.

Welcome to the stone-age

10 Mar

A state cannot treat criminals in the same manner that the latter treats his/her victims. Even criminals, fortunately or unfortunately, have human rights. Everyone has an inherent right to dignity. Pakistan doesn’t have a population control strategy because of which our government has recently decided to lift the moratorium for the death penalty in all cases. Before you get worked up and suggest I’m arguing that terrorists be kept in prison at taxpayer’s expense, let me make it clear that I’m not talking about the lifting the moratorium on the death penalty for cases of terrorism. Pakistan’s situation is a unique one and though I am principally opposed to the death penalty, I believe we have a ‘need’ to lift the moratorium in cases of terrorism, particularly post-APS massacre. However, what I strongly condemn is the lifting of the moratorium in all death penalty cases.

Pakistan’s judiciary is far from free, fair and impartial. Innocent people are convicted frequently under our criminal justice system. A large proportion of these innocent people are convicted on the basis of insufficient evidence, thereby, rendering their convictions wrongful. Aasia Bibi is one of them, like many others before her. Cases of alleged blasphemy provide the clearest illustration of why we cannot possibly afford to lift the moratorium on the death penalty in all cases. Lifting the moratorium on the death penalty in all cases will, in no way, end terrorism or prevent radicalization. It will only harm those who have already been languishing in prison for years on the basis of wrongful convictions.

The criminal justice system exists for a reason. You can’t have a slum for a prison because the state is better than criminals. It cannot violate peoples’ fundamental human rights because it is “too expensive” to keep criminals in jail. Let me give you an example of how dangerous it is that the death penalty has been reinstated in all cases: I accuse person X of blasphemy. It is a well-known fact that courts in Pakistan are not free from religious pressure, which is why they commonly convict on the basis of insufficient evidence (refer to Salamat Masih, Muhammad Asghar, other blasphemy cases). Person X is convicted by a court and sentenced to death. I only accused person X because I wanted his land. Is it fair that Person X will be hanged because a court didn’t have the courage to say, “We can’t convict this man because there isn’t enough evidence apart from the fact that Imaan Mazari said so.” Similarly, if an Ahmadi in Pakistan has been sentenced to death because he called himself a Muslim, is it fair to execute him for this? Is his “crime” proportionate to the punishment?

Don’t lower yourself – everyone has human rights. While we may need to lift the moratorium on the death penalty for cases involving terrorists (which is why we have military courts now apparently), we have set ourselves back hundreds of years by lifting the moratorium in all cases. Congratulations Pakistan: welcome to the stone-age.