Sunday, November 19, 2006

Spare the others their lives, too

Mirza Tahir Hussain is a lucky man: he was born British. Undoubtedly his release after 18 years on death row is a good decision - Amnesty International has campaigned for his release, arguing that Hussain did not receive a fair trial - but it was the personal intervention of the British prime minister, Tony Blair, that prompted Musharraf to release the man.

Others are not so lucky in Pakistan. The Asia Death Penalty has highlighted the plight of the more than 7,400 men and 36 women who are on death row in Pakistan and the rapid rate at which people are added to it. Given the broken state of Pakistan's judiciary and the country's overcrowded prisons, the president should declare a moratorium on the death penalty - not only should all current prisoners on death row have their sentences commuted, but the courts should be estopped from sentencing anyone to death.

A theoretical defence of the death penalty is possible in strictly limited circumstances; however, the praxis of capital punishment in Pakistan will remain dysfunctional in the foreseeable future. No one deserves to die if they are innocent; not even if it means the guilty get less than they deserve.

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