ISLAMABAD: The midnight gang rape of a mother of two on a highway in Punjab last week not only shocked the country and the government, it drew the strongest possible response from Prime Minister Imran Khan, who called to the public hanging and chemical castration of rapists. They [rapists] should receive exemplary punishments. In my opinion they should be hanged on the chowk [intersection], the prime minister said in a television interview. A debate has raged since then on multiple media platforms whether or not the Prime Minister and his supporters are justified in demanding exemplary punishment for serious sex offenders. Some of the key members of the PTI government are not with their prime minister on this issue and the party’s mindset is clearly divided.
Justice Minister Lawyer Farogh Nasim was shown in a TV show broadly commenting on the issue of public hanging for criminals [not this particular case] in which he said he would not support such a punishment as it was contrary to the teachings of Islam, the country’s constitution and the rulings of the highest court. There is a Supreme Court ruling in a 1994 case in which the court ruled that public hanging was against Sharia law and the Constitution of Pakistan. That is why I said that I would not make any law that is against Sharia law, against the constitution and against the decisions of the Supreme Court.
Public anger grew and the tragedy drew a number of protesters to the streets of several cities, including Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi, denouncing attacks on women and children. Appearing clearly disturbed during the interview, Prime Minister Khan said: The way murders are classified as first, second and third degree, rape should also be classified this way, and first year rapists should be castrated and completely incapable.
Speaking in parliament, however, PTI Human Rights Minister Shirin Mazari said the law does not hang all criminals at intersections. I have reservations about public hanging because it does not lower the crime rate. It can [on the contrary] reinforce the murder of victims of sexual offenses.
Likewise, Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudary, himself a lawyer, told the National Assembly that the public and leaders demand the public hanging of criminals and argue that such an incident would have been significantly reduced. if the criminals had been hanged in public. Unfortunately, the numbers do not match such arguments. If the public hangings had solved the problem, it would have been an easier solution.
Other ministers have diametrically opposed views. Ali Mohammad Khan, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and lawyer by profession, said those who commit crimes like rape and gang rape should not only be sentenced to death, they should be hanged in public. They should not be hanged in their cells at night. They must be hanged at street intersections. And unless that was done, other criminals would not be deterred.
Another strong supporter of the prime ministers’ point of view is Faisal Vawda, the Minister of Energy Resources. In his opinion, public hanging would frighten would-be criminals. Only exemplary punishments will deter others from committing crimes. A convict has to die every moment thinking about what he has done and once reduced to helplessness the next natural step should be hung at a street intersection.
Babar Sattar, a remarkable legal expert, however, remained committed to the legality and constitutionality of the issue. What are the proponents of Islamic law and what constitutes Islamic punishments is a matter of interpretation. Unless it has been determined that such and such a punishment is to be regarded as an Islamic punishment by law enacted by Parliament or by the Supreme Court after ruling on the matter, no individual has the right to impose its interpretation or understanding of what constitutes Islamic law or Islamic law. punishment under cover of the Constitution.
On the issue of Islamic or other punishments, Fawad Chaudhary said that Islamic punishments are subject to a set of Islamic principles. [standard of] evidence. Anyone who suggests or advocates Islam [punishments] must first seek Islamic evidence. This means that the witnesses meet the standards of Tazkiya Al Shahood. Tazkiya only means witnesses who abstained from Kabira sins and the Kabira sins list is available in [Tafseer] Al-Kabeer. I encourage all who advocate Qisas punishments under Islamic law to read Tazkiya Al Shahood and Kabeer. Once the Islamic proof is there, the applicability of Islamic laws is absolute. However, in Pakistan 100% of cases are decided on Tazir and not on Qisas due to the unavailability of Qisas standards. Those who want the Qur’anic law of evidence to be changed are advocating something that is not acceptable to any Muslim.
Ayesha Salman, development worker from Karachi said: For all of you who cry out for public hangings and applaud barbaric punishments like chemical castration, stop for a minute and think about what you actually approve of. Punishment does not deter rape. Rape is about power, not uncontrolled sexual desire triggered by observing vulgarity. The solution is complex and involves a change in gender dynamics, power structures, education and systems reform and there are no quick fixes. It might be better to talk about punishment, but as a society do we really want more violence? Do we not have enough? Can we not think about how this cycle of violence contributes to the very problems we want to solve? We cry out for punishment only to see the very people we need to protect are further violated by our laws.
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