Punishment is supposed to be for the protection of society, and for the reformation of the wrongdoer. It purports to protect society by preventing the same criminals from repeating their crimes, and by acting as a deterrent to other prospective criminals. Capital punishment is a notorious failure in such respects. It does indeed remove removes the particular culprit from the possibility of repeating his crime; but this is of very small account in view of the fact that murder is seldom a career of repeated acts but consists of single acts perpetrated by different individuals. The man whom we remove from the scene, therefore, is not the man who, if suffered to live, would have been likely to endanger our safety.
As to the reformative character of punishment, it is scarcely necessary to point out that capital punishment effectually removes all possibility of this by cutting short the life of the offender and thus taking away both his chance of reform and our opportunity of discharging the duty of reforming him. Crime may be defined as an act that is punishable by the law. It includes theft, robbery, dacoity, murder, kidnapping, smuggling, narcotics trafficking, illegal transaction of foreign exchange and many more.
As prevention to other murderers, likewise, the death penalty has proved a signal failure, as may be seen by comparing the criminal statistics of those countries where the punishment is in force with those of countries where it has been abolished. Nor is the reason of this failure far to seek. Murders are nearly always committed in sudden fits of passion or temporary insanity, when no consideration of reason or self-interest can appeal to the doer. Further, such uncertainty attends the consummation of the death sentence--- due to the natural hesitation and inclination to mercy of judge and jury, to the chances of reprieve and commutation that this penalty is far less deterrent than are those which, though less severe are more certain. Finally, we have not answered the question whether there are not other and more effective deterrents and there are such deterrents, in comparison with which capital punishment is seen to be clumsy and ineffectual in the extreme.
History of crime is as old as man itself. Crime took its start in the history of mankind when Qabeel (Kane) murdered his brother Habeel (Able). Since then crime is being committed throughout the world, varying in nature and magnitude. No check or foolproof method has so for been evolved that could eliminate crimes from the society. However, crime rates have been considerably suppressed by the efficient performance of law enforcing agencies in many countries of the world.
Capital punishment is irrevocable, and the errors of justice cannot be rectified. All possibility of reconsideration is taken away Innocent persons have been hanged, and judge, jury and the whole legal machinery involved have thereby been made privy to the very crime they sought to punish. In view of the very uncertain and unequal character of our merely human endevours to mete out justice, no proceedings of ours should be of this irrevocable character. So complex and uncertain is the process of sifting whereby finally a few individual are sorted out from the mass and consigned to punishment that the selection seems largely arbitrary and we find that the actual convicts are no worse, and some perhaps even better than many of whom the hand of the law never reaches. What principle of equity or reason can justify us in singling out for our harshest treatment, by so haphazard a method, a few individuals who for the most part manifest no particular reasons why they and they alone, should be so treated?
In Pakistan the graph of capital crimes has always remained rising despite the numerous measures taken by the government from time to time. Aggression and violence has become the characteristic trait of Pakistanis. People are very much impulsive easily exit able and emotionally unstable. Ability of a person to escape punishment after committing crime is being considered a status symbol and people often boast about this ability.
Capital punishment sins deprive the culprits of his chances of reformation. As a weaker brother, who has fallen through causes that are inherent in our social structure, and for which we are all more or less responsible, he should claim our care and protection. Our duty to society is fulfilled by isolating the dangerous man for so long as he may continue to be dangerous. As for deterrent action, this should be compassed, not by fear, but by reformative and protective measures in our social policy. The only way to destroy a criminal is by reforming the man who is a criminal. To destroy his bodily life is nothing but a stupid blunder.
Man is extremely selfish by instinct, he is never scared to transgress the limits and even shed the blood of his fellow beings to satisfy his self. Angels were very right at the time of man’s creation when they said, “Man will create violence and shed blood in the world”, (having such powers and privileges). Man’s both present and past bears testimony to this saying.
When the physical life of a criminal is cut short by this summary and unnatural means, we don not bring to an end thereby the evil passions which prompted the crime.
According to a study undertaken by the National Institute of Psychology, Islamabad a motivation to murder is the human instinct to possess woman, wealth and land. This research reveals that 41.3 % of the murder cases relate to woman and land disputes, 16% to intra family problems, 7.8% to old enmities, 6% to dacoity, street fighting and gambling and other petty problems. Comparatively thin margin between love and hate existing there. While dealing with Socio-psychological causes of the crimes, the researchers found that 22.7% of the crimes were committed under social value pressure which included avenge to save the honour of the family or wash away the blot on such acts, are lauded socially.
Capital punishment is tantamount to a repudiation of the divine nature of man. On what principles of religion philosophy can we justify the policy of depriving a human being like ourselves of all possibility of reform? If we profess to revere a God of mercy and justice, and if we ourselves supplicate and rely on that divine mercy and justice, how can we reconcile it with our duty, as men created in the divine image to dismiss thus roughly a fellow human being from our midst and send him into the presence of the Deity whom we have outraged? Surely it is our duty and our privilege to be the agents of divine justice and mercy and to exert to the utmost our god-given powers in the endeavor to assist our fallen brother to his feet.
There are various causes that lead to the occurrence of capital crimes in our society. Poverty on one hand and strong desire to become overnight rich on the other. Since the birth of Pakistan, the influential people consisting of politicians, bureaucrats and big businessmen amassed wealth by getting the evacuee property allotted to them. Though route permits. Import licenses, expensive residential plots either free or on nominal prices and by getting the loans amounting to millions of rupees waived off from the government.
It is well within the power of existing governments to provide means whereby murderers, as well as other criminals can be isolated in institutions where they can be humanely treated as patients or people of unsound mind. And this must be made part of a general campaign of educative and remedial treatment of crime outside prison walls. This process of first carefully manufacturing criminals and then killing them is an insult to our intelligence and culture. We must stop making them, and if made, we must reform them.
Ruling classes have to do all this just to stay in power. This race for power and money is still going on. These people have no principle, no ideology and no party affiliation. They are ever ready to change their strata of society. They have evolved their own ways and means to get their share from this loot for which they arrange dacoities, smuggle heroine, kidnap people for ransom and don not hesitate to kill anybody coming their way.
The world is passing through a crucial stage and the newborn spirit of a kindly intelligence is struggling for manifestation. A new law of human life has been impressed upon us and is superceding the old ideas that served us provisionally in the past. The essence of this law is mercy and brotherhood. But humanity needs help and light in its endeavours to readjust its practices to its new and broader principles, its finer feelings. By abolishing capital punishment in those places where it is un-brotherly, craven in spirit, ruthless and unintelligent. The new law which we all recognize allows no scope for punishment at all, except in the reformative sense.
Some parents’ indifferent approach towards the children’s out door activities is also adding to the problem. Part played by the educational institutions to build up the character of the students is not at all encouraging. Coverage given to violence and crime by our print and electronic media has greatly encouraged the spread of crime and violence. Though the moral lesson is always against the convicts and criminals but its presentation is such an attractive that the lesson becomes a subsidiary matter and goes down under the shadow. All such institutions are commercial in nature and they are bound to present things in this way because the supply of violence in pictures has unfortunately become the demand of the public. Too many news about the convicts have always an encouraging effects on the ‘would be’ convicts.
Anger and fear are passions, and retribution may be left to the eternal justice. Why then should be continue to justify by legal sanction a procedure which, if committed privately, would be murder pure and simple? Why should the state, which represents the people, continue to do in cold calculation deeds which the mere criminal only perpetrates in the heat of passion and madness? In truth no reason can be urged in justification except such reasons as rest on repudiation of our divinity and our responsibility as divine being to all fellowman. Theosophists therefore appeal to humanity to lay aside its fears, its prejudices, and its anger, and to replace them by a large-hearted intelligence; and to gain new confidence in the irresistible power of a strong and pure motive. Instead of resorting to clumsy and inefficacious methods of obviating the evils which we permit to grow, let us grapple with the whole question patiently and manfully, assisting our fallen brother in every way instead of heaping fresh woes and disabilities upon him.
Our classified and peculiar socio-economic set up has favoured the spread of crime. In this set up affluent are the influential. They patronize the crime and protocol the criminal by fully utilizing the power and pressure enjoyed by them. Feudal lords in rural areas have sufficient influence over the police and police too has its vested interests with these feudal lords and it is very difficult for an SHO to register a case against their will. Efficacy of our means to search and track criminals is also unsatisfactory. Integrity of most of the police officials is also questionable. Our salary structure has encouraged the involvement of Government functionaries vested with discretionary powers in corrupt practices.
In many cases, criminals remain undiscovered and undetached, which causes repetition of heinous crimes. Even when the criminals are caught and presented before the court, decisions fall victim to the routine and cumbersome judicial delays and procedures, which also encourages the capital crimes as “justice delayed is justice denied”.
Our police have also shown its reluctance in registering and perusing the causes of common thefts as compared to the cases of grave nature and national importance. Police is justified in complaining that eyewitnesses hesitate to witness the case and thus render the job of the prosecution more difficult. The witnesses are hesitant to come forward because no one can guarantee their security.
The abolition of the death sentence along with the government’s playing deaf to the please of ordinary crime ridden, fear stricken citizens of the country on this matter, as only exacerbated the already intolerable murder rate. There is no more deterring factor left for cold blooded, kales murderers, who have become totally brazen in taking the lives of innocent men, women and children for trivial material gain and at times for nothing at all.
People with little confidence in the administration prefer to take the revenge by themselves instead of relying upon the concerned law enforcing agencies. Therefore, by taking law in hands, they add to the frequency of crime. Last but suddenly not the least is an indifferent approach towards the concept of life life hereafter, which is eternal and over emphasize on the worldly gains.
Government has always been sufficient aware of the problems faced by the public, army, intelligence agencies, police and judiciary in reference to crime control. Police & other law enforcing agencies have repeated been instructed to deal with the situation more effectively. They are also rewarded and punished in this connection. Setting up of crime control committees is a welcome step. However, crime control situation is still unsatisfactory.
Objectives of curbing of capital crime from society can be achieved in a better way if problem is tackled by exercising the rule of law as well as making the people conscious about the concept of accountability to Allah in the life hereafter for all the deeds done in this world. Efforts should be done individually before going to masses. High ups and rulers of the country should set an example of abiding rules and regulations before preaching to others.
Therefore, a lot of work on the part of government has to be done before any conspicuous change takes place. For this purpose, the working of our judiciary has to be made swift and simple. So that every criminal must foresee his fate before committing an offense.
No doubt, dealing with the criminals is a Herculean task but well equipped and Argus eyed law enforcing departments combined with integrity of character can do the job. An efficient police will certainly win the confidence of the public. When criminals are taken to task, a sense of security will automatically prevail amongst the masses and people refrain to take law in their hands by punishing any culprit at the spot as in recent days few criminals were held and burnt alive or beaten ruthlessly near to death. This underlines that how meagerly people trust their police and judiciary.
At the social front, people should be educated the supremacy of law and human life over vengeance. Mass media, which has become a vital source in shaping the daily life pattern of mankind, should be geared up to play its vital role in eradicating crime and abolishing punishment instead of glorifying it.
The mass media should be directed to launch a massive campaign highlighting the teachings of the Holy Qura’n and pious sayings of the holy Prophet (pbuh). Stress should be laid on simple and austere living as enjoyed by Islam. There’s no concept of abolishing capital punishment in Islam.
The sweeping amnesties granted by the states to hardened criminals and releasing them almost within months after having committed heinous crimes against the law-abiding citizens of the country on the flimsy grounds of over-crowding prisons, has not helped the situation in anyway. It is quite common these days, to hear of dangerous prisoners being released after spending a fraction of their long sentences behind the bars. Many others have escaped and are at-large, carrying on a crime-riddled existence with total impunity.
Our education system should be reformed in such a way that youth are provided with meaningful and purposeful education. It should serve duel purpose i-e, providing them with honourable means of livelihood and respectable status in the society, as well as making them fully conversant with the Islamic teachings and inspiring them to implement these in every walk of life. Student’s surplus energies should be directed towards creative and healthy channels.
It has been observed that in those countries where capital punishment is still in operation, the crime rate especially murder is distinctively low in comparison to countries where capital punishment has been discarded. Notable in this regard is that in some of the Islamic countries in the Middle East, where capital punishment is absolutely meted out to murderers and other serious offenders, the crime rate is virtually nil. Such fear has been instilled in the minds of would-be criminals by the firm action of law-enforcement agencies, that the rate and odd case of murder receives unprecedented coverage by the media and generates much concern in the general public. Recently, visitors from this country to some of those countries could hardly believe their eyes at the relative safety and security that prevails in those lands, even in the late hours of the night, whereas the ordinary citizen living in this country is living in constant fear and apprehension even in broad daylight regarding the safety of his life and property. An enhanced security and alarms system is not the answer to the problems nor is an increase in police presence, the solution. The solution to this problem is simply the re-ordaining of capital punishment and a completely fresh approach towards crime and criminal activities by the judiciary of this country, and it is only possible with the restoration of deposed Chief Justice and his colleagues.
One serious danger of abolishing capital punishment is that it could lead to retaliatory attacks by frustrated relatives and friends of the victim. This vendetta could further lead to faction fights and gang warfare and this would result more mayhem of a fear at greater scale, a total breakdown of law and order. If the family of a deceased have some kind of assurance that the offender against their beloved one would be dealt within the confines of proper justice, it would not lead to unnecessary lose of other lives. In fact, many lives would be protected in the process. Proper and appropriate justice in the instance of murder and other serious offences would mean retribution by capital punishment and not in a prison sentence that could be commuted at a later date to lesser term in prison, as is the current judicial trend.
The law and order situation would only be prevailed in a society when both judiciary and executive is completely sealed off to all kinds of temptations and approaches. But who is to set all this right? It is but the government. Only people at the top are responsible because they are in authority they are accountable to the public in this world and to the Almighty Allah in the life hereafter. If they do not do this then they must learn that the crisis of the people may well become the crisis of the leadership.
If this country is to enjoy any degree of peace, stability and economic progress, crime would have to be stumped out vigorously. As much as law-enforcing agencies are trying to arrest criminals and bring them to book, they are fighting a hopeless battle as long as the judicial system is not drastically revised. Appropriate punishment of criminals that would serve as clear deterrents to other criminals is essential to bring back some semblance of law and order to this trouble-torn land.
The present tidal wave of crime pounding our society has rendered human life extremely cheap and worthless. Human life has to be accorded the respect it deserves. Those individuals in our society that do not show respect towards the lives of fellow beings, themselves do not deserve the sacred and precious gift of life. Murder is the antithesis of life. The murderer is an aggressor against the individual and society. Protecting the assassin by abolishing the death sentence is aggression against the society and mankind at large.
A loud and clear message has to be sent to all potential criminals and killers in particular, that murder is the greatest crime, an open violation of the basic human right to life; hence the penalty of violating such a right has to be extreme. It is the only way of maintaining the harmonious existence of man on earth along with his fellow beings. No person, no matter who he may be, has the right to deny another human being this basic right to live. And to me, abolishing capital punishment is just as parallel peccadillo as committing a crime.
The writer is a freelancer and a political analyst lives in Islamabad.
MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
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