PTI: Split, angry and confused over Public execution of child-rapists

Pakistan has been traumatised by the spectre of innocent children, at times literally babies, raped and murdered at the hand of dangerous paedophiles. But will public hangings help provide a deterrent? Since the passage of a resolution for the public execution of the rapist in the parliament, a split exists within the ruling PTI, with its conservatives and modernists at loggerheads with one other. GVS examines this inner conundrum of the law makers that mirrors the confusions of society at large.

Rapists

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) leadership appears to be at loggerheads to determine whether the rapists should be hanged publically or not. In a latest move, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar criticized Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Muhammad Khan for introducing a bill calling for public hanging of rapists, saying that the latter was “hungry for publicity” and calling his move “political immaturity”. Khan, on the other hand, maintains his position and believes that ‘the punishments prescribed by the Islamic Sharia are in the best interest of humanity’.

There is also a perception that Khan is unable to defend his outright conservative position in the 21st century, so he is using religion to justify his call for public hanging of rapists.

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According to the details, the aviation minister was speaking on Geo News’ current affairs programme Capital Talk where he said, in response to a question, that Khan had introduced the bill for publicity. “We call this [move to introduce resolution] political immaturity,” he said. “Some people are hungry for self-projection. These people are our colleagues and brothers. However, this is against party discipline,” he added.

Ali Muhammad Khan had tabled a resolution in the National Assembly a few days ago which called for public hanging of rapists. The resolution stated: “This house strongly condemns the brutal killing of 8-year-old Iwaz Noor in Nowshera and demands that to stop these shameful and brutal killings of children and give a strong deterrence effect, the killers and rapists should not only be given death penalty by hanging but they should be hanged publicly.”

The resolution was passed by the majority of the Lower House of the parliament. Reacting to the move, Sarwar said it was the standard protocol that whenever a resolution, bill or any legislation was to be presented in the assembly, it was put before the cabinet for discussion. If the cabinet granted approval, the legislation was forwarded to the assembly for further discussion.

“If someone presented this bill, they did so on their own,” he said. “The cabinet or party had no say in this decision.” Referring to the resolution, he said that it was “never discussed at any forum” hence the legislation was not in line with the PTI’s policy.

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Federal Minister of Science and Technology had also criticized Khan for the bill, saying that barbarism was not the answer to crimes.  “This is just another grave act in line with brutal civilization practices. Societies act in a balanced way. Barbarism is not the answer to crimes […] this is another expression of extremism,” Chaudhry had tweeted.

Khan had tweeted in response to Chaudhry’s remark, saying that “those calling Islamic punishments as barbaric are themselves cruel.”

In reaction to some parliamentarians’ opposition to harsh punishment for child rapists, Ali Muhammad Khan on Monday suggested holding a referendum on public executions.

Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, the minister termed the resolution that called for publicly hanging those involved in cases of the sexual assault and murder of minors a correct decision. “If the opposition has any objection to public executions, a referendum be held [on the issue],” he suggested, adding the plebiscite will determine whether the people support public hanging for those involved in heinous crimes or not.

Interestingly, Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari also tried to distance the ruling party from the controversial development. “The resolution passed in NA today on public hangings was across party lines and not a govt-sponsored resolution but an individual act. Many of us oppose it – our MOHR strongly opposes this. Unfortunately I was in a mtg and wasn’t able to go to NA,” Mazari had tweeted.

Notably, Pakistan ranks as the sixth most dangerous country in the world for women, with cases of sexual crimes and domestic violence recording a rapid rise. According to statistics collected by White Ribbon Pakistan, an NGO working for women’s rights, 4,734 women faced sexual violence between 2004 and 2016. Over 15,000 cases of honor crimes were registered. There were more than 1,800 cases of domestic violence and over 5,500 kidnappings of women during this period.

According to media reports, more than 51,241 cases of violence against women were reported between January 2011 and June 2017.

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Whether any criminal, including the rapists, should be given capital punishment or not is a political debate based upon some philosophical principles. Political experts believe that such debates are important to develop an inclusive public discourse in any society. However, the use of religion to justify one’s position becomes problematic in society likes ours where blasphemy law can easily be invoked to target political opponents.

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