The National Assembly has passed an archaic and medieval resolution calling for the public execution of those convicted of sexual abuse and murder of children. The contentious resolution was passed with a majority of votes but rejected by several political parties such as the PPP. Several PTI ministers also opposed and distanced the party from the resolution saying that it was an individual act and not sponsored by the government.
The sexual abuse of children is widely prevalent in Pakistan. According to a report released in September last year by a child rights organisation, there were 1304 cases against sexual abuse of children. This means that around seven cases of child abuse occur every day. The sexual abuse of children is among the most horrific and vile crimes but public hangings are neither a deterrent nor an effective solution.
Public hangings are a sign of unconscionable cruelty that has no place in the modern world. It is also a fundamental violation of UN laws of which Pakistan is also a signatory. Public executions are regarded with distaste around the world and are practiced in authoritarian or oppressive regimes. Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, and Somalia are among the few countries carrying out public executions.
In the past, public hangings were the norms as compared to an execution behind closed doors. The convict was given the opportunity to make a final speech, show remorse, and received ridicule from the public. The spectacle also allowed the state to show its authority towards dissidents and political opponents. There was eventually a gradual shift and punishments were held behind doors. The draconian law in Pakistan will send the nation back to the Middle Ages.
The government should focus on ensuring the protection of children. There is no update on the implementation of the Zainab Alert bill. There should be efforts to develop policies to prevent abuse, enforce existing laws, hold fair trials, and hold those accountable negligent in their responsibilities. There is no evidence which suggests that public hangings, or rather the death penalty, are an effective deterrent to such perverse crimes.
Many are of the opinion that deprivation of liberty is a suitable punishment as the culprit of such abhorrent crimes should suffer for his actions. The main premise is that in a nation with a weak implementation of the law, an overburdened judiciary, and often flimsy verdicts, public hangings can have little impact in the long run.