Islamabad : United Nations former Expert Advisor on human rights and Chairman of Ansar Burney Trust International, Ansar Burney, Advocate has once again demanded with the President to please immediately convert all death sentences into life in the country, as 60 to 65 percent of condemned prisoners in the death cells waiting to be hanged are innocent or prisoners of circumstances. He said so far even after promises Government fails to deliver on their promises to help condemned prisoners.
In a fresh appeal and letter to President Asif Ali zardari, Ansar Burney said that despite the fact that up to 60 to 65% of all condemned prisoners in Pakistan were most likely innocent or victims of a faulty justice system, the Government had failed to take any positive action to save these thousands of innocent lives. “We have no sympathy what so ever with hardened criminals and Terrorists but how can we allow to hang innocents”? Ansar asked with Government.
Ansar Burney said that the former Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Geelani has made announcement during his address to the National Assembly on the 21st of June 2008 that his Government would soon forward a proposal to the Presidency to convert all death sentences into life imprisonment, however Ansar Burney Trust had learnt through reliable sources in the Ministry of Interior that to date no such proposal had been prepared or forwarded.
International Ambassador for Peace and human rights, Ansar Burney said that many among them have already spent more than two to three decades in prison’ death cells and that prolonged detention in worst and inhuman circumstances on death row is at the very least cruel treatment and worst kind of human rights violations. He said Pakistan voted against a United Nation General Assembly resolution for a moratorium on the death penalty in December 2007.
“Pakistan ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in April 2010, which was signed by the President in June. While these steps are welcome, the ALRC believes that it is imperative for the government to also take immediate steps to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.” Ansar Burney added.
Mr. Burney said that the Government on different occasions, always promised since June 21, 2008 to commute death sentences into life, but no action has so far been taken in this regard. “In fact, since the former Prime Minister’s announcement, unfortunately more than 7 persons have already been hanged.” He added.
Ansar Burney a name in Pakistan that made a history in the field of human rights and got released more than Nine hundred thousands (900,000) illegally and unlawfully detained, confined and condemned prisoners from all over the world especially from Asian, Arab and Middle Eastern countries has said that the Government seemed to have completely backtracked on its announcement after pressure from extremist religious groups. “Where is it in Islam to hang innocents or prisoners of circumstances or those sentenced only because of false witnesses?” Mr. Burney asked.
Ansar Burney said he is very much aware that 35 to 40 percent death sentence prisoners are criminals even some hardened criminals and terrorists but only because of them how Ansar Burney Trust can allow government to hang 60 to 65 % innocents?
Former Federal Minister for human rights, Ansar Burney, stated that of the 7,500 + including women and children condemned prisoners in Pakistani jails, the majority were either innocent or victims of a faulty justice system.
He said that he himself met condemned prisoners in jails awaiting their death sentence who did not even know who they had been charged of killing. Many had their appeals rejected for reasons out of their control and the Courts in Pakistan had completely failed to provide them with Justice.
Ansar Burney said that in jails across Pakistan, there were condemned prisoners who had spent over two to three life sentence in death cells, there were those who had become crippled or mentally disabled due to the cruel and inhumane treatment in which they had been placed by the state and there were prisoners who had crossed the age of 100.
Burney said that despite these facts, the Courts or the Government had completely failed to resolve this issue and provide these prisoners with relief. According to Ansar Burney Trust, there were also over 40 women and 2 children lodged in death cells in Pakistan and waiting to be hanged.
Pakistan’s legislators also did not attempt to commute the death sentence in the eighteenth amendment, allegedly because of pressure by Islamic fundamentalist parties. The federal cabinet decided on July 2, 2008 to commute the death sentence, but due to pressure from fundamentalists and a Suo Moto action from the then-Chief Justice of Pakistan, Abdul Hameed Dogar, who had been appointed by former president General Musharraf during the state of emergency, the government avoided issuing a formal notification commuting death sentences.
Ansar Burney said that these facts were clearly visible to the Government yet after its much praised announcement, it had failed to deliver on its promise due to political reasons – completely ignoring the fact that to hang such persons would not be capital punishment but murder by the state.
Ansar Burney in his letter made a question with President Asif Ali Zardari that how their government can hang; those who are in death cells waiting to be hanged from one, two and in some cases three decades or even completed their life sentences in a death cells or those who became crippled or mentally ill in death cells only because of injustices?
For that reason, Ansar Burney once again demanded from the Government to halt all hangings in the country and immediately take steps to ensure the prevalence of Justice and demanded that the Government give priority to morality and ethics and not political gains and losses.
Ansar Burney also announced that if the Government fails to provide relief to these ill-fated persons, he would raise this issue at all international forums and organizations including the United Nations.