Ansar Burney Trust International (ABTI) Chairman and former Federal Minister for Human Rights, Ansar Burney, has demanded that the Pakistani government halt all hangings in the country as 60 to 65 per cent of condemned prisoners were, in fact, innocent.
In his statement on Sunday, Burney said that despite the fact that up to 60 per cent 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.
Burney said Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had made an announcement during his address to the National Assembly on June 21, 2008 that his government would soon forward a proposal to the Presidency to convert all death sentences into life imprisonment. However the ABTI had learnt through reliable sources in the Ministry of Interior that to date no such proposal had been prepared or forwarded.
In fact, since the Prime Minister’s announcement, unfortunately five people have been hanged, Burney stated.
Burney, who is also Expert Adviser in the United Nations Human Rights Council Advisory Committee at Geneva, stated that yet another man was set to be hanged this week but after a national and international outcry by human rights organizations, the President finally delayed his hanging.
He said that the government seemed to have completely backtracked on its announcement after pressure from extremist religious groups.
Burney, who has visited over 25 prisons all across Pakistan this year alone, stated that of the 7,000 condemned prisoners in Pakistani jails, the majority were either innocent or victims of a faulty justice system.
He said that in jails across Pakistan, there were condemned prisoners who had spent over a 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.
According to ABTI, there were also over 40 women and two children lodged in death cells in Pakistan and waiting to be hanged.
Burney questioned President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani that how their government can hang those who are in death cells waiting to be hanged from one, two and three decades or even completed their life sentences in death cells or those who became crippled or mentally ill in death cells only because of injustices?
He also announced that if the government fails to provide relief to these ill-fated people, he would raise this issue at all international forums and organizations including the United Nations.