Pakistan hangs 351 since 2014: only 1 in 10 ‘terrorists’

By agency reporter
February 22, 2016

Despite claims by the Pakistan Government that it is targeting terrorists with the death penalty, new research has shown that just one in ten of those executed since 2014 could either be linked to a proscribed terrorist organisation or were executed for offences which fit the definition of ‘terrorism’.

The research, undertaken by international human rights organisation Reprieve and Justice Project Pakistan, finds that a total of 351 prisoners have been sent to the gallows since Pakistan lifted a moratorium on executions in December 2014 – overtaking Saudi Arabia to become the world’s third largest executing nation, after China and Iran.

The Government has sought to justify this wave of executions by claiming it is necessary to deter terrorist threats to Pakistan. However of the total of 351, only 39 appear to have been convicted on the basis of allegations that they were part of a terrorist organisation or had committed an offence that could reasonably be seen to constitute terrorism – that is, the illegal use of violence to advance political ends.

The figures show that there were seven executions in 2014, a total of 324 in 2015, and 20 in 2016 (as of 10 February). This wave of executions is unprecedented in Pakistan’s recent history. In the years before the moratorium was put in place, the highest annual number of executions which Reprieve has been able to identify was 135 in 2007.

Among those executed have been at least five juveniles, prisoners suffering from mental illness, victims of torture and countless others who have not received a fair trial.

Reprieve’s analysis shows that the proportion of ‘terrorists’ being executed has fallen significantly since summer last year: a study conducted by the Reuters news agency in July 2015 found that, of 180 people hanged since December 2014, fewer than 1 in 6 was connected to terrorism.(

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve said: “These numbers show that the Pakistan Government’s claims do not match reality. The vast majority of people being hanged – nearly nine out of ten – cannot be linked to any terrorist activity. Instead, those going to the gallows are too often the poor and the vulnerable, who are unable to pay for an effective lawyer and have often been tortured into making a false ‘confession.’ It is hard to see how hanging people like this will make Pakistan any safer.”

Sarah Belal, director of non-profit human rights law firm Justice Project Pakistan said: “We need to see more honesty and transparency from the Government. They claim they are targeting ‘terrorists,’ but these numbers show that at most, barely 10 per cent of those who have been hanged come anywhere near fitting this description. Worse still, many of those being executed have suffered terrible injustices – for example, being sentenced to death as children, or subjected to brutal torture by the police. The Government must stay all hangings until these injustices have been addressed – and come clean with the public about who it is they are really hanging.”

* Reprieve

* Justice Project Pakistan


Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.