Pakistan: detention conditions of people sentenced to death
How is daily life while waiting for death?
In 2015, Pakistan accounted for 20% of executions worldwide. However, 2020 saw a suspension of executions and a decline in sentences. Currently, there are more than 4,000 prisoners sentenced to death awaiting execution.
Persons sentenced to death live in precarious conditions. Several prisoners share designated cells of less than 8m2, and diseases and infections (such as tuberculosis, scabies, gastric disorders, etc.) are prevalent due to overcrowding. Prisoners facing the death penalty are transferred to new cells daily and are under constant surveillance. They are only allowed to leave their cells for an hour a day and must be handcuffed when doing so. Only a few activities are permitted, one of them is undergoing training towards a qualification.
Those with death sentences confirmed by the High Court are only allowed to interact with others through the bars of their cell’s door. Visits from relatives and lawyers systematically take place in the presence of guards at the expense of confidentiality and privacy.
Prison Insider gathered information on the detention conditions of prisoners sentenced to death in nine countries. Here is an overview of the situation in Pakistan.
— * The information presented comes principally from the organisation Justice Project Pakistan. Additional sources were also used which are mentioned when referenced.
In 2014, Pakistan lifted a six-year moratorium. Initially, the resumption of executions only applied to those convicted of terrorist offences. In spring 2015, the government extended this decision to all capital offences.
According to Amnesty International, accusations of “blasphemy” are rising at an alarming rate. They are primarily made against religious minorities and those in vulnerable positions. “Judges are subjected to pressure and intimidation, which often leads them to convict the accused for fear of being targeted themselves.”
Women are allowed to keep their children with them until the age of three or six.
“I started by learning the Quran, then I finished my schooling. I completed my matriculation and intermediate (equivalent to high school). I then completed my undergraduate degree and started my Master of Arts in Islamic studies, which I am hoping to complete soon.” Safeer spent 18 years in prison before the High Court commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment.
“Two days before an execution, they isolate the condemned man. He meets other prisoners and asks them to pray for him. It’s terrifying. You realise we are all passengers on the same train. Some are boarding and others departing. When you can see your own death, only a few can actually walk up to the gallows.”