Shahzeb Khan Case and the Role of Capital Punishment


Capital punishment through public execution can create a big impact in the society and improve the law and order situation. Execution of dangerous criminals and murderers in the presence of a group of random people from the public is the most effective mechanism to deter people from committing a crime. Through public execution the law enforcement agencies send a message to the habitual and potential criminals that their crimes will have fatal consequences. This instills a fear of strict punishments in the criminals’ minds and hence it discourages them from committing the crime. At the same time law enforcement agencies send a message through public execution to the law abiding citizens that there is someone working to protect them. This makes the citizens (especially the family of the victims) feel safe and increases their trust in the law enforcement agencies and the judicial authorities. Consequentially this can create a positive impact on the mental state and productivity of the society generally and the economy specifically.

Opponents of Capital punishment often argue that the death penalty is a violation of the so-called human rights of the murderer as he has the right to live. They also argue that capital punishment risks wrongful execution of innocent people. It is disturbing to think that these people completely ignore the violation of the human rights of the deceased. A person who intentionally and without a lawful excuse kills another obviously does not respect the meaning of life and has no right to demand others to respect his/her own life. Hence it is absurd to protect the murderer’s right to live while overlooking the right to life of the murdered person. These people lose credibility to their claim when they express double standards by demanding the most severe and heinous punishments for rapists despite the risk of wrongful execution. No one in his/her right state of mind can possibly think that depriving someone of his/her right to live can be less atrocious or sickening a crime than rape.

In the presence of a credible and strong legal system where all the authorities and individuals are held accountable for their actions so that there is no room left for foul play or mistakes, the risk of wrongful execution ceases to exist. Moreover, in the modern era where law enforcement authorities have access to latest technologies to process evidence and even the testimonies of witnesses, the risk becomes negligible. It is interesting to note that despite the heavy criticism of their legal systems and penal codes, Saudi Arabia and Iran have some of the lowest intentional homicide rates in the world.

It is also our duty as Muslims to deliver justice to the family of the victim by giving the appropriate punishment to the culprits unless they agree to let the killer live in exchange for payment of some amount of blood money, or they pardon him/her without coercion. Allah says in the Holy Qur’aan:

إِنَّمَا جَزَاءُ الَّذِينَ يُحَارِبُونَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَيَسْعَوْنَ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَسَادًا أَنْ يُقَتَّلُوا أَوْ يُصَلَّبُوا أَوْ تُقَطَّعَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَأَرْجُلُهُمْ مِنْ خِلَافٍ أَوْ يُنْفَوْا مِنَ الْأَرْضِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ لَهُمْ خِزْيٌ فِي الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَلَهُمْ فِي الْآخِرَةِ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ

“Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause]corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment” [5:33]

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is an overseas Pakistani who occasionally writes about religion, current affairs and cricket. He tweets @The_Mughal_EZ

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