ISLAMABAD: Chaudhry Shafique, Commissioner from the National Commission on Human Rights stated that the clemency process in Pakistan is deficient, and recommended that improvements be made to align it with the country’s constitutional and international human rights obligations. Speaking at the launch of JPP’s latest report No Mercy: A Report on Clemency for Death Row Prisoners in Pakistan, Mr Shafique added “The President’s power of mercy is critical for ensuring justice under Pakistan’s criminal justice system.” He stated that at a hearing at the Senate Committee on Human Rights last month, it was recommended that the NCHR, Ministry of Law and Justice, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Human Rights, must examine the petitons before sending it to the President.The Canadian High Commissioner to Pakistan Mr Perry Calderwood also delivered his comments on the report saying that, “Canada opposes the death penalty in all cases, everywhere and we encourage the abolition of the death penalty internationally.” He added that, “The debate on capital punishment in Pakistan occurs in a global context, but it is also local and specific to this country. It is a debate led by Pakistani citizens.” No Mercy finds that in the three years since the moratorium on the death penalty was lifted, the Government of Pakistan has executed nearly 500 prisoners. Although the President of Pakistan possessed the constitutional authority to pardon death row defendants under Article 45 of the Constitution, in practice, such petitions have been consistently denied since Dec. 2014, therefore operating under a blanket policy even for cases with strong evidence of humanitarian abuses and violations.According to the Ministry of Interior, the President’s office rejected 513 mercy petitions of condemned prisoners over the last five years, 444 of which were in the first fifteen months after the resumption of executions in Dec. 2014. This is particularly alarming given that the Interior Ministry has also informally confirmed that the Government of Pakistan has a de facto policy in place to summarily reject all pleas of mercy.83 percent of all executions and 89 percent of all death sentences handed out since Dec. 2014 have been in Punjab. Out of approximately 3,723 prisoners awaiting execution, mercy petitions of 41 (including 1 woman) have been rejected as of July 2017. 382 prisoners have been executed in Punjab since Dec. 2014. This staggering figure could soon include paraplegic death row prisoner Abdul Basit, mentally ill Imdad Ali or even known juvenile offender Muhammad Iqbal. Pakistani citizen Zulfiqar Ali also continues to languish on death row in Indonesia. Their death sentences, direct results of a systemic flaws, may only be overturned under the right to seek Presidential pardon.Mercy petitions of 74 prisoners remain pending with the President of Pakistan.The cases examined in the report illustrate the systemic problems that Pakistan’s criminal justice system is mired in. Given these procedural failings, it is imperative that individuals on death row be provided with a fair chance to obtain clemency, and to introduce new and potentially exculpatory evidence.The report can be found on http://www.jpp.org.pk/report/no-mercy-a-report-on-clemency-for-death-row-prisoners-in-pakistan/Sarah Belal, Executive Director, JustIce Project Pakistan adds: “The right to seek pardon belongs to the people and so is reposed in the highest dignitary of the State. It is enshrined in our constitution, and that the Supreme Court has deemed this power unfettered. As citizens, death row prisoners have the unqualified right to seek pardon, and the Presidency has an obligation to consider their petitions on merit and not to summarily reject them. Pardoning the most vulnerable prisoners, whose stories we have shared today, would be a critical step to demonstrate a meaningful application of this responsibility.”Published in Daily Times, April 12th 2018.