Women and Capital Punishment 
 Amar Ellahi Lone

    On 10 June 1996, a debate began in the academic and religious circles regarding the decision of the then ‘Federal Cabinet’ to abolish capital punishment for women.  
    Not only does the concept of abolishing capital punishment for women clash with the constitution of Pakistan, it is also in the most conspicuous manner, against the principles of the constitution granted by God Almighty, that is the Qur’an. Furthermore, it is tantamount to an insult to the integrity of the Pakistani woman.  
    There is no doubt that according to Qur’an and the Sunnah of Holy Prophet Muhammad (sws), men and women are supposed to work in their separate capacities on the social level. But the Qur’an clearly indicates that as far as intellect, knowledge, wisdom and consciousness are concerned, there is no difference between a man and a woman. Both are equally blessed with the power to perceive right and wrong, and have freedom of choice. This means both men and women are equally accountable for their deeds respectively in the Hereafter (see 4:32 and 4:123&124). Explaining the punishments for the crimes as theft, fornication and murder, the Qur’an has prescribed the same punishment for both men and women (2:178).  
    It is reported that a women from the elite was caught stealing. When the case was brought to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sws) he ordered for the amputation of her hand. When 'Usamah (raa) interceded on the request of the woman’s relatives, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sws) became angry and rejected the mediation saying that it was against the law.  
    Equality in the accountability of deeds in this world and the Hereafter is based on the principle that men and women are equally blessed with intellect and consciousness. The difference in this regard could be accepted if it were proved that a man and a woman do not stand on the same footings as far as intellect and perception is concerned. The Holy Qur’an, sayings of Holy Prophet Muhammad (sws) and the conscience of the world are witness to the fact that a criminal can only escape punishment if his/her mental and moral condition makes room for alleviation. It is the same principle which emanates from the Qur’anic directive of giving only half the punishment to slave-girls viz-a-viz free men and women. Similarly, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sws) declared that three types of people could not be held responsible for their deeds -- A lunatic, a minor and a person not in his senses. This is exactly the principle followed by the law makers throughout the world. But some people in Pakistan are bent upon proving that Pakistani woman is included in the category of lunatics and senseless people.  
    One of our respected Federal Ministers said that women are not usually involved in heinous crimes as terrorism and robbery. We should like to ask the honourable minister that if women are not involved in heinous crimes then what reason is there for abolishing capital punishment and introducing life imprisonment for women. Why at all should there be any punishment if women are not involved in these crimes?  
    Many human rights’ organisations have also believed that the alleviation would bring more respect to the Pakistani woman throughout the world. It is difficult to understand how the inclusion of our women in the category of lunatics and senseless people can bring respect to them. In all probability, because of this law, women involved in crimes in Pakistan will get a licence for criminal activities.  
    The bottom line is that if people today talk about gender equality and women are not considered to be second rate human beings as far as intellect and freedom of choice are concerned, then a woman should be equally and fully responsible for all of her deeds.  
    Today human-beings have power. They can deviate from the laws of their Lord. They can humiliate the eternal principles of God Almighty. They may prefer to follow their worldly masters and pretend that everything is fine. But a day will come when they will lose all the power and support. On that day they will have to face the Lord of the universe. There will be no going back then.