Activists reject Pakistan PM’s call for execution of rapists

Policemen escort Shafqat Ali (face covered), one of two suspects in the gang rape case, as they leave from a local court in Lahore on Tuesday. (AFP)
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Updated 16 September 2020

Activists reject Pakistan PM’s call for execution of rapists

  • ‘Kill crime, not criminals,’ legal experts say amid public outrage at gang attack

ISLAMABAD: A day after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan called for public hanging or chemical castration of convicted rapists, legal experts and human rights activists said on Tuesday that authorities should instead focus on strengthening the justice system to halt a rising tide of sexual violence in the country.

Khan’s call for tougher punishment came amid nationwide outrage over the gang rape of a woman in Punjab province last week. 

The victim was attacked after her car ran out of petrol early on Thursday on a national highway while she was driving from Lahore to Gujranwala with her children. 

The incident sparked anger across Pakistan, where rape cases remain vastly underreported, with the prime minister telling a television program on Monday that he would like convicted rapists to be publicly executed or chemically castrated.

However, rights activists said the punishments would be a “diversion from the real issue.”

“In most countries that allow chemical castration, these are only carried out in a regulated manner against perpetrators of child sexual abuse, and in consultation with doctors and psychologists,” Reema Omer, legal adviser for the South Asia International Commission of Jurists, told Arab News. 

Punishment is “often voluntary and a condition for offenders to get parole,” she said.

“The objective is rehabilitation and to avoid repeat offenses. It is not viewed as exemplary punishment for all kinds of sexual offenses, which appears to be what the prime minister is suggesting,” she added. 

Rape is a serious criminal offense in Pakistan, with punishment ranging from a minimum of 10 years in prison to death.

 Official data on the number of rape cases is unavailable, though experts estimate it could be in the thousands each year. 

Omer said that every time an incident of rape is reported, there is public outrage and an “erroneous focus” on increasing the sentence. 

“Even the most severe penalty won’t deter such crimes if perpetrators know there is less than 5 percent chance they will be convicted,” she said.

 If Pakistan legalizes chemical castration of rapists, it will join a small group of nations that allow such punishment, including Indonesia, Poland, Russia and Estonia, as well as some states in the US.

In 2011, South Korea became the first Asian country to allow chemical castration as a punishment for rape. 

The procedure involves using a drug to reduce testosterone levels and lower the sex drive.

Sarah Zaman, a director at War Against Rape, a non-government organization based in Karachi, said that the crime is rampant in Pakistan due to systematic flaws to hold culprits accountable. 

“Instead of increasing the punishments, we need to defeat the culture that encourages such crimes,” she told Arab News. 

Zaman urged the government to strengthen the criminal justice system to increase the conviction rate in rape cases from the current 4 percent and to ensure “timely justice.”

Reacting to the prime minister’s call for rapists to be hanged, she said: “It’s ignorant and short-sighted, and it won’t help reduce the problem.”

Dr. Qibla Ayaz, chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology, said the group had urged the government to establish special courts for serious crimes, including rape. 

“Sufficient laws and strict punishments regarding rape already exist. We need to ensure their implementation,” he told Arab News.

Maliha Zia Lari, a human rights activist and lawyer, said the government should focus on the “certainty of punishment” through reforms in the criminal justice system instead of diverting the debate by making “irrelevant statements.” 

“We need to understand that rape is a power offense and not a lust crime,” she told Arab News. 

“Unfortunately, this is embedded in our society. We need to change the patriarchal mindset to curb sexual violence against women.”

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US presidential debate: Biden warns Iran will ‘pay price’ for election interference

Updated 22 min 50 sec ago

US presidential debate: Biden warns Iran will ‘pay price’ for election interference

  • Trump and Biden go toe-to-toe on foreign policy, COVID-19 and race
  • Final debate paints two stark pictures of America’s future

NEW YORK: Joe Biden warned Iran would “pay a price” for interfering in the US election if he is elected president.

During a more orderly second debate with President Donald Trump Thursday, the former vice president looked to take the initiative on foreign attempts to influence voters.

Moderator Kirsten Welker asked Biden about revelations from intelligence officials that Russia and Iran had attempted to meddle in the election and obtained voter registration information.

“We know that Russia has been involved, China has been involved to some degree, and now we learn that Iran has been involved,” Biden said, “They will pay a price if I’m elected.”

(AFP)

John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, said this week that Iran used the information to send threatening emails to voters in Florida.  On Thursday, the US Treasury Department responded with new sanctions against five Iranian entities accused of spreading disinformation and division ahead of the election.

Biden’s warning to Iran would have rankled with Trump and his foreign policy team. The president has imposed a maximum pressure policy on Tehran by withdrawing from a 2015 nuclear deal and imposing tough sanctions.

Trump accuses the previous administration, in which Joe Biden deputized to Barack Obama, of allowing Iran to further its missile program and expand its militias across the Middle East.

On Russia, Biden said Moscow did not want him to get elected, because they know he would be tough on them.

“They know that I know them. And they know me,” Biden said.

Trump said: “There has been nobody tougher on Russia than Donald Trump.”

He accused Biden of receiving money from foreign companies.

“I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life,” Biden said, arguing that he had released all of his tax returns, unlike the president.

(AFP)

“Release your tax returns or stop talking about corruption,” Biden said. 

While the second and final debate ahead of the Nov. 3 election was a calmer affair than the first one, it was laden with attacks. 

The rules were different this time: microphones were muted for two-minute stretches to allow the other an uninterrupted answer. 

Welker kept the contentious rivals under control, and made sure things were clear and organized at the venue in Belmont University in Nashville. She got the best reviews of the night. 

A viewer tweeted: “Kristen Welker is putting on a master class in how to moderate a presidential debate.”

The two candidates squared off on foreign policy, the economy, race, healthcare, and climate change. 

(AFP)

The debate kicked off with exchanges over the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 220,000 in the US, where most states are seeing a dramatic resurgence of the virus. 

Trump defended the way his administration handled COVID-19. “We closed up the greatest economy in the world in order to fight this horrible disease that came from China,” he said.

The president argued that the mortality rate has decreased and a vaccine would probably be ready before the end of the year. 

“We’re rounding the turn. We’re learning to live with it,” said Trump. 

“We’re learning to die with it,” replied Biden, who criticized the president for not having a plan to address the crisis.

“Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America,” Biden said. 

(AFP)

Pivoting to a report that the current administration could not locate the parents of more than 500 children detained at the border with Mexico and separated from their families, Trump said children are brought across the border by “coyotes and drug cartels.” 

Defending his immigration policies, Trump said the border is now more secure than ever. 

He said he is “trying very hard” to reunite children with their parents. 

Biden called the Trump administration’s inability to locate the parents “criminal.” He said Trump’s family separation policy made America a laughingstock: “It violates every notion of who we are as a nation.”

The president then pressed Biden to answer “who built the cages” that were shown in media reports. Biden dodged the answer. 

The cages were built in 2014 by the Obama administration. 

Biden then promised, if elected, to put in motion reforms that would provide a pathway to citizenship, protected from deportation, for undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers”.  “We owe them,” Biden said.

Discussion heated up when Welker breached the race topic, as the country continues to contend with civil unrest over racial injustice and police brutality.  

Biden said the US has “never, ever lived up” to the promise of liberty and equality for all, a principle upon which it was founded.

Trump said that, other than Abraham Lincoln, “nobody has done more for the Black community than Donald Trump.”

He attacked Biden’s support for the 1994 crime law, which critics say has led to mass incarceration.

But Biden turned to the camera and addressed voters directly:  “You know who I am. You know who he is.” 

Biden called the president a “racist” who “pours fuel on every single racist fire.”

(AFP)

“I think I have great relationships with all people. I am the least racist person in this room,” Trump responded.

Twelve days before the election, American voters were able to watch unfold two visions for the future of their country. It is hard to tell whether the candidates were able to broaden their appeal beyond their own bases and attract the undecided voters, whose numbers are shrinking by the day. 

Millions of them are already standing in long lines outside polling stations, braving night and chilly temperatures, to cast their early, final votes.