Nawaz Sharif has lifted the ban on death penalty, and Gen Raheel has signed the death warrants for six convicted terrorists. The reaction has been fairly predictable, with right-wing hypernationalists beating their drum to hang someone, anyone, in the streets and left-wing human rights activists worrying about whether death penalty makes us no better than the killers we are killing. I have a different opinion than either of these. I’m not going to lose any sleep over whether a terrorist loses his life. Hang him if it makes you feel better. Hang him from a lamp post if something about that makes you feel more like a man. But don’t expect me to be there cheering it on, either, because it won’t matter. It won’t make one bit of difference.
Let us take a step back for a moment. Do we really think that the unspeakable crime that was committed this week would not have taken place if the killers had feared for their lives? I will remind you, in case you have forgotten: They are already dead.
Hanging some terrorists, whether from lamp posts or not, will not change anything because the seeds of jihadi terrorism are still firmly planted in our soil and we utterly lack the will to do anything about it.
Our new UN envoy Maleeha Lodhi explained this, though probably quite by accident, on Twitter yesterday:
The certainty of punishment and not just its severity is the bedrock of the rule of law and justice
— Maleeha Lodhi (@LodhiMaleeha) December 17, 2014
At the time she posted this, I laughed. Two words, Madam: Malik Ishaq.
Today, however, the point was driven home even more conclusively when an Anti-Terrorism Court (has there ever been a more ironically named institution?) set free Lashkar-e-Taiba operational commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.
While so-called anti-terrorism courts are busy freeing terrorists, the media is filled with the likes of Zaid Hamid, Hamid Gul, Hafiz Saeed, and Pervez Musharraf using the Peshawar Attacks to fan the anti-US-India-Israel flames. On social media, people are posting photos of one of the dead Peshawar killers and comparing to a photo of Malala with a foreign journalist who is neither in Pakistan nor dead. All of this is fundamentally stupid, of course, but it is also why jihadis can continue to get away with such brazen attacks.
Once you have legitimised this
You have opened the door for this:
So go ahead and hang some terrorists. String them up from lamp posts and dance in the streets below them. Just don’t act surprised when they attack again.