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Judicial flogging in Pakistan

Pakistan public whipping

With comments by C. Farrell

Pakistan flag PAKISTAN: Judicial CP

Public caning Pakistan inherited judicial caning from British India, but its scope was greatly increased during the regime of General Zia ul Haq (1977-1985). During this period several high-profile public canings were carried out, often in sports stadia with thousands of spectators. The offenders dealt with in this way -- all men under 50, as far as can be ascertained -- were often serious criminals such as rapists.

Open-air caning  The punishment was administered with a very long and thick but whippy cane across the prisoner's buttocks. Often his pants were pulled down, but the target area was then covered with one layer of thin cloth, perhaps out of Islamic modesty -- though the modus operandi owed nothing to Koranic prescriptions and everything to the British CP heritage. The prisoner was usually tied, upright and with feet apart, to a colonial-era A-frame in the Malaysian manner (pictured right upper), but in some cases was held bending over a chair schoolboy-style (pictured right lower). Sometimes a microphone was placed close to the prisoner's head so that his moans and screams could be broadcast to the crowd.

This March 1978 report (illustrated) on one of the first cases to gain international publicity shows a child-rapist receiving 15 strokes in front of an audience of 100,000 in Rawalpindi. There was a similar case the following month (illustrated) when another rapist was publicly flogged in Karachi.

 Aside from these public exhibitions, many other offenders were caned privately inside prison. This April 1983 news item reports on a mass flogging of 84 people in Karachi prison with canes allegedly 5 feet long. If true, this makes the implement even bigger than that used in Singapore.

 Non-religious JCP was abolished in 1996, according to Amnesty (see external links below).

 A different and more Islamic sort of flogging is carried out by tribal authorities in areas beyond the reach of the central government, as in this Jan 1992 report (illustrated). These Shari'a punishments in the so-called tribal areas are permitted under the Frontier Crimes Regulation of 1901.

 Islamic fundamentalist influence has been increasing the Swat Valley, as in these public floggings in Oct 2007. In 2009 two drug dealers were filmed being flogged in Swat at the hands of local Taliban -- see video clip 3 of 3, below.

 Another kind of de facto judicial CP is administered by the police in Punjab with a specially made leather paddle called a "patta", applied to the buttocks of the offender. Sometimes this happens in public in the street, often privately in a police station. It is not clear whether there is any proper legal authority for this procedure, but it is carried out in a systematic and methodical way, as if there were. See these video clips.


Public flogging c.1980
A series of still photographs clearly showing the method used for administering the cane during General Zia's regime.

More judicial corporal punishment pictures
Another assorted batch of photographs of public canings during the same period.

Extract from Fifteen Lashes by Anwar Iqbal
A reporter's eyewitness account of a public flogging.

Whips of God (illustrated)
Another eyewitness description of a public caning, pictured, from TIME magazine (Nov 1979). This report states in passing that, when General Zia first introduced JCP, it was done with a cat-o'-nine-tails, later replaced with the malacca cane. I have not come across this claim anywhere else. It also says that prisoners sometimes died under the onslaught of the cat, which seems quite unlikely to me.


Clip 1 of 3

This clip is a 10-second extract from an unidentified British TV news retrospective about General Zia ul Haq, dictator of Pakistan from 1977 to 1985.

 There are two brief glimpses of a public caning in progress. The prisoner has been tied up to a wooden frame exactly as seen in this series of still pictures from a different occasion.

 There are also brief scenes of the crowd watching the caning, possibly in a stadium, and being kept in order by the police with sticks.

 Two separate strokes are seen being delivered to the offender's buttocks. He is writhing and squirming. The proceedings are not heard on the soundtrack.


Clip 2 of 3

Similar to the above, this 40-second clip includes another very brief extract from film of one of the public canings that took place under the Zia regime around 1980. A rapist was given 12 strokes, of which we glimpse two, and here we also see him being carried away after punishment, "semi-conscious" according to BBC reporter Brian Barron on the voiceover.


Clip 3 of 3

A one-minute extract from a Sky News TV report in spring 2009. Two drug dealers in Swat are given floggings by Taliban militia, apparently without any opposition or protest by central government.

 The punishment is administered with a small whip, the offender being held face down flat on the ground. In this particular case it is seen to be applied to the small of the back, normally regarded as a bad idea because that is where the kidneys are.


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Public floggingThe Chronicle of Pakistan 1979: The Hudood Ordinance
Some information about the 1979 legislation under which public flogging was introduced for a wide range of offences. This page formerly included a small Pakistan public flogging photo (right) that was new to me, though somewhat similar in style to the bottom picture on this page of miscellaneous Pakistan caning photographs.

US State Department Human Rights Practices Report 1993
The 1993 report notes that unofficial courts in remote tribal areas inflicted floggings, and mentions a newspaper photograph (which I have not yet found) of a public flogging in which the accused received five lashes for selling and using heroin.

US State Department Human Rights Practices Report 1994
Courts in the tribal council areas continued to impose floggings. Meanwhile, the mainstream judiciary was found not to be independent.

US State Department Human Rights Practices Report 1995
Mentions that two soldiers were sentenced to 30 lashes for molesting a female minor, and also two Irishmen to five lashes each for drug smuggling -- reportedly the first foreigners to undergo JCP in Pakistan in the modern era.

Visit by the Special Rapporteur to Pakistan
Document from the UN Commission on Human Rights setting out (at paragraphs 63 to 72) the legal situation in late 1996 on judicial and prison discipline CP. In theory at least, whipping had been done away with for ordinary crimes, but retained for religious ones.

Amnesty International Report 1997
Confirms that the punishment of flogging was abolished in 1996, except for Islamic offences.

US State Department Report on Human Rights Practices 1996
US State Department Report on Human Rights Practices 1997
Says that in remote areas outside the federal jurisdiction there were tribal councils which imposed floggings (see The Archive for January 1992 and May 1997).

April 1998: Children in South Asia Securing Their Rights
Amnesty International report giving (towards the end of Chapter I) another account of the May 1997 case mentioned above.

Amnesty International Report 1998
Reports on public floggings in the Khyber Agency, which has its own legal and judicial system, and also mentions that in 1997 drug offenders were sentenced to be flogged in various parts of the country, in spite of a theoretical ban on flogging for non-Islamic offences.

Amnesty International Report 1999
Briefly mentions a flogging under Islamic law reported in 1998.

The Denial of Juvenile Justice in Pakistan
1999 report by Human Rights Watch. This says that juveniles as well as adults are sentenced to whipping, in addition to imprisonment, for sexual offences under Islamic law. In practice these sentences have so far always been overturned on appeal. In some areas there are also tribal courts with their own rules -- see Chapter VI, Children in the Criminal Justice System.

US State Department Report on Human Rights Practices 1999
Gives detail of the offences for which JCP could still be imposed for sex, gambling and alcohol offences under the Hudood ordinances. Also mentions that unofficial courts in remote tribal areas occasionally ordered floggings. The same information is repeated in subsequent years' USSD reports up to 2003.

Amnesty International Report 2001
States that the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000 prohibited judicial corporal punishment for offenders under 18. (AI reports on Pakistan for subsequent years make no mention of CP.)

GPTEVAC [PDF] notes, however, that the 2000 Ordinance (see previous item) has been called into question as it does not necessarily override earlier laws, and there is some confusion as to the current legal position for juveniles.

US State Department Report on Human Rights Practices 2004
Lashes could still be imposed for sex, gambling and alcohol offences under the Hudood ordinances. Flogging by tribal courts in remote areas is no longer mentioned. (The 2005 and 2006 reports give substantially the same information. The 2007 report does not mention JCP at all.)

US State Department Report on Human Rights Practices 2008
This report mentions that lashings were increasingly imposed by makeshift Shari'a courts in tribal areas.

US State Department Report on Human Rights Practices 2009
Same information as previously, but also mentions the flogging of a girl by Islamic fundamentalists in the Swat valley -- see this April 2009 news item (with video clip). (The 2010 report adds nothing of significance.)

Rules and Orders of the Lahore High Court, Vol. III [PDF]
Undated document laying down detailed rules for caning. The punishment was to be applied to the buttocks with a rattan 4 feet long and half an inch in diameter (page 153). It was to be done in private, "either at a jail, or in an enclosure near the court-house". A medical officer must be present, and a thin cloth, soaked in antiseptic, was to be spread over the target area once the offender's trousers have been lowered. Boys under 15 were to be sentenced to whipping in preference to being incarcerated. It is not clear how much of this legislation is still extant, if any.

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