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Murder and Punishment in Pakistan

David T. Johnson

No legal system in the world has aroused as much interest as Sharia. In 1990, Pakistanthe
world’s second most populous Muslim-majority nation enacted an Islamic law of murder
that effectively privatized punishment by giving the heirs of murder victims the right to
retaliate against offenders (qisas) and by permitting killers to pay blood money (diyat) to
those heirs as a means of settling their case and avoiding or reducing the criminal sanction.
This article analyzes Tahir Wasti’s recent monograph in order to describe how this Islamic
criminal law was made and how it has been interpreted and applied, and in order to explore
how and why “Sharia in practice” has delivered neither justice nor security in the Pakistan
context. In the end, Pakistan’s law of murder may be a case of what Murray Edelman called
“words that succeed and policies that fail.”

Keywords: Homicide, Criminal Sanctions, Sharia (Islamic law), Qisas (equality, retaliation, retribution), Diyat (compensation, blood-money)