As many as 21 death row convicts were pardoned by the President in about four years since the Awami League assumed power in 2009, Home Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir informed Parliament on Wednesday.
Responding to a question, he added the number was only four during the entire period between independence in 1971 and 2009. Of them, one was pardoned during the tenure of caretaker government in 2008, two during the tenure of BNP-led alliance government in 2005 and one in 1987 by the deposed President HM Ershad.
Among those pardoned, one received presidential clemency in 2009, 18 in 2010 and two others in 2011.
MP Fazlul Azim asked the question in 15th session of Parliament that began Wednesday afternoon.
Replying to a question posed by the ruling party MP from Chittagong-10, Alamgir said currently the number of prisoners is twice the capacity of the prisons.
According to him, all but four of the 68 prisons have prisoners exceeding their accommodation capacity. Dhaka Central Jail has prisoners three times its capacity. A total of 64,255 people are in prison against the capacity of 33,436.
Presidential clemency has always given rise to criticism though the President is empowered by the law to take the decision and commute conviction from death sentence to lifetime imprisonment.
The list of 21 pardoned by the Awami League government includes HM Biplob, who was handed death sentence for killing Laxmipur BNP leader Nurul Islam. The pardon of Biplob, who is the son of Laxmipur’s Awami League leader Abu Taher, triggered a wave of criticism against the ruling party.
Ershad was the first to exercise the power entrusted upon the President. In 1987, he pardoned an accused convicted of killing Awami League leader Moyezuddin Ahmed, whose daughter Meher Afroze Chumki is an incumbent Awami League MP from Gazipur. The pardoned convict was a Jatiya Party activist.