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A study of prisoners convicted of violent offences in Pakistan

By Waheed Ahmed Abbasi


This qualitative research project contributes to understanding of violence in Pakistan. It examines how prisoners convicted of violent offences (murder, kidnapping, robbery, violent assault and honour killing) describe, explain and justify violence. This research involved interviews with forty prisoners incarcerated in four prisons in Sindh, Pakistan. This was supplemented by interviews with professionals such as police, advocates, academics and local politicians. The narratives interviews were thematically analysed.\ud Western prisoner-based research indicates that offenders have a relatively strong sense of personal responsibility. This contrasts with Pakistani prisoners whose narratives portray them as victims of social circumstance and of an unjust and arbitrary criminal justice system. Prisoners locate themselves in a set of unfair, inequal and victimising social, cultural, political and economic circumstances, which leave them with no other choice but becoming violent, in a context where violence is normalised. Similarly, the processes whereby the acts of violence are punished are largely and strongly believed in terms of discrimination, misfortune and victimisation. In this context, the most of the offenders neutralise their violent acts by blaming their social background, unequal social, economic and political opportunities and physical victimisation by police and feudal lords. For most of the offenders, violence is normal and routine and many see themselves as innocent or as behaving honorably.\ud It is challenging to conduct research of this kind in the Pakistani prison system and there has previously been limited qualitative criminological work in this context. The empirical data generated, however, shows the value of this approach and sheds new light on the comparative study of violence

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