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Pakistan to hang first civilian convicts in five years

August 08, 2013
Not a single civilian has been hanged in Pakistan since a presidential order in 2008 imposed a moratorium on the death penalty.—AP/File Photo
Not a single civilian has been hanged in Pakistan since a presidential order in 2008 imposed a moratorium on the death penalty.—AP/File Photo

KARACHI: Pakistani authorities will hang four convicts on death row later this month, ending a five year stay on the execution of death sentences ordered by the outgoing president, officials said Thursday.

Inspector General Sindh prisons Nusrat Mangan told Dawn.com that four condemned prisoners, including two members of the banned sectarian outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), would be executed at the Sukkur jail and Karachi Central prison on August 20, 21 and 22.

Mangan said none of the four prisoners had approached the superior courts for a review of their sentences and would therefore be executed as per the orders of the Anti-Terrorist Court (ATC). He said one of the condemned terrorists was awarded the death sentence in six cases, while another was awaiting the death penalty in four cases.

The executions will be the first to be carried out in Pakistan in five years. The Sukkur jail has not carried out a death sentence in 11 years.

Under the previous government led by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), no one except a soldier convicted by court martial was put to death since 2008. The Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N), which came to power in the May 11 general elections, ended the moratorium imposed by President Asif Ali Zardari in 2008.

The PML-N led government in July had announced there would no longer be any general amnesty for the convicts awaiting execution, raising concerns from human rights activists and opponents of capital punishment.

London-based rights group Amnesty International had called the new government's decision “a shocking and retrograde step, putting thousands of people's lives at risk”.

However, a recent demand by the legal fraternity in Karachi backed by the chief justice of the Sindh High Court had called for swift executions of the hundreds of convicts on death row.

On June 3, CJ SHC Mushir Alam said that the law and order situation will not improve unless the convicts on death row are executed. The chief justice said punishments were not executed due to external pressure, and that it was the responsibility of the government to execute the convicts who were handed down capital punishment by the courts.

According to estimates by Amnesty, Pakistan has over 8,000 prisoners on death row, most of whom have exhausted the appeals process.

IG Sindh prisons Nusrat Mangan told Dawn.com that more than 350 prisoners in Sindh have been awarded the death sentence and are awaiting execution. Jail sources said 54 cases were in currently pending review in the superior courts, while 23 mercy petitions were pending before the president. President Asif Ali Zardari has not yet taken a decision on any of the 23 cases.

Zardari formally steps down on Sept 9 after which president-elect Manmoon Hussain will take over the office of the president.

By 2012, at least 140 countries in the world had abolished the death penalty either in law or in practice – either by declaring an official moratorium or by refraining from carrying out executions.