ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has scrapped plans to reinstate the death penalty, the government said on Thursday, following threats by Taliban militants to step up attacks in retaliation.
A 2008 moratorium on capital punishment imposed by Pakistan's previous government expired on June 30 and the country had been due to execute two jailed militants in August — a plan described by the Pakistani Taliban as an act of war.
“Pakistan has decided to continue with the moratorium on capital punishment since the government is aware of its international commitments and is following them,” said Omar Hamid Khan, an interior ministry spokesman.
The new government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had originally said it wanted to reinstate the death penalty in a bid to crack down on criminals and militants in a move strongly criticised by international human rights groups.
In this respect, in August, the government had decided to hang four convicts on death row. The four prisoners, including two members of the banned sectarian outfit Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ), were scheduled to be executed at the Sukkur jail and Karachi Central prison on August 20, 21 and 22.
However, a temporary stay was ordered on these executions following objections from then president Asif Ali Zardari and rights groups.
Up to 8,000 people presently languish on death row in dozens of Pakistan's overcrowded and violent jails.
Pakistan's moratorium drew praise because of concerns its courts and police were too inept to ensure the accused a fair trial. Pakistan did, however, break its own rules in 2012 when it executed a convicted murderer and a former army serviceman.