ISLAMABAD: At least 55 death-row terrorists, whose mercy petitions have been rejected by President Mamnoon Hussain recently, are likely to be hanged during the next few days.

Before the lifting of a moratorium on executions, mercy petitions of more than 55 convicted terrorists had been pending with the presidency since 2012 as the then president Asif Ali Zardari had not taken any decision on them, apparently because of international pressure, an official told Dawn on Sunday.

“The former president neither granted relief to the convicts nor abolished the moratorium,” a presidency official said.

Also read: Four convicts in Musharraf attack case executed in Faisalabad

He said the interior ministry in the wake of the lifting of moratorium on executions would issue black warrants and the condemned prisoners would be sent to the gallows accordingly.

In reply to a question about a statement of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan that more than 500 people would be hanged, the official said the presidency had not received any mercy petition since 2012. However, he added, it expected to receive hundreds of mercy petitions in near future.

Normally, once a mercy petition is rejected and death warrant is issued, it takes at least 14 days to hang the convict as the required process has to be adopted. However, the Punjab government, which is dealing with majority of people on death row, recently made amendments to its laws and reduced the period to two days. It also changed a law under which executions could be carried out only at 4am and now convicts can be hanged any time.

Know more: President rejects mercy appeal of 17 death penalty convicts

The summary of death warrants is initiated by the interior ministry, forwarded to the presidency through the Prime Minister’s Office and then sent back through the same cannel so that the ministry can issue the warrants.

Retired Justice Tariq Mehmood said it did not mean that 500 people on death row would be hanged the next day because they might have been sentenced by lower or high courts and not by the Supreme Court. “And even if they have been sentenced by the Supreme Court they have a right to file mercy petitions to the president,” he said.

He said there was no time bar on filing a mercy petition and any convict could submit it any time, but mostly they pleaded for mercy after the decision of the apex court.

“If the convict cannot file his mercy petition or he has no family member to do so, it is the duty of the jail authority concerned to file it on his behalf,” he added.

Published in Dawn December 22th , 2014

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