Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has ordered an immediate halt to the execution of death penalty in the country, government’s official spokesman and Information Minister Senator Pervez Rasheed confirmed in a statement on Sunday.
The spokesman denied reports aired on some news channels that President Zardari had held the execution of the death sentence on some selected prisoners.
The spokesman said that President Zardari had written a letter to PM Nawaz which said that he wanted to meet the PM to discuss the issue of the long-pending death sentences on hundreds of convicted prisoners once he returns from abroad.
The spokesman said that as the date of executions was approaching and the president was out of the country, the PM had directed the Interior Ministry to put on hold, everything concerning the execution of death sentences till the conclusion of the meeting between the PM and the President.
Nawaz’s order comes following objections from the President and rights groups, days before executions were due to resume after a five-year moratorium, the spokesman said.
The PML-N government is expected to scrap the said moratorium and restore the execution of death penalties once President Zardari steps down on September 8 and the newly elected president Mamnoon Hussain assumes office.
Two convicted killers from banned sectarian outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) were due to be hanged this week in Sukkur, officials said.
The previous government had stopped implementation of death sentences of several accused terrorists and criminals, an act which several analysts considered as a contributing factor to the rise in terrorism.
The moratorium began in June 2008 whereas in a case where a soldier found guilty of murder was executed in November 2012 served as the only exception as the decision was made by a military court after his court martial.
According to the Interior Ministry, close to 450 convicts are awaiting executions, whose cases will be examined.
Human rights watch’s letter
In a letter to Pakistan’s government, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said “the resumption of the death penalty puts Pakistan in opposition to the global and regional movement towards the abolition of the death penalty.”
The letter added that “the decision not to renew the moratorium on executions and carry out executions constitutes a major step back for human rights in the country as this decision is all the more alarming given that more than 7,000 people are on death row in Pakistan.”
The letter said the groups understood that an anti-terrorism court in Sindh had issued warrants for the execution of two members of LeJ.
“The ICJ and Human Rights Watch believe that those who commit acts of terrorism should be prosecuted before competent, independent and impartial courts that meet international due process standards,” the letter said.
“However, we oppose the death penalty under all circumstances as an inherently cruel and irreversible punishment that violates the right to life.”
Some 150 countries worldwide, including 30 states in the Asia-Pacific region, have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice, the letter said.
The Pakistani Taliban have also warned the newly elected government not to execute the men, threatening the government with assassination attempts on PM Nawaz and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in response.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2013.