Four death-row inmates convicted of orchestrating a 2003 assassination attempt on then military ruler Pervez Musharraf were executed in the Faisalabad district jail on Sunday.
Zubair Ahmad, Ghulam Rasool Bhatti, Rasheed Qureshi and Akhlaq Ahmad alias Roosi were convicted by a military court for aiding and abetting the December 25, 2003 suicide attack on Musharraf in Jhanda Chichi, Rawalpindi.
The mastermind of the attack, Arshad Mehrban, along with Muhammad Aqeel, aka Doctor Usman, the convict in the 2009 GHQ attack case, was hanged to death in Faisalabad on Friday. They were the first civilians to be executed since capital punishment was suspended in 2008.
The latest executions come after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif revoked a six-year moratorium on the death penalty in terrorism-related cases after Taliban gunmen massacred 149 innocent people, including 130-plus pupils, at the Army Public School and College in Peshawar.
With the executions scheduled for Sunday, the inmates were moved to the death cell at the Faisalabad district jail Saturday night amidst tight security as the central jail doesn’t have the lever used to activate the trapdoor of the gallows.
Hours before facing the noose, all four inmates were allowed to have a final meeting with their families in accordance with the jail manual. During the emotional meetings, some of them wept and sought forgiveness for their crimes. “We committed serious crimes by killing innocent people without any justification due to which we feel ashamed,” said one inmate according to prison authorities.
In a shift from usual practice, the executions which are normally held before dawn were carried out in broad daylight after rules for the procedure were amended by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
Shortly after the executions, the bodies were sent in two ambulances which were escorted by a convoy of police vehicles. Subsequently, the bodies were handed over to their respective families for burial in their native towns.
On Thursday, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif signed death warrants for six terrorists, following which the men were sent to the gallows.
Meanwhile, President Mamnoon Hussain has turned down the mercy petitions of two convicted prisoners at the district jail Jhang. A court handed death sentence to Muhammad Riaz in 1997 while Ghulam Muhammad was awarded capital punishment in 2001 in cases related to terrorism.
Of the 252 prisoners on death row in the Jhang jail, most have been convicted in cases related to domestic disputes. Mercy petitions of 250 prisoners awaiting death sentence are still pending before the apex court.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 22nd, 2014.