ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has ordered an immediate halt to the carrying out of the death penalty in the country, a government spokesman has confirmed.
The spokesman told The News that reports aired on some TV channels that President Zardari had stopped the implementation of the death sentence on some condemned prisoners were incorrect.
The spokesman said that the president of Pakistan had sent a letter to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that he wanted to meet the PM to discuss the issue of the long-pending death sentence on hundreds of convicted prisoners.
The spokesman said that as the date of executions was approaching and the president was out of the country, the prime minister had directed the Interior Ministry to hold everything regarding the execution of death sentences till the conclusion of the meeting between the prime minister and the head of state.
It is important to mention here that the previous government had stopped the implementation of the death sentence of many terrorists and hardcore criminals and some experts considered this as one of the basic reasons for rising terrorism and the freedom of terrorists to act with impunity.
During the last more than two decades, only one killer, Saulat Mirza, was convicted and sentenced to death and even the implementation on his death sentence has been pending for more than seven years.
While terrorism in Karachi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and other parts of the country is on the rise, the PML-N government’s decision will be seen as the weakness of the state, and experts fear the situation in Karachi and KP will further deteriorate in coming days because of the soft policies of the central government.
Earlier, according to an NBC News report, campaign groups appealed to Pakistan not to resume executions after a moratorium on the death penalty expired in June.
In a joint letter to Pakistan’s president and prime minister, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists (IJP) 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 decision not to renew the moratorium on executions and carry out executions constitutes a major step back for human rights in the country. This decision is all the more alarming given that more than 7,000 people are on death row in Pakistan,” it said.
The moratorium began in June 2008; a soldier found guilty of murder was executed in November 2012, but that was the only exception.
The letter said the groups understood that an anti-terrorism court in Sindh province had issued warrants for the execution of two members of the banned sectarian and militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
Attaullah alias Qasim and Muhammad Azam alias Sharif were convicted by an anti-terrorism court in July 2004 for the killing of a doctor, according to the letter. They are scheduled to be executed between August 20 and 22.
The Pakistani Taliban has warned the newly elected government not to execute the men, saying they would try to kill Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif in response.
“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.