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Pakistan prepares to execute 55 death row inmates; Over 8,000 death row convicts’ fate hangs in balance

Thursday, Dec 18, 2014,18:56 IST By metrovaartha A A A

Islamabad | Pakistan is preparing to execute 55 inmates on death row after the country ended the moratorium on death penalty in terror-related cases following the horrific attack on a school in Peshawar that killed 148 people, mostly children. There are at least 522 criminals sentenced to death in terror and other cases related to serious crimes in the country, including 11 who were convicted by a military court.
The country’s Punjab province has the highest number of death row convicts with 465, followed by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa with 30, Sindh with 14 and Baluchistan with 13, the News reported today. The mercy appeals of 55 death row inmates have been dismissed by the Supreme Court and President Mamnoon Hussain. A de facto moratorium on civilian executions has been in place in Pakistan since 2008. Pakistan ended its moratorium on the death penalty in terror-related cases yesterday.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told an All Parties Conference in Peshawar yesterday that the moratorium on death penalty had been lifted. Yesterday’s incident is extremely tragic. These sacrifices will not go wasted and we all want complete elimination of terrorism from Pakistan, Sharif said. The decision to lift the ban was made following the carnage at the Army Public School in Peshawar.
Taliban militants stormed the army-run school on Tuesday, fired indiscriminately and killed 148 people, most of them children. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Interior Ministry today forwarded 120 mercy appeals to the premier for consideration, the Express Tribune reported. The report also said 17 convicted terrorists, whose appeals and mercy petitions have been dismissed, will be executed in the next few days. Their death warrants will be issued and their relatives will be called in to have their last meeting with them, it said.
Pakistan is feared to lose a concessionary trade deal with the EU after resuming hangings. Some 150 countries have abolished the death penalty or no longer carry out executions. According to the interior ministry estimates more than 8,000 death row prisoners are in Pakistan who have already exhausted all options and would be hanged within weeks if the government allowed the executions.
Fate of around 8,261 death row prisoners in Pakistan hangs in the balance as the Government lifted the self-imposed moratorium on death penalty after the Peshawar school attack by Taliban militants in which at least 132 students and 16 staffers were killed. There are around 8,261 prisoners on death row in more than five dozen jails of the country and about 30 per cent of them are believed to be convicted under terrorism act by the special courts after 2003-04, according to officials.
Most of the death row prisoners have already exhausted all options and would be hanged within weeks if the government allowed the executions. Since 2004, Pakistani authorities have executed some 235 prisoners who were on death row and interestingly only a couple of culprits were hanged after 2008 following a moratorium on capital punishment, the Express Tribune reported. Some 991 convicts, who were also declared proclaimed offenders either by the capital police or anti-terrorism courts, were awarded death sentences but they are at large and it is strongly believed that they have joined  terrorist groups, according to The National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) officials.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif yesterday lifted a self-imposed moratorium on death penalty in terror related cases after ruthless Taliban militants massacred at least 132 students and 16 staffers at an army-run school in Peshawar. Sharif said that important legal steps will be taken to plug loopholes in the justice system so that militants should not use them to escape punishment.
A de facto moratorium on civilian executions had been in place in Pakistan since 2008. Sharif had decided to resume moratorium soon after his government took office in June last year but suspended the plan under international pressure. Pakistan is feared to lose a concessionary trade deal with the EU after resuming hangings. Some 150 countries have abolished the death penalty or no longer carry out executions.