Pakistan resumes death penalty after moratorium

Muhammad Asghar has been given the death penalty. Picture: Comp
Muhammad Asghar has been given the death penalty. Picture: Comp
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PAKISTAN is to resume executions for all capital offences after lifting a moratorium on the death penalty for terrorism offences only.

Criminals on death row whose appeals have been exhausted and whose pleas for clemency have been rejected will be executed, an interior ministry spokesman said.

We’ve seen time and time again that there is immeasurable injustice in Pakistan’s criminal justice system.”

Sarah Belal

It is yet unclear what this will mean for Scottish grandfather Muhammad Asghar, from Leith in Edinburgh, who was sentenced to death in January 2014 after being convicted of blasphemy.

The 70-year-old, said to suffer from paranoid schizophrenia, was shot and injured in Adiala prison in Rawalpindi last October.

This is a reversal of an earlier announcement that only those convicted of terrorism would be subject to the death penalty.

The partial lifting for terror offences followed a massacre at a school in Peshawar in December.

“It applies to all (on death row), irrespective of the nature of the crime,” said the spokesman.

There are more than 8,000 Pakistanis on death row.

However the country had a de facto moratorium on executions in place from 2008 until December, when Taliban gunmen massacred 134 children and 19 adults in the worst militant attack in the country’s history.

Politicians in the country say fast-track executions are vital to reigning in militant attacks.

Human rights groups have warned that convictions in the country were highly unreliable, law firm Justice Project Pakistan executive director Sarah Belal said: “We’ve seen time and time again that there is immeasurable injustice in Pakistan’s criminal justice system, with a rampant culture of police torture, inadequate counsel and unfair trials.

“Despite knowing this, the government has irresponsibly brought back capital punishment.”