Pak imposes moratorium on executions during Ramzan

Pak imposes moratorium on executions during Ramzan

Pakistan has imposed a ban on executions during Ramzan after hanging about 150 convicts in nearly six months since it lifted the moratorium on death penalty, giving a temporary reprieve to a death-row prisoner who rights groups say was a juvenile at the time of the crime.

The Interior Ministry issued an order yesterday asking all provincial governments not to carry out any executions in the Muslim month of fasting.

Ramzan is expected to start from Thursday or Friday depending on the sighting of the moon of the next Islamic lunar month.

Muslims all over the world observe fast during the holy month and refrain from food, drinks, smoking and sex from dawn to dusk as given in Islamic injunctions.

One of the beneficiaries of the temporary moratorium will be Shafqat Hussain who was arrested and sentenced to death in 2004 for kidnapping and killing a seven-year-old boy in Karachi.

Rights groups allege that he was less than 18 years of age at the time of the crime and under juvenile laws cannot be hanged. But a government probe in May showed that he was 23 when he committed the murder.

Hussain's case is a controversial one and his execution has already been postponed four times.

The last obstacle in his execution was removed after the Supreme Court last week rejected a petition to appoint a commission to determine his age. It meant that the government probe that determined his age to be 23 at the time of the crime remains valid.

He was to be hanged on June 9 but at the last moment it was postponed as the Supreme Court had accepted his petition.

The right groups accuse that several under-age convicts face execution in the country. This week a Christian man was hanged for murder. It is alleged that he was 15 when the crime was committed.

There are also allegations of use of torture by police to force the prisoners to confess crimes and faulty investigations to frame innocent persons.

Pakistan had lifted the moratorium on death penalty after about six years in December after the terrorist attack at the Army Public School in Peshawar, which claimed 150 lives, mostly of children.

The United Nations, the European Union, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and various local groups have asked government to stop the executions. But the government has refused to halt them, saying it is a deterrence against militancy and other crimes. 

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