Nine more hanged; EU condemns executions

The government authorities on Wednesday hanged nine more jailed murderers, officials said, taking the number of convicts executed over the past two days to 21, as the European Union condemned the executions. The latest round in Punjab brings to 48 the total number of convicts hanged since Pakistan resumed capital punishment in December after Taliban militants gunned down 154 people, most of them children, at a school in Peshawar.

The partial lifting of the moratorium, which began in 2008, only applied to those convicted of terrorism offences, but was last week extended to all capital offences. “The European Union is opposed to capital punishment in all cases and without exception, and has consistently called for its universal abolition,” the EU said late Tuesday. The EU granted Pakistan the much coveted “GSP+” status in 2014, giving it access to highly favourable trade tariffs, conditional on Pakistan enacting certain commitments on human rights. But the agreement is not due for renewal until 2016.

Human rights group Amnesty International estimates that Pakistan has more than 8,000 prisoners on death row, most of whom have exhausted the appeals process. In a statement issued late Tuesday, the group said those executed that day included Muhammad Afzal, who was 16 years old when he was sentenced to death.

“International law clearly prohibits the use of the death penalty against people who were below 18 years old when the crime was committed,” the group said. Another person convicted under the age of 18, Shafqat Hussain, is set to be executed on Thursday. Supporters of the death penalty in Pakistan argue that it is the only effective way to deal with the scourge of militancy.

Critics meanwhile say that Pakistan’s courts are largely unjust forums for decided cases, with rampant police torture, poor legal representation for victims, and unfair trials. Tahir Shabir, a resident of Sabzazar area, was hanged to death at Kot Lakhpat Central Jail for killing a man in 2002. An anti-terrorism court (ATC) had awarded him death sentence. He had shot dead a man, Irshad Ali, over a petty issue of placing a signboard at a shop.

Ghulam Muhammad and Zakir Hussain were hanged in the District Jail Jhang. Ghulam Muhammad had killed his brother-in-law in 2000 over a family dispute. The victim was supporting his sister in an earlier case against the culprit. Zakir Hussain had killed Zulfiqar, who was a custodian of a shrine in 1998. Both the offenders and the victim were engaged in a dispute over the custodianship of the shrine. Both the murderers had been awarded death sentences by the district and sessions court Jhang. Two more condemned prisoners, Shafqat and Saeed, were executed in Central Jail Faisalabad over a dual murder charge, established against them. They had killed two siblings Arshad and Anwar in 1998 due to an old rivalry. A district court had awarded death sentences to both the culprits in 2001.

Shaukat Ali and Muhammad Shabbir were hanged to death in Adiala Jail Rawalpindi. They were convicted by a sessions court against charges of murders and attempt to murder. Another death row prisoner Ahmed Nawaz was executed in the Mianwali Jail. He was awarded death sentence by a district court and sessions for killing a man, Jawed Iqbal, in 1998. Nawaz and Hashmat Khan were convicted for the murder of Iqbal, however Hashmat had died in the jail custody.

Asad Mehmood Khan was executed in the Central Jail Attock. He was awarded death sentence in a triple murder case. Khan had killed three people of a family in 2002. Meanwhile hangings of three convicts have been halted after their heirs managed to produce agreements between the plaintiffs and defending parties, before the jail authorities. Their cases have been referred to the respective trial courts.

Qadeer Ahmed was scheduled to be executed in the Adiala Jail Rawalpindi, while Azhar Mahmood and Muhammad Zaman were set to be hanged in Gujrat. All the hanged convicts had filed petitions in superior judiciary, seeking review of their sentences but the applications were dismissed. Their mercy appeals had also been turned down by President Mamnoon Hussain.

“The EU calls on Pakistan to reinstitute the moratorium and to respect fully all its international obligations, in particular the principle of fair trial,” a statement by the EU Delegation to Pakistan, quoting its spokesman said here Wednesday. The statement said “the EU also recalls that Article 6(5) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Pakistan is a party, specifically prohibits the use of the death sentence for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age.”

The European Union, it said “is opposed to capital punishment in all cases and without exception, and has consistently called for its universal abolition.” “Contrary to the Government of Pakistan’s stated policy that only clearly identified terrorists would be executed, convicts not sentenced on terrorist charges are now being executed,” it said.