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Rights groups urge Pakistan not to resume executions of 7,000 death row inmates

ISLAMABAD: Campaign groups are appealing 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 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 Aug. 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.