Pakistan executes 12 in one day, promises more

2015-03-17 16:18
A noose hangs at the site of execution in Pul-e-Charkhi prison, on the outskirts of Kabul. (Wakil Kohsar, AFP)

A noose hangs at the site of execution in Pul-e-Charkhi prison, on the outskirts of Kabul. (Wakil Kohsar, AFP)

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Islamabad - Pakistani officials on Tuesday executed 12 people in the country's single-largest day of executions since a moratorium on the death penalty was lifted in December, officials said.

The executions are sure to raise concerns over due process and proper oversight of the country's troubled criminal justice system, which rights groups say often does little to protect defendants.

Authorities at different jails in the country's largest province of Punjab hanged 10 people on Tuesday who had been sentenced to death in murder cases, said the provincial Home Minister Shuja Khanzada. He said authorities planned to execute more convicted criminals in the coming weeks.

"We have started a process, and it will continue," he told The Associated Press.

The superintendent of the main jail in the southern port city of Karachi, Qazi Nazir, said they executed two convicted murderers and handed their bodies over to their families.

Late last year, Pakistan's prime minister lifted the death-penalty moratorium specifically for terrorism-related cases after a December Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar killed 150 people, most of them children. Last week, in a controversial step, the government completely lifted the death-penalty ban for all cases. Human rights groups estimate Pakistan has roughly 8 000 prisoners on death row.

One of the most closely watched execution cases is that of Shafqat Hussain, who family members say was 14 when he was sentenced to death by a court in Karachi for the murder of a seven-year-old boy. Hussain's family proclaims his innocence and Justice Project Pakistan, the legal group handling his case, says Hussain was tortured into making a false confession.

On Tuesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nidar Ali Khan told the parliament that authorities were still trying to confirm whether Hussain was a juvenile when the alleged murder happened. Hussain is scheduled to be hanged on 19 March.

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