The new government of Nawaz Sharif has ended a ban on capital punishment in Pakistan, in a move that Amnesty International has called “shocking”.
The country’s previous government suspended the death penalty in 2008 but the suspension was lifted on June 30 with an interior ministry spokesman telling Reuters that the moratorium will not be extended.
The spokesman also said the new policy of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government was to execute all death row prisoners, except those pardoned on humanitarian grounds.
Pakistan’s president must approve all executions.
Pakistan is among the last nations in the world to stick to the practice, alongside the United States, China, Nigeria, Yemen and some others.
Up to 8,000 people remain on death row in dozens of the country’s notoriously overcrowded and violent jails, according to London-based Amnesty.
The government has put the number at about 400. The method of execution is usually hanging.
“As long as the death penalty is in place, the risk of executing innocent people can never be eliminated,” Amnesty said in a statement this week in response to rumours ahead of the decision.
“The systemic fair trials violations in Pakistan not only exacerbate this risk, but also put Pakistan in breach of its international obligations.”
Pakistan says capital punishment is key to deterring crime in places such as Karachi, a major city of 18 million plagued by violence, as well as in the areas on its border with Afghanistan where Taliban militants launch daily attacks.
Pakistan’s moratorium drew wide praise because of concerns that its courts and police were too inept to ensure the accused a fair trial.
Pakistan did, however, break its own rules in 2012, when it executed a convicted murderer and a former army serviceman.
The previous government of the Pakistan’s Peoples Party, whose former chairman, Benazir Bhutto, was a fierce opponent of capital punishment, enforced the moratorium soon after taking power in 2008 under President Asif Ali Zardari.