Pakistan is set to execute a disabled man as activists said it was nearing its 300th hanging in under a year, with Amnesty International slamming Islamabad Tuesday for “shamefully sealing its place among the world’s worst executioners”.
The execution of Abdul Basit, a paraplegic who was convicted of murder in 2009, has already been postponed several times after rights groups raised concerns about how a wheelchair-bound man would mount the scaffold.
Amnesty said it has been scheduled again for Wednesday.
Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission said in a statement it had written to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif seeking to stay the execution, adding that prison authorities were still awaiting an answer from the government on how to proceed with the hanging.
In a statement Tuesday, Amnesty said it has recorded 299 executions in Pakistan since the death penalty was controversially reinstated following a Taliban mass killing at a school in Peshawar last year that was the country’s deadliest ever extremist attack.
Forty-five people were executed in October alone, Amnesty said, making it the deadliest month since the moratorium was lifted.
No official figures are available. The rights group Reprieve told AFP Tuesday that by its tally the number of executions has just passed 300, while other local activists said the figure was below 260.
“Pakistan’s ongoing zeal for executions is an affront to human rights and the global trend against the death penalty,” David Griffiths, the group’s South Asia research director, said in the statement.
“Even if the authorities stay the execution of Abdul Basit, a man with paraplegia, Pakistan is still executing people at a rate of almost one a day.”
There was no evidence the “relentless” executions have done anything to counter extremism in the country, he added.
The rights group also alleged that many of the executions come after court proceedings that “do not meet international fair trial standards”.
Pakistan ended a six-year moratorium on the death penalty last year as part of a crackdown after Taliban militants gunned down more than 150 people, most of them children, at an army-run school in the restive northwest.
Hangings were initially reinstated only for those convicted of terrorism, but in March they were extended to all capital offences.
Supporters argue that executions are the only effective way to deal with the scourge of militancy in the country.
But critics say the legal system is unjust, with rampant police torture and poor representation for victims, while the majority of those who are hanged are not convicted of terror charges.
“The state is hanging petty criminals while known terrorists are still in prisons,” human rights activist and lawyer Asma Jahangir told AFP Tuesday.
The Amnesty figures suggest Pakistan is on track to become one of the world’s top executioners in 2015.
In 2014, 607 people were put to death in 22 countries, according to Amnesty, though that figure does not include China, where the number of executions is believed to be in the hundreds but is considered by authorities to be a state secret.