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Pakistan ends death penalty ban

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s new government, trying to appear determined to rein in escalating crime and militancy, has ended a ban on the death penalty, in a move condemned by international organisations as inhuman and retrograde.

Up to 8,000 people languish on death row in dozens of Pakistan’s notoriously overcrowded and violent jails.

Once a moratorium is in place, reinstatement of capital punishment is rare, with more than 150 countries having already either abolished the death penalty or stopped administering it.

A 2008 moratorium imposed by Pakistan’s previous government, praised at the time by global rights groups, expired on June 30.

“The present government does not plan to extend it,” said Omar Hamid Khan, an interior ministry spokesman.

Pakistan’s president must approve all executions. The government puts the number of people on death row at about 400. The method of execution is usually hanging.

“Pakistan is part of a dwindling minority of states who continue to retain the death penalty and carry out executions,” the International Crisis Group said.

“The prospect of lifting the moratorium is all the more alarming given the extraordinarily high number of people on death row.”

Khan said the new policy of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government was to execute all death row prisoners, except those pardoned on humanitarian grounds.

There is, however, no firm evidence showing the practice can serve as a deterrent to crime or extremism, according to the United Nations and human rights groups.

“As long as the death penalty is in place, the risk of executing innocent people can never be eliminated,” rights group Amnesty International said. (Reuters)

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