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Pakistan hangs soldier in first execution in four years

16 November, 2012

LAHORE: A soldier convicted of murder was hanged on Thursday in the country's first execution for four years, officials said.

Mohammad Hussain was condemned to death by a court martial in February 2008 for killing a superior over a personal dispute and was hanged at Mianwali jail after clemency pleas were rejected.

According to rights campaigners there are more than 8,000 prisoners on death row in Pakistan, which has had an unofficial moratorium on executions in recent years, with President Asif Zardari regularly issuing stay orders for condemned prisoners.

"Mohammad Hussain was executed in the presence of military officers," Farooq Nazeer, chief of prisons in Punjab, said, adding that the army chief had rejected his petition for mercy.

France condemned the execution. "This decision constitutes a step backwards in Pakistan's move towards greater respect for human rights," Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot told reporters.

"The death penalty is no less offensive to human dignity and the right to life just because the person to be killed happens to be a soldier," said Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific Programme, Polly Truscott, in a statement.

Civil society concerned over convict's hanging

Members of civil society and human rights organisations on Thursday expressed concerns over the hanging of a death row prisoner in Mianwali Jail and termed the execution an "inhuman punishment".

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) chairperson Zohra Yousuf said HRCP is "deeply shocked by the execution of a prisoner and the fact that the execution has disrupted a four-year movement after the government had vowed its commitment to the right to life and desisted from executing anyone".

"Hitherto, dates were set for execution of several death penalty convicts in these four years but the grisly punishment was always put off," Zohra said, adding that they do not know if this time it was an "oversight or the fact that this execution was based on a conviction by a military court".

The last execution of a death row prisoner in Pakistan before Thursday's one – in December 2008 – was also based on a military court's verdict.

The inference is as disturbing as it is obvious, Zohra said.

She said that despite this setback, HRCP still retains the hope that the government will not abandon its pledge to work towards the abolition of death penalty in Pakistan.

"We also appeal to military chiefs to take into account the growing demands worldwide for abolition of death penalty and also take steps to ensure that military courts also show deference to this humanitarian call."

Saeeda Deip of the Institute for Peace and Secular Studies (IPSS) termed Thursday's capital punishment to the prisoner "alarming".

She said that in civilised societies, death sentence to a prisoner is considered inhuman and "even in countries where death sentence is deemed necessary, those ways [of execution] are being adopted that are supposed less painful".

She said that despite the apparent continuation of an informal moratorium on execution in the country since January 2009, the fresh execution is deplorable.

Farzana Mumtaz of the South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAP) also criticised the execution, saying it indicates the government has changed its policy.

She said the civil society was to some extent satisfied with the suspension of death punishment to the prisoners in Pakistan but Thursday's execution has "re-alive the alarming inhuman treatment with the people in Pakistan".

She demanded that the government immediately suspend such inhuman punishments to give a message to the international community that Pakistan is a civilised country.

The Women Workers Helpline's Azra Shad also expressed concerns over Thursday's hanging of a convict in Mianwali.

She said that with the execution of a death row prisoner, it seems that the dictatorial rule has returned to the country.

End.

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