ASIA/PAKISTAN – Sharif’s Pakistan stops the executioner

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Islamabad ( Agenzia Fides) - The Pakistani government led by Nawaz Sharif, leader of the "Pakistan Muslim League -N" has officially suspended 468 capital executions, confirming the moratorium that has existed in the country for five years. The "death penalty" issue has been at the center of public debate for a few weeks. In early August, the government had proposed a resumption of executions, generating criticism from NGOs such as "Amnesty Inernational" and "Human Rights Watch", but also within the nation .
As reported to Fides Agency, the government's decision is the result of pressure from human rights organizations and the international community. In particular, for the European Union, the resumption of executions have had the effect to remove Pakistan from the list of nations that have "Preferential Line" in trade with the EU, as stated by Ana Gomes, head of Parliament's Subcommittee on European human rights. Analysts and commentators in Pakistan judge the government's move as "an act of political pragmatism", in order to allow Pakistan "a gateway to European markets". As reported to Fides, numerous representatives of civil society and the Churches in Pakistan have welcomed the government's decision, because "it protects human rights and the value of life, even for prisoners found guilty".
There are 468 prisoners already sentenced to death by civilian or military courts, pending executions already arranged, many for "terrorism". Overall, there are about 8,000 inmates who are on death row in various Pakistani jails. According to the Pakistan Penal Code, 27 crimes including that of "blasphemy", are punishable by the death penalty.
Among the prisoners there is also the Christian Asia Bibi, sentenced to death for blasphemy by a court of first instance in 2010, and pending an appeal process. (PA ) (Agenzia Fides 29/08/2013 )