Six more executions expected in coming days, as Taliban threaten to target families of Army officials and P.M. Sharif.
Two convicted militants were hung on Friday in the first executions since 2008, officials said, after the government ended a moratorium on the death penalty in the wake of a Taliban school massacre that killed 149 people.
Islamabad’s decision to relinquish a ban on the death penalty in terror-related cases came as the country’s political and military leaders vowed to wipe out the homegrown Islamist insurgency following Tuesday’s bloody rampage on an Army-run school.
“Yes, two militants Aqeel alias Dr. Usman and Arshad Mehmood have been hanged in Faisalabad jail,” said Shuja Khanzada, the home minister of Punjab province, where the executions took place. A senior official from the prison department also confirmed the executions.
Aqeel, who goes by the name Dr. Usman, was convicted for an attack on the Army headquarters in Rawalpindi in 2009 and was arrested after being injured. Arshad Mehmood was convicted for his involvement in a 2003 assassination attempt on former military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
Officials said that there might be 10 more executions in the coming days: six in Punjab province and four in Sindh province. “Six more convicted militants will be hanged in the coming days,” Khanzada said, referring to executions that come under his jurisdiction of Punjab.
Shahid Hussain, superintendent of a prison in Sukkur, Sindh, said that death warrants had been issued for two convicted members of the banned sectarian militant outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). “The black warrants of two LeJ activists Attaullah Qasim and Muhammad Azam have been issued by court for Dec. 23,” said Hussain.
An anti-terrorism court has also been asked for the execution orders for two other convicts, Behram Khan and Shafqat Hussain, said Qazi Naseer Ahmed, superintendent of the central jail in Karachi.
In a video message, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) warned the government that if their colleagues, including Dr. Usman, were executed, the militant group would target the “younger siblings” of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army officials. Muhammad Khorasani, the Pakistani Taliban’s spokesman, said: “We can create grief and mourning in the homes of military generals and political leaders to avenge the killing of our colleague.”
The militant group also questioned why human rights activists were not questioning Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which the spokesman blamed for the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar.
The United Nations has called for Pakistan to reconsider executing terror convicts, saying that “the death penalty has no measurable deterrent effect on levels of insurgent and terrorist violence” and “may even be counter-productive.”
“We urge the Government not to succumb to wide-spread calls for revenge,” said U.N. Human Rights Office spokesperson Rupert Colville, referring to this week’s Taliban school assault.
Pakistan imposed a de facto moratorium on civilian executions in 2008, though hanging remains on the statute book and judges continue to pass the death sentence. Only one person has been executed since then, a soldier convicted by a court martial and hanged in November 2012.
Rights campaign group Amnesty International estimates that Pakistan has more than 8,000 prisoners on death row, most of whom have exhausted the appeals process. The government says that more than 500 of the death row prisoners were convicted on terror-related charges.