Islamabad, Dec 20: Rights groups on Saturday condemned as "a craven politicised reaction" Pakistan's hasty move to lift a self-imposed ban on death penalty in terror-related cases, days after Taliban militants killed at least 132 students and 16 staffers at an army-run school in Peshawar.
Two militants convicted of attack on the military were hanged yesterday, bringing to an end the moratorium which was in place since 2008.
The Human Rights Watch criticised the hasty decision to resort to hanging as "a craven politicised reaction" to the recent attack. "Pakistan's government has chosen to indulge in vengeful blood-lust instead of finding and prosecuting those responsible for the horrific Peshawar attack," it said in a statement.
London-based Amnesty International was also critical of the decision. "This is a cynical reaction from the government. It masks a failure to deal with the core issue highlighted by the Peshawar attack, namely the lack of effective protection for civilians in north-west Pakistan," it said.
The United Nations urged Pakistan to reconsider the decision. "We urge the Government not to succumb to wide-spread calls for revenge," said UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Rupert Colville.
United Nations urged Pakistan to reconsider the decision
Rights activist and former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Asma Jahangir said hanging does not absolve the government of taking some hard policy decisions. "Terrorism does not disappear with revenge tactics but through making justice and equality before law a reality," she said.
A de facto moratorium on civilian executions was in place in Pakistan since 2008 till it was revoked this week.
Sharif had decided to resume capital punishment soon after his government took office in June last year but suspended the plan under international pressure. Pakistan is feared to lose a concessionary trade deal with the EU after resuming hangings.
Some 150 countries have abolished the death penalty or no longer carry out executions. According to estimates of Interior Ministry of Pakistan, there are more than 8,000 death row prisoners in the country.
More than 500 of them are convicted on terror-related charges and could be hanged. Officials said at least 10 more militants would be executed next week.