ISLAMABAD – In what the human rights organisation Amnesty International has called “shocking and retrograde”, the Pakistani government has given a green signal to lift the ban on the death penalty

The ban on capital punishment was issued in 2008 and expired on June 30. However, the new formed government led by the  the centre-right Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif showed no signs of wanting to impose the moratorium.

“The new government has decided to deal with all cases of execution on merit. The government has given clear instructions to see all such cases on a case-by-case basis and there will be no general amnesty for the convicts waiting for execution,”  said the interior ministry spokesman Umer Hameed

In Pakistan, each and every execution must have been approved by the country’s president. Under President Asif Ali Zardari’s tenure, the only death sentence issued since 2008 was to a soldier who was court marshaled. With Zardari stepping  down as the country’s President, there is uncertainty as to how the new President will tackle the issue.

Amnesty International’s response echoed this concern, “As long as the death penalty is in place, the risk of executing innocent people can never be eliminated.The systemic fair trials violations in Pakistan not only exacerbate this risk, but also put Pakistan in breach of its international obligation.”

While many officials say that the death penalty is required in the country, which is riddled with crime, lawlessness and terrorism, others feel that this may be a harsh move and there is always the  risk of an innocent person losing his life.

Image Courtesy: Patrick Feller (http://www.flickr.com/photos/nakrnsm/4323801490/sizes/o/in/photostream/)span>

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