Lahore: In a last minute reprieve, a Pakistani high court has stayed the execution of a 43-year-old paralysed prisoner who was to be hanged today for committing a murder in 2009.
Abdul Basit was sentenced to death in 2009 and his death warrants were issued for execution on July 29.
However, on his plea that in Faislabad Jail in 2010 he contracted tubercular meningitis which left him paralysed from the lower part of the body, the Lahore High Court bench headed by Justice Alia Neelum yesterday halted his execution and sought a reply from the prison's department by August 17.
Basit's counsel advocate Azam Nazir Tarar told the court that despite being unable to stand and dependent on a wheelchair, death warrants were issued last week.
"Execution of a paralysed man would constitute cruel and unusual punishment, violating fundamental right to human dignity enshrined in the Constitution," Tarar said.
He said Pakistan's law had provisions for mercy to be granted in cases where prisoners were suffering from severe ill-health.
The government's failure to acknowledge this and commute Basit's sentence appeared to form part of a worrying trend involving the blanket dismissal of all mercy petitions considered since executions resumed in 2014, he added.
Earlier, the Lahore district court ordered halting of execution of a 'mentally-ill' condemned prisoner Khizar Hayat.
Pakistan has executed over 170 condemned prisoners since the Sharif government lifted moratorium on death penalty (for executions) on December 17 last year, a day after the Taliban attack on Peshawar's Army Public School that left 150 people dead, mostly children.
Hangings were initially reinstated only for those convicted of terrorism offences, but in March they were extended to all capital offences.
More than 8,000 prisoners are on death row in Pakistan.
The Pakistani government had halted the executions during the month of Ramadan that ended last week.