Zardari stays Pak's first hanging in four years



Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday stayed the hanging of a man convicted of killing a lawyer, putting off the first execution scheduled since an informal moratorium was put in place in Pakistan nearly four years ago.

The stay order issued by the President was received by jail officials in the southern port city of Karachi this morning.

The execution of Behram Khan was scheduled for May 23. DIG (Prisons) Nusrat Mangan said the stay order postponed Khan's hanging till June 30.

An anti-terrorism court gave the death sentence to Khan nearly a decade ago after he was found guilty of murdering lawyer Mohammad Ashraf within the Sindh High Court complex in April 2003.

Khan's mercy petition had been rejected earlier this month, following which the anti-terrorism court issued a black warrant for his execution at 4:30 am on May 23.

Rights groups, including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and Human Rights Watch, had urged the Pakistan government to halt the scheduled hanging of Khan.

The HRCP had expressed "alarm" at the scheduled hanging and called on the government to announce a "formal moratorium on executions".

"The Pakistani government has rightly not carried out executions since 2009," said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director of Human Rights Watch.

"Instead of resorting to this barbaric practice, the government should declare the moratorium officially, commute all existing death sentences, and then abolish the death penalty for all crimes".

On April 15, 2003, Khan and policeman Pir Bux entered the Sindh High Court intending to kill Qurban Ali Chauhan, the lawyer for an accused under trial for the killing of Khan's uncle.

Khan killed Ashraf in a case of mistaken identity.

The anti-terrorist court sentenced Khan to death on June 25, 2003 while Pir Bux was sentenced to life imprisonment for abetting the murder.

HRW said the number of people executed every year in Pakistan under military rule was among the highest in the world.

Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh is among those who benefited from the Pakistan government's decision to suspend executions.

PTI