ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan on Sunday ordered a temporary stay of executions following objections from the president and rights groups, days before they were due to resume after a five-year moratorium.
The new government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in June scrapped the moratorium on the death penalty in a bid to crack down on criminals and Islamist militants in the violence-torn country.
But on Sunday the government announced that executions, which had been scheduled to begin this week, would be stayed temporarily following objections from outgoing President Asif Ali Zardari.
The stay would last until Zardari returns from abroad to discuss the matter with Sharif, a statement said.
"In due deference to the wish of the president, it has been desired that all executions of death sentences may be held in abeyance till the discussion takes place," it said.
Zardari steps down on September 8, to be replaced by businessman Mamnoon Hussain, a close Sharif ally who was elected in July.
Pakistan had intended to hang two convicted killers from banned sectarian outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) this Wednesday or Thursday in the southern town of Sukkur, officials had said.
Other prisoners on death row had also expected to be executed this week.
LeJ, one of the most feared extremist groups in Pakistan, has been accused of killing thousands of Shiite Muslims. It has close links to the Pakistani Taliban, which has waged an insurgency since 2007.
Taliban militants have said they will consider the executions of any of its prisoners a declaration of war.