Pakistan executes 10 death-row prisoners

Pakistan on Tuesday hanged 10 convicted murderers from prisons across the country

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Pakistan on Tuesday hanged 10 convicted murderers from prisons across the country, the highest number in a single day after the government lifted a six-year-old moratorium on capital punishment, officials said.

Eight of the convicts were hanged in the populous Punjab province, while two others were hanged in the southern metropolis of Karachi, according to prison officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The latest hangings bring to 37 the number of convicts hanged since Pakistan resumed executions in December after Taliban militants gunned down 154 people, most of them children, at a school in the restive northwest.

The partial lifting of the moratorium, which began in 2008, only applied to those convicted of terrorism offences, but was last week extended to all capital offences.

Only one person was executed during the period of the moratorium -- a soldier convicted by a court martial and sent to the gallows in 2012.

In Punjab, three murder convicts were executed from the central town of Jhang, two from Rawalpindi near the capital, one from Multan, one from Faisalabad, and one from Gujranwala.

Two other planned executions for Tuesday have been stayed by courts due to compromises with the victims' families.

Human rights group Amnesty International estimates that Pakistan has more than 8,000 prisoners on death row, most of whom have exhausted the appeals process.

Supporters of the death penalty in Pakistan argue that it is the only effective way to deal with the scourge of militancy.

But rights campaigners have been highly critical, citing problematic convictions in Pakistan's criminal justice system which they say is replete with rampant police torture and unfair trials.

Pakistan's courts are notoriously slow, heavily reliant on witness testimony over crime scene evidence, and provide little by the way of protection for judges or witnesses who are often intimidated or bribed into dropping their claims.

"This shameful retreat to the gallows is no way to resolve Pakistan's pressing security and law and order problems," Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International's deputy Asia-Pacific director, said last week.

European Union diplomats have also raised the issue of capital punishment -- and the case of one man who was condemned to death as a teenager in particular -- in meetings with Pakistani officials focused on trade and human rights.

The EU granted Pakistan the much coveted "GSP+" status in 2014, giving the country access to highly favorable trade tariffs, conditional on Pakistan enacting certain commitments on human rights.

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