6:44 am - Tuesday November 10, 2015

Pakistan hangs four prisoners as execution campaign widens

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Pakistan hanged four Islamist militants on Sunday in the second set of executions since the government lifted a moratorium after the Taliban massacred 132 children and nine others at a school last week.

None of those hanged has anything to do with the school rampage in Peshawar, and some Pakistani commentators have said the executions are intended to divert attention from the failure to satisfy public demands to find the killers.

Four prisoners were executed at the tightly guarded Faisalabad jail for their role in attacking former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, a senior government official said. Two others had been hanged at the same jail on Friday.

Four identified

A source in the local Punjab government identified the four as Rasheed Qureshi, Zubair Ahmad, Ghulam Sarwar and Akhlaque Ahmed, also known as Russi, who he said was Russian.

Pakistan is home to a range of militant groups, many of them linked to al Qaeda, based in lawless tribal areas. They include an unknown number of foreign fighters, thought to be mostly Arabs, Uzbeks, Chechens and Uighurs.

Official sources said more convicts would be executed in coming days, some of them in the city of Lahore, the power base of the prime minister Nawaz Sharif. The Taliban have issued statements promising to stage more attacks around Pakistan in retaliation for the executions of any of their fighters.

Tightened security

Security has been tightened around major prisons, reflecting fears that the militants, who are fighting to topple the government and set up a state governed by Islamic law, might try to attack jails and free inmates.

Rights groups believe Pakistan has about 8,000 prisoners on death row, more than 500 of them for terrorist offences.

Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters police had arrested a number of suspects in connection with the school attack, but gave no details.

The UN human rights office appealed to Pakistan on Friday to refrain from resuming executions. Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at the US-based Human Rights Watch, said on Sunday the government had “chosen to indulge in vengeful blood-lust instead of finding and prosecuting those responsible”.

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