Pakistan set to break pledge to execute only “terrorists”

February 2, 2015

Pakistan could tomorrow see the first execution of someone who was convicted of non-terrorist offences in a civilian court – in violation of the Government’s own policy.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last year lifted the country’s moratorium on executions, but has repeatedly stated that this applies only to “terrorism-related cases.”  However, unless a stay of execution is granted, Shoaib Sarwar – who was convicted of murder following a trial process which saw a number of irregularities – will be hanged tomorrow (Tuesday 3 February).

Mr Sarwar’s execution will be the first of someone who was neither convicted of terrorism offences nor convicted in a specialist ‘terrorism’ court since the moratorium was lifted in December. The Superintendent of Central Jail Rawalpindi, where Mr Sarwar is being held, has questioned whether the execution should go ahead, citing the policy of Pakistan’s Interior Ministry, which states that “death sentences only in terrorism related matters…are to be executed.”

Mr Sarwar’s lawyers are in court today seeking a stay of execution, but it is not yet clear whether or how the Interior Ministry is going to act.

At the time of his conviction, Mr Sarwar claimed to have been acting in self-defence, but due to bad advice from his defence counsel, a number of key witnesses who could have supported this were never called – although newspaper reports and eyewitnesses at the scene had both corroborated his version of events.

Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at legal charity Reprieve said: “The Pakistan Government’s policy on executing only terrorists is in disarray. If Shoaib is hanged tomorrow, Nawaz Sharif’s promise will not be worth the paper it is printed on. Shoaib has already suffered an unfair trial and 17 years on death row. The Interior Ministry must stay his execution today, before it is too late.”


Notes to editors

For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8140