Pakistan death row inmates face imminent execution

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Media captionThe government and the military are under pressure to prove that they can stand up to militancy, as Shaimaa Khalil reports

More than 50 people convicted of terrorist offences in Pakistan are facing imminent execution after President Mamnoon Hussain rejected their mercy petitions, officials say.

The president's move means that some executions can take place across the country at any time.

Six people have been executed since a moratorium was lifted in the wake of a Taliban school massacre.

Hundreds more executions could follow in the next few months, reports say.

The Taliban attack in Peshawar killed 141 people and caused outrage across the country, with renewed calls for convicted terrorists to face capital punishment.

Human rights groups say that Pakistan has the world's largest number of death row inmates, with more than 8,000 people awaiting execution.

Amnesty International on Monday said that moves to execute 500 people in the coming weeks were "deeply disturbing" and would do nothing to protect civilians from the Taliban.

Rights campaigners in Pakistan say that many of those on death row are not connected with terrorist groups.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The overwhelming majority of those killed during last week's attack on the school in Peshawar were the children of army personnel
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Security has been increased to a state of high alert in many jails across the country following the decision by the government to lift a six-year moratorium on executions

As well as lifting the moratorium on executions, authorities have cut the time between issuing a warrant for hanging and carrying out the sentence to just three days.

"The government will not differentiate between terrorists and their facilitators. They both will be taken out," Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was quoted by newspapers as saying on Monday.

"Terrorism and sectarianism are a cancer for this country and now the time has come to root it out," he said.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Pakistani police searched the area around the school in Peshawar on Sunday

The prime minister said that offensives against militants would be launched in rural and urban areas of the country in addition to the operation in North Waziristan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

On Monday he chaired a four-hour counter-terrorism meeting, his office said.

Thousands of Pakistanis visited the army-run school on Sunday to mourn those killed.

The human rights organisation Reprieve has warned that innocent people could be executed as a result of the government's decision to lift its moratorium.

It has accused the authorities of routinely overusing anti-terrorism laws to secure convictions.

The country's de facto foreign minister, Sartaj Aziz, has described the Peshawar attack as his country's own "mini 9/11" which required a sea-change in its fight against terrorism.

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