Islamabad, Pakistan – Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister, has ordered that executions be temporarily suspended during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Ramadan began on Friday in Pakistan, and will continue for between 29 and 30 days, depending on the sighting of the moon.
The suspension will be implemented in order “to observe the sanctity of the holy month”, according to a statement issued by the prime minister’s office on Thursday night.
Pakistan lifted a six-year moratorium on the death penalty in December, after a Taliban attack on a Peshawar school left more than 150 people dead, most of them children.
Executions were initially resumed only in terrorism cases, but in March the government widened the scope of the initial order to include all executions.
Pakistan has executed more than 150 people in total since the moratorium was lifted, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
Lawyers and rights activists say it is unfair to carry out executions given fair-trial concerns in many cases.
Fair trial concerns
On June 10, authorities executed Aftab Bahadur, 37, who claimed he was tortured by police into confessing to a murder, and whose case showcased numerous fair trial concerns, according to his lawyers.
Among the concerns in Bahadur’s case was that he had been sentenced to death while still a juvenile.
A similar case, that of Shafqat Hussain, also accused of murder, has gained worldwide attention after rights groups such as UK-based Reprieve and Pakistan-based Justice Project Pakistan claimed he, too, was a juvenile when sentenced.
Hussain’s family members told Al Jazeera that Shafqat, too, had been tortured into confessing to a crime he did not commit.
On June 10, Pakistan’s Supreme Court refused to hear Hussain’s appeal, paving the way for his execution to go forward, after four earlier last minute stays of execution.
Amnesty International, the UK-based human-rights monitor, estimates that there are more than 8,000 prisoners on death row in Pakistan, making it the largest recorded death row population in the world.