MIANWALI – A soldier convicted of murder was hanged early Thursday in country’s first execution for four years.The last execution, in December 2008, also involved the death of a soldier. The country has more than 8,000 inmates on death row, but a moratorium on executions has been in effect for four years. Officials say they are working on a draft law to ban the death penalty. “If you look at our investigation system, at the poor quality of the evidence produced in court, how can people get the death penalty on the basis of this?” said Zohra Yusuf, Chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.“Most come from underprivileged backgrounds and don’t have access to good legal help.”Thursday’s execution came after the Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani rejected a plea for clemency, Zohra said. After the army rejected the plea, the president did not defer the execution, she said.Muhammad Hussain was condemned to death by a court martial in February 2008 for killing a superior over a personal dispute and was hanged at Mianwali jail after clemency pleas were rejected.Pakistan has had an unofficial moratorium on executions in recent years, with President Asif Ali Zardari regularly issuing stay orders for condemned prisoners. “Muhammad Hussain was executed in the presence of military officers,” Farooq Nazeer, chief of the Punjab prisons told a foreign news agency, adding the army chief had rejected his petition for mercy.Nazeer said the hanging was not a civilian execution and the government does not intervene in military cases. He said the last execution in Pakistan was in November 2008, soon after the end of military rule.Meanwhile, France on Thursday condemned the hanging of soldier convicted of murder and called for the country to renew its moratorium on executions and work towards abolishing the death penalty.“This decision constitutes a step backwards in Pakistan’s move towards greater respect for human rights,” foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot told reporters. Muhammad Hussain was a resident of Langarwala Pul of Sahiwal tehsil Sargodha district.
He was sentenced to death in 2009 because he had killed his senior officer Havaldar Khadim Hussain in 2008 when they were on leave.Zaman Khan, an official at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, criticised the execution, saying it indicates the government has changed its policy.