LAHORE - After rejection of mercy petitions by the president, 55 prisoners on death row in Punjab have filed review petitions in the Supreme Court, statistical data available with The Nation revealed.

Apart from this, appeals of 5,536 condemned prisoners are pending with the High Courts, the Supreme Court, the GHQ or with the President of Pakistan.

Former president Asif Ali Zardari had placed a five-year moratorium on executions in June 2008. However, the hiatus was interrupted in November 2012 when the military executed a soldier who was found guilty of murder. Since then, no one had been sent to the gallows after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif once again suspended the death penalty even though the moratorium expired in June 2013.

The suspension on executions imposed by the new government in October was welcomed by the international community and human rights organisations, particularly because for a while it looked like PM Nawaz was moving to resume the executions full scale.

Following the Peshawar Army School massacre, the prime minister allowed executions of high-profile terrorists and as many as 14 terrorists were hanged. Out of them eight belonged to Tehreek Taliban Pakistan, four to Sipa-e-Sahaba, one to Al Qaida while one was a former PAF employee. But the process of executions remains suspended again since February 19, 2015 even in terrorism cases.

As per statistics, there were 5,547 male and 44 female condemned prisoners in all four regions of Punjab i.e. Lahore, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad and Multan. There were 2,080 male and 16 female death row prisoners in jails of Lahore Region, which comprises of Lahore, Gujranwala, Sahiwal, Kasur, Sheikhupura and Sialkot districts.

Out of these prisoners, the appeals of 1,545 males and 14 females were pending with the Lahore High Court, of 350 male and one female with the Supreme Court, of 175 pending with the President of Pakistan while one male prisoner’s appeal was pending with the GHQ. Mercy petition of 9 male and one female prisoner have been rejected but they were not executed. As per a senior jail official, they have filed review petition in the Supreme Court.

In Rawalpindi Region, there were 1,012 male and 8 female condemned prisoners. Appeals of 727male and 8 female prisoners were in the High Court, 188 in the Supreme Court, one in the GHQ, and 79 in the President’s office, while appeals of 17 prisoners were rejected by the president. Rawalpindi, Attock, Gujrat, Jhelum, Mandi Bahaudin and Chakwal fall in Rawalpindi Region.

Appeals of 1,295 male and 8 female condemned prisoners were pending in Faisalabad Region. Out of these, appeals of 989 male and 8 female prisoners were in High Court, 184 in Supreme Court, 104 in President’s office while appeals of 18 were rejected by the president and they have not been hanged so far. Faisalabad Region comprises of Faisalabad, Mianwali, Jhang, Sargodha, Shahpur and Toba Tek Singh districts.

Similarly, 1,160 male and 12 female prisoners were waiting for their fate in Multan Region’s jails out of whom the appeals of 908 males and 9 females were in High Court, 152 males and 3 females in Supreme Court, mercy petition of 90 pending with the President’s office while appeals of 10 condemned prisoners have been rejected by the president.

Despite the increasing number of death sentences, the Amnesty International deems Pakistan a success story as no execution was carried out in 2013.

Amnesty is of the view, “There are still challenges remaining. Pakistan has one of the world’s largest death row populations, and you can still face the death penalty for non-lethal crimes like blasphemy or drug trafficking. As long as the death penalty remains on the books, lives of thousands of prisoners are still at risk.”