ISLAMABAD - International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has urged the government to halt the imminent execution of Shoaib Sarwar, scheduled to take place on September 18, 2014.

In 1998, a Sessions Court had found Shoaib Sarwar guilty of murdering Awais Nawaz. In 2003, the Lahore High Court rejected his appeal, and in 2006, the Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence.

The President of Pakistan also rejected Shoaib Sarwar's mercy petition seeking to have the execution commuted.

"Pakistan has had an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty since June 2008, with only the exception of Muhammad Hussain's execution in November 2012 following a court martial," said Sam Zarifi, ICJ's Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, in a statement issued to media on Friday.

"Breaking its moratorium on the death penalty will be a major step backward for Pakistan, calling into question the commitment of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government to its human rights obligations". The resumption of the death penalty puts Pakistan in opposition to the global and regional movement towards the abolition of the death penalty.

Currently, 150 countries worldwide, including 30 states in the Asia-Pacific region, have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.

"Resuming executions is all the more alarming given that over 8,000 people are currently on death row in Pakistan," added Zarifi. "With the death penalty prescribed for 27 offences, including blasphemy, arms smuggling and offences related to drugs, these numbers are increasing by the day."

The ICJ opposes capital punishment in all cases without exception. The death penalty constitutes a violation of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

In 2007, the UN General Assembly had adopted a resolution emphasizing, "that the use of death penalty undermines human dignity" and calling for the establishment of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty "with a view to abolishing the death penalty".

The resolution was reaffirmed in 2008, 2010, and most recently in December 2012, when an overwhelming majority of 110 UN member states voted in favor of a worldwide moratorium on executions as a step towards abolition of the death penalty.

The ICJ urges the Pakistani government to respect UN General Assembly resolutions and immediately halt Shoaib Sarwar's impending execution.

In addition, the ICJ calls on the government to instate an official moratorium on the death penalty, with a view to abolishing the death penalty in law and in practice and to acceding to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the abolition of capital punishment.

AFP adds: A judge in Rawalpindi has ordered a murderer to be hanged next week, officials said Friday, in what would be the country's first civilian execution in six years.

The country has had a de facto moratorium on civilian hangings since 2008. Only one person has been executed since then, a soldier convicted by court martial and hanged in November 2012.

"A judge has passed an order that a murder convict be hanged," an official at Adiyala Prison in Rawalpindi, the garrison city adjoining Islamabad, told AFP.

"Arrangements for the execution on September 18 are being made," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Shoaib Sarwar was given the death penalty in July 1998 for murdering Awais Nawaz in January 1996. All his appeals in the high court and Supreme Court were rejected, as was a mercy petition to the president, the official said.

Sarwar is currently being held in a jail in Haripur, some 25 kilometres from Islamabad, but authorities there told AFP they had not yet been informed about the execution.

The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said it was dismayed at the news.

"HRCP wishes to remind the government that the reasons that have caused the stay of executions since 2008 have not changed," the group said in a statement.

"These include the well-documented deficiencies of the law, flaws in administration of justice and investigation methods and chronic corruption."

Last June the newly elected government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif scrapped the moratorium in a bid to crack down on criminals and militants.

But two weeks later it announced a further stay of executions after an outcry from rights groups and the then president Asif Ali Zardari.

As per law, all execution orders must be signed by the president.

European Union officials indicated last year that if Pakistan resumed executions, it could jeopardise a highly prized trade deal with the bloc.

An EU rights delegation warned it would be seen as a "major setback" if Pakistan restarted hangings.

Rights campaign group Amnesty International estimates that Pakistan has more than 8,000 prisoners on death row, most of whom have exhausted the appeals process.