LAHORE - After one-year-long lull, a condemned prisoner and notorious criminal Imran Ali will be executed in Lahore’s central jail on Wednesday.

The prison staff has finalised arrangements to execute the serial rapist-cum-killer in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail on October 17. But, Zainab’s father Amin Ansari has once again approached the Lahore High Court and demanded public hanging of the merciless killer.

An official said the murder convict would be given an opportunity to have a final meeting with his family inside the jail before his hanging. A team of doctors will also examine the prisoner before sending him to the gallows.

Imran Ali had raped and killed seven-year-old Zainab in Kasur district early this year. He has been accused of being involved in at least nine cases of child rape and murder which he had confessed during the investigation of Zainab murder case. He was booked by police in seven cases and the court announced its verdict in five such cases.

Imran Ali is one of the 8,000 prisoners who currently await execution across the country. His death warrants were issued after President Arif Alvi rejected his mercy petition in the Zainab murder case, officials said.

Most of those put on the death row were convicted in murder cases and hundreds among them have exhausted their appeals and their clemency appeals have also been rejected. Some 4,000 inmates are on the death row only in Punjab where more than 2,700 people were murdered during the first eight months of this year.

Imran will be the first person to be hanged this year in Punjab. In November 2017, two inmates were hanged in Jhang and Sahiwal jails. Prisoner Nasir Abbas was hanged in the Central Jail Jhang. He had killed a man named Hafiz-ur-Rehman in 2001 over a minor dispute. Another convict Tahir was executed in Sahiwal district jail. Tahir had shot dead his wife over a family dispute in 2007.

Pakistan had lifted seven-year unofficial moratorium on the death penalty in December 2014 in response to the deadly attack on Army Public School in Peshawar. The executions picked up momentum in 2015 with 332 convicts sent to gallows. However, the executions dropped drastically in 2016 and 2017. At least 87 convicts were hanged across the country in 2016 while 44 convicts were executed in 2017.

According to Justice Project Pakistan, at least 496 convicts have been hanged in the country since the moratorium was lifted.

It is not clear yet why the executions of the murder convicts are halted this year again. But key international players have been calling for an immediate halt to executions since the country had suspended the ban on the death penalty for all convicts.

Many among those hanged to death in recent years were terrorists in addition to murderers.

In 2016, several inmates were hanged to death in murder cases reported by police almost 20 years ago. They remained in the prison for 15 to 20 years before they were executed. Among them were double-murder convicts Mansha Munees and Salman Munees who were hanged in the Lahore’s Central Prison on February 4, 2017. The police had reported the offense in 1996.

While rights activists call for reforms in the criminal justice system stating that the death penalty does not deter crimes, the police officers think otherwise. Police investigators and jail officers say executions help control crime particularly murders in this society where thousands of people are killed each year.

A police official said that if the convicts would not be hanged for many years the impact of the punishment would vanish. He said that thousands of people are murdered due to one or another reason each year in this province. “The suspects are arrested by police, sent to jails, and convicted in the courts. But they are rarely executed. They must be punished under the laws,” he suggested.

A former Inspector General of Prisons says that 95 percent of those put on the death row were sentenced to death in murder cases. A few drug convicts are also on the death row in Punjab, he said. Farooq Nazir, who served in Punjab for many years to lead the Prisons Department, defends the capital punishment stating that it works as deterrence. “Hundreds of people are murdered (in Punjab) every month. But only a few convicts are hanged,” he said. “The convicts are given fair trials. Even they can compromise with the heirs of the deceased under the laws.”

He went on to say that the ratio of homicides is zero in the countries where murder convicts are executed on fast-track like Singapore, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. He said only a few murder convicts are hanged in Pakistan after years long legal wrangling. “The impact of the punishment disappears if the convicts are sentenced after 20 years,” he said.

On the other hand, rights activists say the country’s criminal justice system is too complicated and mired in corruption. They say the poor can’t hire strong defence lawyers. “None of the millionaires is put on the death row. The lawyers of poor convicts don’t appear in the courts even after accepting fees,” activists say.

According to jail authorities, at least 18,134 men and 346 women have been languishing in different jails of Punjab. The murder suspects make 42 percent of the total jail population.