LAHORE - The government on Friday hung two convicted terrorists in the first executions after the prime minister ended a moratorium on the death penalty in the wake of a Taliban school massacre that killed 148 students and staff in Peshawar.

Marking the beginning of the countrywide executions of the terrorists awaiting death sentence in different prisons, the authorities at Faisalabad Jail executed Aqeel Ahmad alias Dr Usman and Arshad Mehmood alias Meharban at around 9pm. The time chosen for their hangings was a departure from the routine practice for such executions which are usually carried out early in the morning.

Dr Usman, a former soldier of Army Medical Corps was involved in the attack on Pakistan Army Headquarters in Rawalpindi in 2009. A member of the banned organisation, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Usman worked in the Army till 2006.

Arshad Mehmood was convicted for an assassination attempt on Pervez Musharraf in 2003 and had links with terrorist organisations.

Dr Usman belonged to Kahuta tehsil of Rawalpindi. He was also involved in the February 2008 assassination of Lt-Gen Mushtaq Ahmed Baig of Army Medical Corps. Dr Usman was also involved in the Islamabad Marriott Hotel bombing in September 2008.

He was also suspected to be mastermind of the attack on Sri Lankan cricket team.

He was captured in October 2009 when he was injured while trying to blow himself up. In 2011, Aqeel was sentenced to death by a military court. During the PPP government, he filed a mercy plea which was rejected by the then president Asif Ali Zardari.

Earlier, the two prisoners were shifted to district jail Faisalabad under the security of the army and the police.

A TV report said that close relatives of Dr Usman and Arshad also met them on Friday.

Armoured personnel carriers and other military vehicles were deployed around and inside the jail.

"Yes, two militants Aqil alias Dr Usman and Arshad Mehmood have been hanged in Faisalabad jail," Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada told AFP.

Officials said that there may be ten more executions in the coming days: six in Punjab and four in Sindh.

"Six more convicted militants will be hanged in the coming days," Khanzada said, referring to executions that come under his jurisdiction of Punjab.

Shahid Hussain, superintendent of a prison in Sukkur, told AFP that death warrants had been issued for two convicted members of the banned sectarian militant outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).

"The black (death) warrants of two LeJ activists Attaullah Qasim and Muhammad Azam have been issued by court for December 23," Hussain told AFP.

An anti-terrorism court has also been asked for the execution orders for two other convicts, Behram Khan and Shafqat Hussain, Qazi Naseer Ahmed, superintendent of the central jail in Karachi told AFP.

Five others who were also convicted for assassination attempt on Pervez Musharraf were kept in Lahore Central Jail, but a senior prisons officer said their mercy petitions were pending with the oresident, so there was no execution plan in Lahore as yet.

While lifting the moratorium on death penalty, the federal government has asked all the four provincial governments to process the cases of those on death row so that black warrants for them could be issued on priority basis.

The cases of dreaded terrorists would be processed on priority basis. The moratorium on death sentence was introduced in 2008 by Zardari-led Pakistan People’s Party government under mounting pressure from the international community.

The Punjab Prisons IG told The Nation that security measures had been taken and Rangers and Army troops deployed outside sensitive jails ahead of beginning of the execution of the convicts on Friday. He said though there was neither any terrorist detained in Camp Jail, Lahore, nor was it declared sensitive, security had been beefed up around it. Paramilitary personnel, equipped with light machine guns and other modern weapons, have been put on high alert.

Heavy contingents of troops have been deployed outside the jails declared sensitive across the country.