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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 July 2006, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
Pakistani hangings 'are brutal'
Pakistani man being hanged in Kuwait
The HCRP says many of those hanged do not receive a fair trial
The director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) says the number of recent executions carried out in Punjab province is "brutal".

IA Rehman told the BBC News website that 37 people had been hanged this year in Punjab alone.

He said that compared to 52 people country-wide for all of last year.

Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said decisions as to who should be executed and when were solely the responsibility of the courts.

"We have not accelerated the process and it is just a coincidence that eight people have been hanged over the last three days," he said.

Spiralling crime

Mr Rehman said that the high number of hangings could be linked to the government's drive to reduce over-crowding on death row.

"The sad fact is that the increased number of executions have not really raised eyebrows or generated many public complaints," he said.

"Pakistan has become a brutalised society where people are exposed to killings on an almost daily basis."

He said there could be several reasons for the increased number of hangings, but one explanation was the government's desire to lower the number of people on death row throughout the country - currently estimated to be in excess of 3,500 people.

Punjab province map

Mr Rehman said that officials in Punjab especially were being overwhelmed by last-minute mercy petitions and applications for clemency and wanted to "clear the system".

He said another reason for the increased number of executions was a spiralling crime rate, coupled with moves recently introduced by the government for offences such as drugs dealing, gang rape and kidnapping to be punishable by the death penalty.

Previously only murder and sedition were dealt with by capital punishment.

Mr Rehman said that many people convicted under the rules - introduced several years ago - are now coming to the end of the appeals process.

'Feudal vendettas'

"The tragedy is that many people who have been hanged or are on death row have not received fair trials," he said.

"They are often the victims of feudal vendettas that take place in parts of Pakistan on a regular basis.

2003: 18 people
2004: 15 people
2005: 52 people
2006: 41 people so far
(Source: HCRP)

"Furthermore they are often convicted by courts or judicial tribunals which are not impartial and where police evidence is insufficient."

Figures released by the HRCP show that some people sentenced to death can wait up to 15 years in jail before their sentence is either commuted or they are hanged.

"In contrast people accused of terrorist offences - such as attempting to kill the president or a senior member of the establishment - can be sentenced and hanged within two years," Mr Rehman said.

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