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Pakistan orders temporary stay of executions

Pakistan has ordered a temporary stay of executions following objections from the president and rights groups, days before they were due to resume after a five-year moratorium.

ISLAMABAD // Pakistan today ordered a temporary stay of executions following objections from the president and rights groups, days before they were due to resume after a five-year moratorium.

The new government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in June scrapped the moratorium on the death penalty in a bid to crack down on criminals and Islamist militants.

But today the government announced that executions, which had been scheduled to begin this week, would be stayed temporarily following objections from outgoing President Asif Ali Zardari.

The stay would last until Mr Zardari returns from abroad to discuss the matter with Mr Sharif, a statement said.

"In due deference to the wish of the president, it has been desired that all executions of death sentences may be held in abeyance till the discussion takes place," it said.

Mr Zardari steps down on September 8, to be replaced by businessman Mamnoon Hussain, a close Mr Sharif ally who was elected in July.

Pakistan had intended to hang two convicted killers from banned sectarian outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) on Wednesday or Thursday in the southern town of Sukkur, in Sindh province, officials had said.

Other prisoners on death row had also expected to be executed this week.

On Friday, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists called on Pakistan to declare commute all existing death sentences and abolish the death penalty once and for all.

The Pakistani interior ministry has said up to 450 convicts are awaiting execution and that their cases will be examined.

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