ISLAMABAD, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- The government of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is preparing to hang a trio of convicted Lashkar-e-Jhangvi terrorists.
Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government has been struggling to establish its credentials since its election in May 2013.
The three LeJ members are Attaullah, Mohammad Azam and Jalal, who received death sentences in 2004 for murder, with the executions scheduled to take place Aug. 20 and 22, respectively, in Sindh's Sukkur jail.
Sharif has made his government's commitment to combating terrorism explicit, saying during a special message on Pakistan's Independence Day Aug. 14: "The shadows of terrorism are haunting us today but with commitment and resolve we will overcome this scourge. We are in high spirits, and will absolutely defeat the terrorists with the full cooperation of the army and other national security institutions," The News International newspaper reported Thursday.
Pakistan's government has pledged to carry out the scheduled executions of the convicted terrorists next week. A five-year moratorium on the death penalty in Pakistan ended in June, The News International said, as Pakistan's new government attempts to display its resolve in fighting crime and militancy. The decision to overturn the death penalty was strongly condemned by international rights groups including Amnesty International. Pakistan Human Rights Commission head I.A. Rehman said: "We are opposed to capital punishment. We demand that the death penalty should not be awarded to anyone."
Ahead of the anniversary, the outlawed Pakistani Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan issued a warning to the government not to carry death penalties awarded by courts to its members. The LeJ is one of Pakistan's most feared militant outfits, having carried out numerous attacks, and has close links to the umbrella PTT and is notorious for murderous attacks on Shiite Muslims, who compose about 20 percent of the country's estimated 200 million people.
A leaflet signed by the Punjabi Taliban in the militant North and South Waziristan tribal areas warned the government of serious consequences if it executed the militants, noting, "Implementation of the decision to execute prisoners will be considered as announcement of war and PML-N will have to pay the price for that."
So far, the threats seem to have had little impact, as Sindh Sukkur jail commander Nusrat Mangan said, "So far the death sentences are scheduled unless we get presidential orders as we would in the past."
Up to 8,000 inmates are believed to be awaiting the death sentence in dozens of overcrowded Pakistani prisons.
The issues raised by the proposed executions will not go away anytime soon, as according to Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the government was determined to establish the writ of law, telling journalists: "There is a backlog of 450 cases and we are processing them as fast as we can. We will continue the process to implement the execution orders so that the law may take its course." An Interior Ministry official speaking on condition of anonymity stated the Sharif government has decided to deal with executions on a case-to-case basis and persons "related to terrorism were being selected."
Five more files for the execution of LeJ and TPP prisoners have been forwarded to the prime minister's office, to be sent to the president's office to issue death warrants.