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ICC Note: Pakistan has ordered a moratorium on executions during the Muslim holiday month of Ramadan. This comes in the middle of a time in the country where the government has executed 170 people since December and hundreds over the past several years and with more than 8,000 currently languishing on death row, including many Christians facing blasphemy and apostasy charges. The state managed to “squeeze in” seven hangings last Wednesday June 17 before the beginning of Ramadan.

By Siddhartha Mahanta

6/22/15 Pakistan (FP) – This week, Pakistan executed at least 15 people, most of whom had spent years on death row before meeting their end in the Pakistani justice system. For these unlucky 15 and their families, this week’s news must have felt like a cruel joke, when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered the government to suspend executions in honor of Ramadan.

Citing “the sanctity of the holy month” of Ramadan, Sharif issued an order Sunday through his Interior Ministry, compelling provincial governments tosuspend the death penalty. For most of Pakistan, Ramadan begins Friday, depending on when you can see the new moon, and the ban on executions would continue for the holiday’s 29 or 30 days.

This would certainly seem to be an act of uncommon mercy. This is a country that, after all, has hanged more than 170 people since December, and currently has over 8,000 people on death row, according to Amnesty International. For months now, human rights organizations have decried the Sharif government’s appetite for the death penalty, which it has used largely in response to increasing acts of violence by the Taliban and its affiliated groups.

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