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Sartaj, FO differ on death penalty

ISLAMABAD: Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz and the Foreign Office apparently hold differing views on death penalty.

Mr Aziz, while talking to reporters after a conference, called for a policy review on death penalty. He said legal reforms were required on the issue.

He observed that life sentence in Pakistan was, however, too short as compared to other countries. He suggested that life sentence needed to be increased.

The government`s decision to end moratorium on executions after Dec 16 Peshawar school tragedy was criticised by human rights groups. The criticismbecame more intense after the government this month revised its earlier decision of only executing terrorists to include offenders awarded death penalty for other crimes.

More than 40 people have been executed over the past three months.

The Foreign OfHce spokesperson at the weeldy media briefing defended the executions, saying they (executions) did not violate the international law and country`s international commitments.

`Pakistan is not violating any internationallaw...Our constitution andlegal system allow death penalty within legal parameters and condition of fair trial, FO spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said.

She said Pakistan had been engaging with the EU on this matter and would continue to do so.

The EU in a statement on executions has said: `The EU calls on Pakistan to reinstitute the moratorium and to respect fully all its international obligations, in particular the principle of fair trial. The EU also recalls that Article 6(5) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Pakistan is a party, specifically prohibits the use of the death sentence for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age.

`Contrary to the Government of Pakistan`s stated policy thatonly clearly identified terrorists would be executed, convicts not sentenced on terrorist charges are now being executed,` the EU said.

Ms Aslam said although the EU did not agree with the Pakistan government on executions it understood the Pakistani perspective. Pakistan is not violating any international law.

The spokesperson said Pakistan expected that resumption of executions would not impact its GSP+ status for preferential access to the EU market through reduced tariffs.

The EU had previously said that there was no link between GSP+ and the lifting of moratorium on executions.