Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Sunday ordered an immediate halt to the carrying out of death sentences till he has discussed the matter with President Asif Ali Zardari, an official spokesman said.
Sharif made the decision after Zardari wrote to him, saying he wanted to discuss next week's hanging of two high-profile Lashkar-i-Jhangvi militants amid calls from rights groups to cancel the planned executions.
The official spokesman was quoted by TV news channels as saying since that the date of the executions was approaching and the President was away from the country, the premier had directed the Interior Ministry to hold the execution of the death sentences till he holds a meeting with Zardari.
If the ruling PML-N goes ahead with the executions, it will end a five-year moratorium on death sentences that was put in place by the previous government led by Zardari's Pakistan People's Party.
The spokesman further said that reports that the President had stopped the implementation of the death sentences were incorrect.
He said the President had sent a letter to the Prime in which he said he wanted to meet Sharif to discuss the issue of the long-pending death sentences of hundreds of prisoners.
Yesterday, presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told PTI that Zardari wanted to discuss the planned hanging of two militants next week with the Prime Minister.
The PML-N government has completed formalities to send the convicted militants to the gallows on Tuesday. It is not clear how Sharif will respond to Zardari's proposal.
Human Rights Watch and the International Committee of Jurists has sent an open letter to the PML-N government, asking it to renew the moratorium on the death penalty.
An anti-terrorism court in Sindh province has issued "black warrants" for the hanging of two members of the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. The two men were convicted by a counter-terrorism court in July 2004 for killing a Shia doctor and are scheduled to be executed on Tuesday.
The government has said it is determined to go ahead with the executions despite threats from the Taliban to target the PML-N leadership if militants are hanged.
Since Zardari imposed the moratorium in June 2008, only a soldier convicted by a military court was hanged in November 2012.
According to official figures, Pakistan has over 7,000 prisoners on death row, one of the largest populations of prisoners facing execution in the world.