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Pakistan executes 12 people in single-largest day of executions since moratorium lifted

| Tuesday, March 17, 2015, 6:48 p.m.

ISLAMABAD — Pakistani officials on Tuesday executed 12 people in the country's single-largest day of executions since a moratorium on the death penalty was lifted in December, officials said.

The executions are sure to raise concerns over due process and proper oversight of the country's troubled criminal justice system, which rights groups say often does little to protect defendants.

Authorities at jails in the country's largest province, Punjab, hanged 10 people who had been sentenced to death in murder cases, provincial Home Minister Shuja Khanzada said. He said authorities plan to execute more convicted criminals in the coming weeks.

“We have started a process, and it will continue,” he said.

The superintendent of the main jail in the southern port city of Karachi, Qazi Nazir, said two convicted murderers were executed, and their bodies handed over to their families.

Late last year, Pakistan's prime minister lifted the death-penalty moratorium, specifically for terrorism-related cases, because of a December Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar that killed 150, most of them children. Last week, in a controversial step, the government lifted the death-penalty ban for all cases. Human rights groups estimate Pakistan has about 8,000 prisoners on death row.

One of the most closely watched execution cases is that of Shafqat Hussain, who family members say was 14 when he was sentenced to death by a court in Karachi for the murder of a 7-year-old boy. Hussain's family proclaims his innocence and Justice Project Pakistan, the legal group handling his case, says Hussain was tortured into making a false confession. Hussain is scheduled to be hanged Thursday.

Meanwhile, unidentified gunmen shot and killed a former lawyer for the Pakistani doctor who helped the United States find Osama bin Laden.

The lawyer, Samiullah Khan Afridi, was assassinated in the northwestern city of Peshawar, senior police officer Shakir Khan said.

The lawyer was killed months after he announced that he will no longer be representing Dr. Shakil Afridi Afridi, who was convicted in May 2012 of “conspiring against the state” by giving money and providing medical treatment to militants, not for helping the CIA track down bin Laden.

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