The hanged militants had no links to the Taliban’s assault in the city of Peshawar on Tuesday, but their executions came at a time when a shocked Pakistani society is piling pressure on the government to do more to stem escalating violence.
Pakistan lifted a moratorium on the death penalty after the attack and Mohammed Aqeel and Arshad Mehmood were the first prisoners reported hanged under the new arrangements.
The announcement of their deaths came just hours after The U.N. human rights office appealed to Pakistan to refrain from resuming executions, saying this would not stop terrorism and might even feed a “cycle of revenge”.
“Aqeel alias Usman and Arshad were hanged in Faislabad Jail at 9:00 pm,” a source in a local government in Punjab province told Reuters.
Aqeel, also known as Dr. Usman, had been in jail for leading an attack on the Pakistani army headquarters in 2009 in which 20 people were killed. He was a member of the radical sectarian Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group.
Mehmood, was arrested for trying to assassinate former President Pervez Musharraf.
Four other militants, currently in jail in the eastern city of Lahore, are also expected to be executed in coming days.The Pakistan government brought in an unofficial moratorium on executions in 2008. Until Friday, only one person had been executed — a soldier convicted by a military court of murdering a fellow officer.
(Reporting by Nadia Saleem, Mubasher Bukhari and Syed Raza Hassan; Editing by Maria Golovnina)