Pakistan is set to execute a Russian citizen accused of an assassination attempt on Pakistan’s former president Pervez Musharraf, after a moratorium on the death penalty was lifted this week.
The execution has so far been postponed, the Sputnik news agency cited the Russian Embassy in Pakistan as saying.
Akhlas Akhlaq is one of five men sentenced to death in Pakistan for a failed plot to assassinate Musharraf. Akhlaq, born in the city of Volgograd to a Russian mother and a Pakistani father, was one of the men arrested following a suicide attack on Gen. Musharraf’s convoy on 25 December, 2003. In the assassination attempt, two suicide bombers tried to ram explosives-laden vehicles into the president’s limousine. Seventeen people died. Akhlaq has denied all charges brought against him.
“The Pakistani authorities intend to execute him [Akhlaq],” representative of the Russian Embassy in Pakistan Vadim Zaitsev, told Sputnik. The death penalty can only be administered after Akhlaq says his goodbyes to relatives, he added.
“[A police inspector] has informed me that my son will be hanged today in the morning time. And they asked me to come immediately to Faisalabad to see him for the last time,” Akhlaq’s father, Akhmad said early Sunday morning.
“They took the wrong person,” Akhmad says, adding that he has proved that Pakistani authorities had also charged British nationals by mistake.
For over a decade, the Russian Foreign Ministry has tried to work with the Pakistani authorities to resolve the case. The ministry explains that Akhlaq was tried by a military court, and not by a civilian court, as required by Pakistani law. Furthermore his trial was closed to the Russian authorities and the public. The last minute effort continues.
“We are keeping in touch with the prison, where he [Akhlaq] is being kept and with the authorities, including Pakistan’s foreign and interior ministries,” Zaitsev said, adding that the diplomatic mission is doing their best to reverse the execution.
“We are using all our efforts to avoid this execution. We have sent a relevant note [to the Pakistani authorities] and all measures are being taken so that the Pakistani authorities stop this process,” the diplomat explained.
“But we do not exclude that it [the execution] could be carried out this morning,” Zaitsev early on Sunday.
Akhmad Akhlaq, the man’s father told RT back in 2007 that his son was innocent and not involved in the assassination plot, as the accused was in Russia at the time.
“There is no evidence that he wanted to assassinate the president whatsoever. He is also accused of speaking out against the current Pakistani government. But he was in Russia at the time they say he was doing this. And I have proved this. I sent money to him through the foreign ministry at that time,” Akhlaq Sr. said.
The news of Akhlaq planned execution comes as Pakistan executed two convicted militants after lifting a moratorium on the death penalty in response to the murder of over 130 children at a Peshawar school by the Taliban. It is planning more hangings as well as intensification of airstrikes against militants.
The reintroduction of capital punishment, many NGO’s say, will send a lot of innocent people to their death.
“Our research suggests that many of the individuals, who would be first in line for execution are simply not terrorists, and that the law is being abused in a way that perverts justice and fails to keep anyone safe,” says Maya Foa, head of the Reprieve human rights group.
The Human Rights Watch group condemned Pakistan’s move and called to stop executions of those imprisoned for terrorism, calling on Islamabad to abstain from “vengeful blood-lust”.