Lahore, July 7 (IANS) At least 465 persons have been executed in Pakistan since the country lifted the ban on death penalty in December 2014, said a non-government organisation working for prisoners’ rights.

Such a high number of executions has made Pakistan the “fifth most prolific executioner” in the world, following China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, Dawn online cited a data analysis by Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) as showing.

The analysis said the use of death penalty has failed to curb crime, including terrorism. The death penalty is exceedingly being used as a political tool, sometimes even as a jail overcrowding solution.

Punjab province, which accounts for 83 per cent of the executions and 89 per cent death sentences in Pakistan, has witnessed only a 9.7 per cent drop in murder rate between 2015 and 2016.

Sindh province has, however, registered a drop of nearly 25 per cent in the same time period. The province carried out only 18 executions compared to 382 in Punjab.

The analysis said murder rate in Pakistan was already on the decline before the moratorium was lifted, casting even more doubt on the already dubious relationship between the death penalty and crime reduction.

Yearly trends of executions showed that anti-terrorism courts (ATCs) accounted for only 16 per cent of the executions.

The JPP said the government sought to justify lifting of the moratorium for all 27 death-eligible crimes by claiming that it was necessary to deter terrorist threat to Pakistan.

But the data said the government was mostly hanging terrorists through military courts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and through ATCs in Sindh.

The research claimed that people are executed in Pakistan to make room in the overcrowded prisons.

Currently, 25 of the 27 prisons in the province are significantly over-capacity and the highest number of executions take place in the most overcrowded prisons.

The JPP in a statement said that Pakistan was heading for its first UN review under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on July 11 that obligated it to uphold and respect the right to life for all citizens.

It said Pakistan’s return to an executing state has been taken up in the list of issues framed by the Human Rights Council committee.

JPP Executive Director Sarah Belal said Pakistan’s troubling and continued use of the death penalty had continuously fallen short of meeting its international human rights commitments and fair trial standards, as well as the country’s own domestic laws.

This is published unedited from the IANS feed.