Pakistan, with thousands on death row, rules against death penalty

ISLAMABAD (REUTERS) - Pakistan has scrapped plans to reinstate the death penalty, the government said on Thursday, following threats by Taleban militants to step up attacks in retaliation.

A 2008 moratorium on capital punishment imposed by Pakistan's previous government expired on June 30 and the country had been due to execute two jailed militants in August - a plan described by the Pakistani Taleban as an act of war.

"Pakistan has decided to continue with the moratorium on capital punishment since the government is aware of its international commitments and is following them," said Omar Hamid Khan, an interior ministry spokesman.

The new government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif originally said it wanted to reinstate the death penalty in a bid to crack down on criminals and Islamist militants in a move strongly criticised by international human rights groups.

Up to 8,000 people languish on death row in dozens of Pakistan's overcrowded and violent jails.

Pakistan's moratorium drew praise because of concerns its courts and police were too inept to ensure the accused a fair trial. Pakistan did, however, break its own rules in 2012 when it executed a convicted murderer and a former army serviceman.

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