A prison official says Pakistani authorities have postponed the execution of the country's first known paraplegic convict on death-row, about an hour before he was to be hanged.
Prison official Mohammad Safdar says a magistrate made the decision after talking to Abdul Basit, 43, who was to be hanged before dawn Tuesday.
Basit has been on death row since 2009, convicted of murdering a man in a financial dispute.
Basit's sister Shugufta Sultana told The Associated Press that the family was waiting outside the prison on Tuesday when they were told of the postponement.
Pakistan's Supreme Court on Monday rejected a plea to grant a stay of execution for Basit.
Basit, who was sentenced to death in 2009 after being convicted of murder, was scheduled to be hanged on Tuesday unless Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain intervened by responding to a mercy petition filed by Basit’s lawyers.
Basit, who uses a wheelchair, has been paralyzed since contracting tubercular meningitis in 2010 while in the central jail in Faisalabad, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The decision not to grant a stay by Pakistan’s Supreme Court was made on Monday despite the U.K.-based anti-death penalty group Reprieve saying there are fears that hanging Basit from his wheelchair "may breach the country’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment."
Basit, who was originally schedule to be executed on July 29, was granted a stay after the Lahore High Court accepted a petition challenging his execution a day earlier. However, in September, the same court dismissed the petition and said because the hanging of a disabled prisoner was not specifically banned by law, the execution could move forward.
"The court has set the prison an impossible task — there is no way of hanging Basit according to the rules, leaving the real risk that he will face a needlessly cruel and horrific execution," said Reprieve’s Maya Foa.
In December, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted the country’s moratorium on the death penalty — which had been imposed in 2008 — following a Taliban school attack that left nearly 150 dead. Most of the victims of that assault were children.
At the time the moratorium was lifted the legal aid group Justice Project Pakistan said there were more than 8,000 prisoners on death row in the country.
Pakistani has executed 236 so far this year, according to Human Rights Watch, whose Asia director called on the Pakistani government to commute Basit’s sentence.
"The death penalty is an inherently cruel and irrevocable punishment that doesn't solve any of the complex security problems facing the Pakistani people," Brad Adams said. "The Pakistani government should strengthen its justice system rather than sending more people like Abdul Basit to the gallows."
With The Associated Press