ISLAMABAD - A judge in Pakistan has ordered a murderer to be hanged next week, officials said Friday, in what would be the country's first civilian execution in six years.
The country has had a de facto moratorium on civilian hangings since 2008. Only one person has been executed since then, a soldier convicted by court martial and hanged in November 2012.
"A judge has passed an order that a murder convict be hanged," an official at Adiyala Prison in Rawalpindi, the garrison city adjoining Islamabad, told AFP.
"Arrangements for the execution on September 18 are being made," the official said on condition of anonymity.
Shoaib Sarwar was given the death penalty in July 1998 for murdering Awais Nawaz in January 1996. All his appeals in the high court and Supreme Court were rejected, as was a mercy petition to the president, the official said.
Sarwar is currently being held in a jail in the northwestern town of Haripur, some 25 kilometres from Islamabad, but authorities there told AFP they had not yet been informed about the execution.
The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said it was dismayed at the news.
"HRCP wishes to remind the government that the reasons that have caused the stay of executions since 2008 have not changed," the group said in a statement.
"These include the well-documented deficiencies of the law, flaws in administration of justice and investigation methods and chronic corruption."
Last June the newly elected government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif scrapped the moratorium in a bid to crack down on criminals and Islamist militants.
But two weeks later it announced a further stay of executions after an outcry from rights groups and the then-president Asif Ali Zardari.
All execution orders in Pakistan must be signed by the president.
European Union officials indicated last year that if Pakistan resumed executions, it could jeopardise a highly prized trade deal with the bloc.
An EU rights delegation warned it would be seen as a "major setback" if Pakistan restarted hangings.
Rights campaign group Amnesty International estimates that Pakistan has more than 8,000 prisoners on death row, most of whom have exhausted the appeals process.