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Pakistan executes 12 in a day

Pakistan has executed 12 people in the country's largest day of executions after a nationwide ban on the death penalty was lifted.

The home minister for Punjab, Shuja Khanzada, said authorities at several different jails in the province hanged 10 prisoners who had been sentenced to death in murder cases.

The superintendent of the main jail in the southern port city of Karachi, Qazi Nazir, said prison staff had executed two people and handed their bodies to family members.

Late last year, Pakistan's prime minister lifted a moratorium on the death penalty specifically for terrorism-related cases after a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar killed 150 people in December.

Last week, in a controversial step, the government completely lifted the death penalty ban for all cases.

Mr Khanzada said authorities plan to execute more convicted criminals in the coming weeks.

"We have started a process and it will continue," he said.

The executions are expected to raise concerns over due process and proper oversight of the country's troubled criminal justice system, which rights groups say often does little to protect defendants.

Human rights groups estimate Pakistan has about 8,000 prisoners on death row.

One of the most closely watched execution cases is that of Shafqat Hussain, who family members say was 14 when he was sentenced to death by a court in Karachi for the murder of a seven-year-old boy.

Hussain's family proclaim his innocence and Justice Project Pakistan, the legal group handling his case, says he was tortured into making a false confession.

Interior minister Chaudhry Nidar Ali Khan told parliament that authorities are still trying to confirm whether Hussain was a juvenile when the alleged murder happened. He is scheduled to be hanged on March 19.

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