Pakistan has lifted its moratorium on the death penalty in all cases, months after resuming executions of terrorism convicts.
An Interior Ministry official said on March 10 that the ministry had directed provincial governments to proceed with hangings for prisoners who had exhausted all avenues of appeal and clemency.
A ministry spokesman said the order was given on March 6 but was not publicized.
Rights groups estimate that there are more than 8,000 people on death row in Pakistan, where a de facto moratorium on the death penalty was put in place in 2008.
The moratorium was lifted in December 2014 for those convicted of terrorism offences, after Taliban gunmen killed more than 150 people at a school in the northwestern city of Peshawar, most of them children.
Twenty-four convicts have been hanged since then despite opposition from rights groups that have sharply criticized the change.
Sarah Belal of the Justice Project Pakistan rights group condemned the move to extend executions as "irresponsible."
She said it puts the lives of vulnerable citizens at risk because of the “immeasurable injustice in Pakistan's criminal justice system, with a rampant culture of police torture, inadequate counsel, and unfair trials."
Last year, the group produced research in conjunction with a U.S. university documenting nearly 2,000 cases of torture in the eastern district of Faisalabad between 2006 and 2012. (report available at: http://www.law.yale.edu/JPP_Launch_Report_050514.pdf)
Interviewees said police routinely manufactured evidence, tortured suspects, and botched investigations. Victims were occasionally intimidated in order to get them not to report abuse.
The decision to lift the moratorium on capital punishment comes as Pakistan continues its invigorated campaign against "terrorists" that followed the school killings in Peshawar, including stepped up military activity in the North Waziristan tribal area.
Pakistani media reported at the start of February that nearly 11,000 people had been detained on charges related to terrorism since late December 2014 but that the vast majority of those detentions were for funding or otherwise aiding militant groups.
With reporting by Reuters and AFP