For only the second time in its 30-year history, Pakistan yesterday staged public executions designed, as one official put it, to "educate" the people in "the ways of Islam."
Three men - the youngest a 22-year-old student - were hanged outside the wall of an old prison in the center of Lahore just before sunset. The three had been convicted by a military court of sexually assulting and the murdering a 12-year-old child last November. They were not permitted to appeal their sentences.
Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children jammed streets in the areas for a brief glimpse of the hanging. The punjab state government encouraged reporters to witness the event, with one official saying. We want the world to know of our dedication here to Islamic law, like our brothers in the Arab nations."
After the hanging the three bodies, clothed in black, masked, and shackled hand and foot, were left on display for half an hour, swinging underneath the crudely constructed gallows. They were then cut down and given to relatives.
The executions are certain to attract international interest because former prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto is also facing a death sentence for complicity in a 1974 political murder.
There is no suggestion that his hanging, if it is carried out, will be in public. Nevertheless, as Sundays deadline for an appeal grows nearer and his excution is being viewed in some quarters as increasingly likely. Three of the five men convicted with Bhutto filed appeals with the supreme court yesterday.
"We may find that international revulsion over today's hanging will persuade some countries to intercede on Mr. Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples' happened today can be regarded as a good thing."
Public execution is the latest of a number of traditional, severe Islamic punishments that have been introduced into Pakistan by the military regime that toppled Bhutto 1st July 5.
Almost every day there are reports of men being flogged, sometimes in public and the military ruler, Gen. Zia ulHaq, has said publicly that he wants to see a thief's hand cut off, as is recommended in Islamic literature.
In an important development in Bhutto's case, police yesterday sealed the presses of Bhutto's party newspaper, Musawaat.
The paper, which has a circulation of 200,000, has been openly pro-Bhutto and has printed many of his statements - including a Vehemently attack on the government he issued from prison Tuesday. It is thought that this letter - in which he referred to the military rules as "dirty, stinking and miserable" men provoked yesterday's closing.