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Ray of hope for paraplegic death row inmate in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD -- 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 paralyzed from the waist down since contracting meningitis in prison in 2010 and uses a wheelchair. He 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 the family was waiting outside the prison on Tuesday when they were told of the postponement.

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Monday had rejected a plea to grant a stay of execution for Basit.

Before the postponement, Basit's mother, Nusrat Perveen told The Associated Press they met with him for what was to be the final time on Monday at a jail in the city of Faisalabad. She said their last hope was a pardon from President Mamnoon Hussain.

"I beg to the president to pardon my son," she said. "My son was a healthy man but he became disabled in jail."

Basit's lawyers had previously filed a petition arguing that hanging him would constitute cruel and inhuman punishment.

Amnesty International had urged Pakistan to halt Basit's execution and called for a moratorium on all executions in the country.

"Instead of debating the logistics of how to put a man in a wheelchair to death, the authorities in Pakistan should grant reprieve to Abdul Basit," Sultana Noon, Amnesty International's Pakistan researcher, said in a statement. "This case has once again drawn widespread attention to the cruelty of the relentless conveyer belt of executions in Pakistan."

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, authorities have hanged 236 people since lifting a 2008 moratorium on executions in December after a deadly Taliban attack on a school in the northwestern city of Peshawar killed 150 people, mostly children.

But only one in 10 of the 236 prisoners executed since December had been convicted of a terror attack.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's military in a statement Monday that military courts had handed down death sentences to nine "hard core terrorists" who had killed civilians and security officials.

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