NEW DELHI: Pakistan has put to death three Baloch insurgents, 17 years after they hijacked a passenger plane with 30 people on board that they then attempted to fly to India. The Pakistan International Airlines flight was hijacked in 1998, with the hijackers ordering the pilot to fly to India, but the plane was diverted and stormed by troops.

The men - Shabbir Rind, Shahsawar Baloch and Sabir Rind - were members of the left-wing Baloch Students' Organisation (BSO), and were executed at jails in Karachi and Hyderabad.

The three men were sentenced to death in 1998, but remained on death row for almost two decades. Pakistan had placed a moratorium on the death penalty -- which it lifted following a brutal Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan led attack on an army run school in Peshawar in December last year.

Since then, Pakistan has put to death at least 130 people. Four other men were put to death on Thursday, accused for crimes not connected to the hijacking. Over 8000 people remain on death row.

Pakistan’s decision to lift the moratorium on the death penalty led to widespread criticism. Human Rights Watch called the decision "a craven politicised reaction to the Peshawar killings.” Amnesty International called the move “deeply disturbing” and said that it would do nothing to protect civilians from the Taliban.

The United Nations voiced “deep regret” on the resumption of executions. “This is particularly disappointing given that just last week, a record 117 States voted in the UN General Assembly in favour of an international moratorium on the use of the death penalty,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said. “The crime rate, historically, is not lowered by the imposition of capital punishment,” the High Commissioner continued. “Instead, shocking cases emerge, with tragic frequency, of the execution of people who are subsequently proven innocent – including in well-functioning legal systems.”

One such case in Pakistan is that of Shafqat Hussain, who was sentenced to death at the age of 14 and could soon face execution. Hussain is accused of kidnapping and killing a 7-year old in 2004, whilst working as a guard in an apartment building in Karachi. Hussain says he confessed only after being tortured by police during nine days of interrogation, according to the Justice Project Pakistan. Hussain was charged with terrorism as under Pakistani law, any crime that creates “a sense of fear or insecurity in society” can be classified as a terrorist offense.

Echoing this concern of forced confessions under the anti terrorism laws, human rights organisation Reprieve has warned that innocent people could be executed as a result of the government’s decision to lift its moratorium.

Pakistan, however, seems determined. The country’s Supreme Court recently dismissed a petition seeking abolition of the death penalty. The petition had been filed by a barrister, Zafarullah, on the ground that capital punishment violated fundamental rights. A three member bench led by Justice Saqib Nisar dismissed the petition, saying that the right to life and liberty were not absolute as per the Pakistani consitution.