Pakistan on Sunday temporarily suspended planned executions after threats by militants to launch retaliatory attacks and the objections of international rights groups.

Officials said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had placed a fresh stay on executions, which were to take place from next week for the first time in more than five years.

Some 7,000 inmates are on death row, according to government statistics.

A moratorium on executions that had been in place since early 2008 under the previous administration was allowed to expire in June by Mr. Sharif’s government.

A political secretary for Mr. Sharif said executions were being halted until President Asif Ali Zardari, who opposes capital punishment, returns from abroad.

“In due deference to the wish of the President, it has been desired that all executions of death sentences may be held in abeyance until the discussion takes place,” said the official.

Mr. Zardari has said that under the constitution, the executions can’t take place without his approval.

Mr. Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party was in power between 2008 and 2013. He is due to step down on September 8, 2013 to be replaced by a Sharif aide.

At least three militants from Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an anti-Shia group with links to al-Qaeda, were among those to be executed next week.

The Pakistani Taliban last week warned the government of retaliation if members of its affiliated group were executed.

“If the prisoners are executed it would amount to a declaration of war on the part of the government,” said a pamphlet distributed by the Taliban in their tribal stronghold near the border with Afghanistan.

Groups such as Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists have said that the death penalty should be abolished.

“A return to executions will derail one of democratic Pakistan’s most tangible human rights successes,” said Sam Zarifi, the Asia-Pacific director of the International Commission of Jurists, on Friday.