Pakistan PM lifts moratorium on death penalty after Taliban attack

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had approved the decision of a ministerial committee to life the moratorium.

Pakistan PM lifts moratorium on death penalty after Taliban attack

World Bulletin/News Desk

The Pakistani prime minister lifted a moratorium on the death penalty on Wednesday, a day after Taliban gunmen attacked a school, a government spokesman said.

Mohiuddin Wani said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had approved the decision of a ministerial committee to life the moratorium.

"It was decided that this moratorium should be lifted. The prime minister approved," he said.

He did not give any details about who might be executed under such orders.

A moratorium on the death penalty was imposed in 2008 and only one execution has taken place since then.

There are believed to be more than 8,000 prisoners on death row in Pakistan, about 10 percent convicted of offences labelled "terrorism", said Justice Project Pakistan, a legal aid group.

"Terrorism" has a very broad definition under Pakistani law. About 17,000 cases of "terrorism" are pending in special courts.

Justice Project Pakistan released a report on Wednesday saying that those convicted of terrorism were often tortured into confessions or denied lawyers, and that recent crackdowns had not stopped militant attacks.

"Swathes of defendants whose crimes bear no relation to terrorism have been sentenced to death following extremely unfair trials - whilst terrorist attacks continue unabated," the group said.

MOURNING

Pakistan woke up to a day of mourning on Wednesday after Taliban militants killed 132 students at the school in the city of Peshawar in a grisly attack which shocked the nation and put pressure on the government to do more to tackle the insurgency.

People around the country lit candles and staged overnight vigils as parents prepared to bury their children during mass funerals in and around Peshawar - a big, volatile city on the edge of Pakistan's lawless tribal belt.

Pakistanis may be used to almost daily militant attacks against the security forces but an outright assault on children stunned the country, prompting commentators to call for a tough military response.

In Peshawar, the vast grounds of the military-run Army Public School were all but deserted, with a handful of snipers manning the roofs of its pink brick-and-stone buildings.

Army vehicles and soldiers wearing face masks and carrying automatic rifles were deployed by the entrance.

A day after the attack, Peshawar appeared subdued and many were still in shock, recalling the gruesome events and trying to soothe each other. More details of the well-organised attack emerged as witnesses came forward with their stories.

"The attackers came around 10:30 a.m. on a pick-up van," said Issam Uddin, a 25-year-old school bus driver.

"They drove it around the back of the school and set it on fire to block the way. Then they went to Gate 1 and killed a soldier, a gatekeeper and a gardener. Firing began and the first suicide attack took place."

The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has announced a three-day mourning period but people's anxiety focused on what the authorities can do to protect the country.

Sharif came to power last year promising to negotiate peace with the Pakistani Taliban - but those efforts failed this year, weakening his position and prompting the army to launch an air-and-ground operation against insurgents along the Afghan border.

The military staged more air strikes against Taliban positions there late on Tuesday, a security source said, but it was unclear whether it was done in response to the school attack.

"People will have to stop equivocating and come together in the face of national tragedy," said Sherry Rehman, a former ambassador to the United States and an opposition politician.

Pakistan's army chief was expected to visit Afghanistan on Wednesday for what is likely to be a day of uneasy talks with his Afghan counterparts on how to tackle the insurgency.

Pakistan's Dawn newspaper quoted a source as saying that the militants were acting on direct orders from their handlers in Afghanistan and that prominent Taliban commander Umar Naray was the ultimate mastermind of the attack.

Speaking late on Tuesday, army spokesman Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa hinted at that without naming Afghanistan.

"When these militants reached the school ... we found out which group was involved, who they were talking to, from where the operation was being controlled," he said. "God willing, in coming two-four days you will get to know."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Aralık 2014, 16:34
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