Pak PM lifts ban on death penalty in terror cases as Peshawar buries its dead
PESHAWAR: In the aftermath of the blood curdling Taliban assault on Peshawar school kids, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday lifted the moratorium on capital punishment and approved the implementation of death penalty to any and all of captives who have been involved in terrorism or militancy.
The key measure comes just a day after Pakistan was at the receiving end of the deadliest terror attack in its history that saw over 130 children being slain. The move was announced in an all party meet held in the Governor Hose today that was led by the PM Nawaz Sharif and attended by all parties like PML-N, PTI, PPP, ANP, MQM and also Jamaat e Islami.
Expressing grief over the tragic attack, PM said that it was the worst inhuman barbaric act and “the losses of children will not go in vain”. He added that the talks with terrorists had not yielded any results and hence permanent peace in the country will be established only with the logical conclusion of the ongoing Operation Zarb-e Azb. Sharif added that there was no question to leave the mission unaccomplished and said that the fight against terrorism will continue.
“We will fight this war keeping in mind the faces of our children martyred yesterday,” said Sharif.Announcing the key decision, the PM also said there was a dire need of speedy trials of terrorists, who need to be brought to justice speedily. These remarks came at an APC (All Party Conference) that got underway in Peshawar today afternoon. The APC that was held with an agenda to discuss measures to weed out terrorism, began with a Fateha being read for the martyrs of the school attack.
Before leaving for Peshawar APC, PM Nawaz Sharif said that the Army will continue the anti-terror Operation Zarb-e Azb as it has “broken the backbone of the terrorists”.Sharif vowed that Pakistan will chase the terrorists to their hideouts and eliminate them as it was high time to take to task all the elements “who martyred our children”.Sharif had yesterday called the assault on the school “a national tragedy” and declared three days of mourning.
Pakistan woke up to a day of mourning on Wednesday after Taliban militants killed 141 people, nearly all of them children, at a school in the northwestern city, near the border with Afghanistan, on Tuesday.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.
A day after the attack, Peshawar appeared subdued and many were still in shock, recalling the gruesome events and trying to soothe each other.
Notably, 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.The grisly attack not only shocked the nation but also drew condemnation from across the world.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.Pakistan’s main Taliban group, known as the TTP, claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was in reprisal for the what the militants claimed was the targeting of their families by the military.After securing the school, the military embarked on a anti-insurgent sweep across Peshawar and the surrounding province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
A counterinsurgency operation six months ago in the Khyber and North Waziristan areas left more than 1,100 insurgents dead, according to Pakistan’s Army.132 students killedThe fatalities included 132 students and nine Army Public School employees, military’s director of public information, General Asim Bajwa, had told a press conference yesterday.
A total of 130 people–118 students, three staffers, seven SSG soldiers and two officers — were injured, he said.He also said that 960 students and staffers were rescued.Bajwa said all the seven militants were killed in the operations involving Special Services Group (SSG) or commandos. Some of them reportedly blew themselves up.He added that about 1,000 students and staffers were in the school at the time of the attack.
Seven Taliban fighters dressed in Army uniforms entered the school through a back door shortly before midday, police spokesperson Seid Wali said.
The attackers hurled grenades and fired burst of gunfire as they went from classroom to classroom, Wali added.One of the students, a 14-year-old boy, told The Express Tribune that two men burst into his classroom and began shooting indiscriminately.The Pakistani Army launched an operation to liberate the school, which serves grades 1-10, but progress was slow as the troops had to contend with explosives planted inside by the attackers.Soldiers eliminated the last of the insurgents by 6:20 pm, authorities said.Good and bad TalibanYet, despite the well-publicised crackdown, the military has long been accused of being too lenient towards Islamist militants who critics say are used to carry out the army`s bidding in places like the disputed Kashmir region and Afghanistan.The military denies the accusations.
“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.”There have been national leaders who been apologetic about the Taliban, who have not named the Taliban in their speeches.”The Pakistani Taliban, who are fighting to impose strict Islamic rule in Pakistan, are holed up in the inaccessible mountains straddling the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.They are allied with the Afghan Taliban as well as al Qaeda and other foreign fighters, and Pakistan has long accused Afghanistan of not doing enough to crack down on their bases.
Afghanistan, for its part, blames Pakistan for allowing militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network to operate freely on its territory and stage attacks in Afghanistan.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.”