Pakistan PM ends moratorium on death penalty

Islamabad (IANS/EFE): Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has ended a moratorium on the death penalty in terrorism cases after the Taliban massacred 148 people, most of them children, at a school in Peshawar, a government official told Efe news agency Wednesday.

Spokesperson for the prime minister’s office, Musaddiq Malik, said that Sharif has decided to lift the moratorium on executions imposed in 2008 by the previous government after Tuesday’s attack in which 132 of those killed were children.

Malik said that army chief General Raheel Sharif had suggested that the measure apply to terrorists who have already been convicted and are serving prison terms.

“The biggest problem we now have is these terrorists who have been arrested. How should we deal with them?,” Sharif said at a press conference in Peshawar following the announcement of the lifting of the moratorium.

“How should they complete their sentence? What punishment should be applied?” asked the premier.

Stating that Pakistan has been fighting terrorism since a long time which has affected its economy as well, he described Tuesday’s tragic incident as “an eye-opener”.

“We are fighting terrorism through operation Zarb-e-Azb. We have been successful and we have to cover very little ground now to counter this menace,” Sharif said.

“Earlier, all-party meetings were futile exercises, but this time we need to act by taking some harsh steps against terrorism,” the prime minister said.

After the press conference, Sharif met with representatives of major political parties to discuss the situation following the attack which he described as a national tragedy.

The Pakistani courts continue handing down death sentences although executions have not been carried out since 2008.

Amnesty International estimates that about 8,000 people are on death row in Pakistani prisons for the 28 offences that call for capital punishment.

Pakistan began Wednesday in mourning, with flags at half-mast, schools closed and the start of mass funerals, after a night of vigils and prayers in mosques.

The main Pakistani Taliban group, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack and justified it by saying that the army attacked their families in the military operations launched against insurgents in the tribal areas of North Waziristan and Khyber.

The attack, one of the worst in the country in recent years, received wide international condemnation including by US President Barack Obama, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and Coordinator of UN in Pakistan, Timo Pakkala.