Pakistan to lift ban on execution in terror cases

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Peshawar, Dec 17 (IANS) A day after a horrendous attack by the Taliban on an army-run school left Pakistan numb with grief, political parties cutting across all sections Wednesday expressed their resolve to stay united in the fight against terrorism even as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that the moratorium on death sentence will be lifted in terrorism cases.

As cries of grief rent the air and funeral prayers were offered in the country, leaders of various political parties gathered in Peshawar, the scene of Tuesday’s tragedy that left 148 people, including 132 students, dead, for an all-party meet.

“It’s a sad day in the history of Pakistan,” Sharif said.

“We should not let the sacrifice of our children go in vain. We will keep all those pictures that came out of the Peshawar siege in our mind so that we remain upbeat to fight terrorism. Talks with Taliban have yielded no results,” he said.

“Pakistan has been fighting terrorism since a long time which has affected our economy as well. Tuesday’s tragic incident was 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,” he added.

Sharif also said that the ban on capital punishment in terrorism cases would be lifted, following which the terrorists facing death penalty could be executed.

“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.

The horrific terror attack took place Tuesday at the Army Public School in Peshawar, capital of Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

Following the all-party meeting, Sharif said that there would be no distinction between good and bad Taliban and expressed his resolve to continue the war against terrorism till the elimination of the last terrorist from the countryÂ’s soil.

Wednesday’s meeting unanimously decided to form a parliamentary committee, headed by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to chalk out a national plan of action in seven days and present it before the national leadership.

The prime minister said the government would present the national plan of action before the nation after consultations with the military leadership.

Sharif said military operation Zarb-e-Azb, launched in June, was against all the terrorists without discrimination, adding that it had dented the terrorists’ network and destroyed their hideouts.

Meanwhile, funeral prayers for the victims of the Army Public School massacre in Peshawar were held Wednesday at various places in Pakistan, including Peshawar Corps Headquarters, media reported.

The funeral prayer at Corps Headquarters was attended by the army chief, General Raheel Sharif, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan, Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar, reported Geo TV.

Even as grieving families held burial ceremonies, relatives of injured students expressed outrage at the sheer savagery of the terrorists.

“My son has been hit by bullets in arm and leg. What was his mistake?” asked a visibly shaken mother of an injured student at the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH).

“I want to ask these people, what will you get out of this? Will you rule the world by killing our loved ones?” another wailing mother of an injured student said.

However, Anees, an injured class eight student at the hospital said that he would return to the same school.

“We will go to the same school again, we will defeat their goals and motives, I request all Muslim countries to counter terrorists jointly”, he said.

Meanwhile, condemnation for the heinous act continued to pour in from across the world, including from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

The Afghan Taliban also joined the international community in condemning the massacre of children.

“The Afghan Taliban expresses its sorrow over the tragedy and grief for the families of the victims,” the group’s official spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement late Tuesday.

“The intentional killing of innocent people, children and women is against the basics of Islam and this criteria has to be considered by every Islamic party and government,” it said.

Meanwhile, Pakistani army chief General Sharif, who flew down to Afghanistan’s capital Kabul Wednesday, said terrorists were using Afghan soil to carry out attacks in Pakistan.

The army chief shared classified intelligence details with the Afghan officials. He also told the Afghan leadership that the mastermind behind the Peshawar attack had given directives to the perpetrators of the attack from Afghanistan.