Ban on death penalty in terror cases lifted
ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR: Pakistan ended its moratorium on the death penalty in terror-related cases, the prime minister’s office announced on Wednesday.
“There is no good and bad Taliban. The military operation is taking on all terrorists without any discrimination,” Nawaz Sharif replied to a questioner during a press briefing. He said it was agreed to continue the military operation till the elimination of the last terrorist and the whole nation was behind the armed forces in this campaign.
Political and military leaders have vowed to wipe out the homegrown Islamist insurgency that killed thousands of ordinary Pakistanis in recent years.“The prime minister has approved the abolishing of the moratorium on the execution of the death penalty in terrorism-related cases,” an official from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s office said.
Hanging remains on the Pakistani statute book and judgescontinue to pass the death sentence, but a de facto moratorium on civilian executions has been in place since 2008.Only one person has been executed since then, a soldier convicted in a court martial and hanged in November 2012.
Rights campaign group Amnesty International estimates that Pakistan has more than 8,000 prisoners on death row, most of whom have exhausted the appeals process.Supporters of the death penalty in Pakistan argue that it is the only effective way to deal with the scourge of militancy.
The courts system is notoriously slow, with cases frequently dragging on for years, and there is a heavy reliance on witness testimony and very little protection for judges and prosecutors.This means terror cases are hard to prosecute, as extremists are able to intimidate witnesses and lawyers into dropping charges.
Even when militants are locked up, they are often either freed soon afterwards on bail or able to continue their activities from behind bars.Earlier this year, a British man in jail in the garrison city of Rawalpindi for blasphemy was shot by a prison guard radicalized by an extremist prisoner.
In September a judge ordered a prisoner to be hanged over a murder committed in 1996, but the sentence has not yet been carried out.In June last year, Sharif’s newly elected government scrapped the moratorium in a bid to crack down on criminals and Islamist militants.
But two weeks later it announced a further stay of executions after an outcry from rights groups and the then-president Asif Ali Zardari.European Union officials indicated last year that if Pakistan resumed executions, it could jeopardize a highly prized trade deal with the bloc.
An EU rights delegation warned it would be seen as a “major setback” if Pakistan restarted hangings.President Mamnoon Hussain has turned down mercy petitions of eight convicted terrorists after the government lifted the moratorium on death sentences.
The mercy petitions were pending in the presidency since 2012 and today the president rejected these mercy petitions by exercising his powers, a presidential source told a private news channel.
Following rejections of these appeals, orders of executions have been passed onto various prisons for the hanging of the terrorists.
Meanwhile, the Peshawar tragedy has unified the country’s political leadership at the forum of the All Parties’ Conference (APC) held here on Wednesday.The moot was chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan also participated in the conference.
The meeting decided to constitute a committee comprising members from all the political parties, the armed forces and intelligence agencies to deliberate upon the issue.The prime minister said that the committee to be headed by Federal Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan would formulate a plan within seven days to tackle terrorism and it would be presented before the nation.
The top political leadership of the country decided to formulate a national plan to tackle the issue of militancy and rid the nation of the menace of terrorism once and for all.The politicians were in Peshawar on the invitation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to discuss the issue of terrorism in the wake of the gruesome attack on the Army Public School and College in which 141 innocent people, mostly teenaged students, were killed.
They deliberated for five hours at the sprawling Governor’s House and gave suggestions on curbing the growing incidents of terrorism.Prominent among those who attended the meeting were PTI Chairman Imran Khan, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah, Awami National Party Chief Asfandyar Wali, Jamaat-e-Islami head Sirajul Haq, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl’s (JUI-F) Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, who is also a minister of state in the federal government, Qaumi Watan Party Chairman Aftab Ahmad Sherpao, the National Party’s Senator Hasil Bizenjo, Pakistan Muslim League-Q’s Mushahid Hussain Sayed, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Rasheed Godil, former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf of the PPP, lawmaker Ejazul Haq, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan and Chief Minister Pervez Khattak.
While briefing the media on the outcome of the meeting, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that despite their difference of opinion, all the political leaders of the country put their heads together to deliberate upon Tuesday’s horrendous incident at the school in which mostly children were gunned down.
“The moot showed that we are united for the national cause to eliminate terrorism and own the war on terror. The whole leadership condemns the brutal attack in the strongest possible terms. It hurt our feelings and grieved the entire nation,” he said while reading out the resolution adopted by the All Parties’ Conference (APC) here in the aftermath of the tragedy.
The prime minister said after approval, the plan would be implemented in letter and spirit so that the country could be cleared of militants.He said the military operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan was taking place successfully and had achieved great success.To a question, the premier said strengthening the intelligence network was discussed and implementation of laws regarding the execution of the terrorists was also needed.
He said after installation of the new government headed by President Dr Ashraf Ghani in Afghanistan, the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan had agreed not to allow the use of their soil for terrorism and attacks against each other.
To another query, Premier Nawaz Sharif said he had already written to the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan for the formation of a judicial commission to probe the allegation of rigging in the 2013 general elections.
He added the government as well as all the political leadership wanted an amicable solution to the political crisis.
He lauded all the political leaders, including Imran Khan, for showing solidarity over national issues and reiterated his offer to hold a meeting with Imran Khan over a cup of tea. “I have already said that I wanted to visit Imran Khan and meet him over tea or host him,” he reminded the media.
There was also a light moment during the press conference. When Imran Khan said that he would be driving straight to Islamabad to take his spot atop the container to continue his protest sit-in, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif remarked that he would accompany Imran Khan to the container if he did not have to go to the hospital to inquire about the health of the injured children as per his programme.
Senior leaders, including the PPP’s Aitzaz Ahsan, Qamar Zaman Kaira and Sherry Rehman, PML-N’s Raja Zafarul Haq, Pervaiz Rashid, Pir Sabir Shah and Amir Muqam, and PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Jehangir Tareen, also attended the APC.
Prayers were offered at the beginning of the meeting for the victims, including army personnel, who lost their lives in yesterday’s attack.The premier said, “These sacrifices will not go waste and we all want the complete elimination of terrorism from Pakistan.”
“At first, all parties decided that talks should be held with militants but the results were in front of our eyes when several terrorist incidents took place in the country. We again gave negotiations a chance but incidents like the Karachi airport attack took place and the government decided to launch an offensive against the militants,” he noted.
PTI chief Imran Khan also underlined the need of national unity at the critical juncture of its history. He said that he had no difference with the government over the security situation.To a question, he said that he would go straight away to D-Chowk Islamabad, where they would offer funeral prayers in absentia of the Peshawar martyrs.