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Pakistan Lifts Moratorium On Death Penalty After School Massacre

  • RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has lifted a moratorium on the death penalty in terrorism-related cases, a day after Taliban gunmen massacred 132 schoolchildren and nine teachers in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Sharif approved the abolishment of the moratorium on December 17 as Pakistan began three days of national mourning for the victims of the school massacre and devastated families buried their children.

Sharif also reportedly told a gathering in Peshawar of all parliamentary parties on December 17 that Pakistan "will fight the war against terrorism, keeping in mind the faces of the innocent children" who were killed at their school by terrorists in Peshawar.

Sharif called the meeting in a bid to bring the country's politicians together in a unified effort against terrorism.

Earlier, Sharif pledged to avenge what he called a "national tragedy unleashed by savages,” saying: "These were my children. This is my loss. This is the nation's loss."​

Pakistan imposed a moratorium on implementing the death penalty in 2008 but judges have continued to issue death sentences in some criminal and terrorism cases.

Rather than being executed, those sentenced to death have remained imprisoned on death row for the duration of the moratorium.

International and Pakistani rights groups say about 800 of some 8,000 prisoners currently on death row in Pakistan were convicted on terrorism charges.

WATCH: Malala 'Heatrbroken' At Peshawar Attack

The December 16 attack on the army-run school in Peshawar was one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in Pakistan’s history.

The school teaches boys and girls from both military and civilian families.

Pakistan’s Army said the attack was carried out by seven gunmen, all wearing bomb vests, who systematically went from room to room, shooting pupils and teachers.

In addition to the 141 killed, a total of 125 people were wounded before the attackers were killed.

A Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman who called himself Muhammad Khorasani phoned an RFE/RL Radio Mashaal correspondent and claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in retaliation for Pakistani military operations in nearby tribal areas.

In and around Peshawar, mourners gathered around coffins for the funerals of the victims on December 17 after people across the country staged candlelight vigils overnight.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Army Chief Raheel Sharif was visiting neighboring Afghanistan to discuss how to better coordinate their efforts in the battle against militants who hide along their common border.

WATCH: Peshawar Shuts Down To Honor Victims Of Taliban Attack

Pakistani Army spokesman Asim Bajwa says the military carried out more than 10 air strikes against militants in the nearby Khyber tribal region.

In Britain, Pakistani Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai -- an education campaigner who herself survived an assassination attempt by a Taliban gunman in her native Swat Valley -- said the December 16 massacre demonstrates that it is time for unity between the international community, Pakistani political leaders, "all political parties, and everyone" in the fight against terrorism.

Malala said: "We should make sure that every child gets safe and quality education."

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, "Dawn," "Hurriyet," and Radio Pakistan
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