Death Penalty to Terrorists

 By Sajjad Shaukathang

While fighting a different war with the non-state actors, Pakistan is passing through exceptionally unusual circumstances and the situation warrants clear, bold and firm decisions to deal the menace of terrorism, specially the threat of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its banned affiliated groups. After the 9/11 tragedy, American President, Congress, media and public became one to fight a different war against terrorists.  Even, US changed its laws to institute stringent measures to curb terrorism.

Although various kinds of terror attacks in Pakistan have been conducted by the TTP in the past few years, yet the massacre of 132 school children at Army Public School and College in Peshawar on December 16, 2014 proved Pakistan’s 9/11, as it has given a final wake up call to the nation to unite against these ruthless terrorists.

It is of particular attention that even, the spokesman of the Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), Usama Mehmood and some other militant groups have also condemned the TTP in relation to the massacre of innocent children at Peshawar school.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Raheel Sharif and leaders of various political and religious parties including all the segments of society and the media strongly condemned the heinous attack on children.

The political leadership encouraged by the resolve of public opinion has responded prudently in comprehending the delicacy of the situation cohesively, and  lifted the unconstitutional moratorium on death penalty awarded to the criminals according to law of land.

In this regard, the public was looking towards the Judiciary for playing a supportive and corresponding role in ensuring speedy trials of the hardcore criminals involved in extremism and terrorism. Exertion of pressure over the issue of “death sentences” is unjustified and is illogical in Pakistan where the perpetrators of barbarity generally become emboldened due to “vigilante justice”, and play havoc with the lives of innocent people.

However, after the Peshawar incident, taking note of the strong public reaction against terrorism and dislike for Taliban/TTP elements, on January 2, this year, political and military leaders agreed on a draft of legislative measures which would pave the way for establishment of special military trial courts. The participants also reiterated the commitment for dismantling and destroying all forms of terrorism and terrorist networks operating within the country. It was unanimously resolved that the 20 points enunciated in the All Parties Conference (APC) Resolution of December 24, 2014 shall be acted upon expeditiously—the bill as 22nd (Constitutional) Amendment, will be enforced soon after its approval from the parliament.

Taking cognizance of the school attack, Chief of Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif has himself started supervising the military action against terrorists, and as part of ongoing operations in Waziristan and Khyber Agency, especially the operation, Zarb-e-Azb, several terrorists have been killed during air strikes. Frustrated by their failures, these insurgents are resorting to coward acts like attack on innocent children in Peshawar.

Gen. Raheel stated, “We are extremely saddened, but our resolve has taken new height”, and added “We will continue to go after the inhuman beasts, their facilitators till their final elimination.”

In this respect, Gen. Raheel along with the DG of Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) went to Kabul on December 17, 2014. During his meeting with his Afghan counterpart, President Ashraf Ghani and the ISAF commander, he presented evidence of the Peshawar massacre’s linkage with TTP sanctuaries in Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan. He also asked the extradition of TTP chief Mullah Fazlluah, and handing over to Pakistan. In response, they assured him to take action against the TTP.

In fact, Afghanistan has become a hub of anti-Pakistan activities from where external secret agencies, especially Indian RAW are sending logistic support to Baloch separatist elements and TTP militants in Pakistan. Posing themselves as Pakistani Taliban, these enemies have joined TTP and other banned extremist outfits. In the recent years, especially TTP’s insurgents and its affiliated banned groups conducted many terror-activities in various regions of the country like suicide attacks, ruthless beheadings of tribesmen, assaults on security personnel and prominent figures including Shias, Ahmadis, Sufis, Christians and Sikhs as part of the scheme to create chaotic situation in the country.

In this connection, Pakistan’s religious clerics (Ulema) have condemned the terror attack at Peshawar school, and they must continue to issue joint or separate fatwa against these brutal militants, as from time to time, they have clarified that “killing of innocent people, target killings and suicide bombings including sectarianism are against the spirit of Islam…the terrorists’ self-adopted interpretation of Islam was nothing, but ignorance and digression from the actual teachings of the religion.” Religious elements/groups should keep on checking the activities which are instigating intolerant tendencies.

Nevertheless, there arose the need of immediate execution of outstanding cases of death penalty to terrorists. In this respect, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif revoked the ban on capital punishment in terrorism cases following which some terrorists facing death penalty were executed. But, still a majority of the terrorists were not hanged due to complicated judicial procedure or lack of solid evidence against them, though reality of their criminal acts exists. Therefore, formation of military courts and military trials of the terrorists after approval of the bill—22nd Constitutional Amendment from the parliament is essential at this juncture.

Particularly, media should play its continued mature and positive role in the war against terrorism—in line with the government guidelines. It must avoid national demoralization, as careful reporting by media without glorifying terrorist acts is need of the hour. By ignoring their business interests and differences for the country, media must create a harmonious environment in the country.

Nonetheless, the inhuman gruesome tragedy in Peshawar requires that the government, leaders of the opposition and religious parties, media and general masses including all the segments of society must continue their selfless unity against these ferocious terrorists by supporting Pakistan’s armed forces including law-enforcing and intelligence agencies in striking back these anti-state elements and their sympathizers.







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