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22 Dec, 2014 13:11

Pakistan to execute 500 convicted terrorists 'within weeks'

Pakistan to execute 500 convicted terrorists 'within weeks'

Some 500 terror-related convicts are due to be executed in the coming weeks, according to Pakistan’s officials. There are an estimated 3,000 convicted terrorists in the country, and all could put to death after the recent attack at a Peshawar school.

“The Interior Ministry has cleared these prisoners for execution and their clemency appeals have already been rejected by the president,” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters in Islamabad on Sunday.

The minister also revealed that the decision to lift the moratorium on the death penalty was made in principle even before last week’s attack on a Peshawar school, which left 149 people dead, including 133 children, sparking widespread public outrage in Pakistan.

A man places a rose after lighting candles in front of portraits of the victims of the Taliban attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, during a candlelight vigil in Lahore December 19, 2014. (Reuters/Mohsin Raza)

“Army chief General Raheel Sharif had taken up the issue [of capital punishment] with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif before the Peshawar tragedy,” Nisar specified.

“The experts’ group will most probably give its recommendations to the NAPC on Monday,” he said. “The panel will then discuss the plan in the evening.”

On Tuesday, Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership is set to discuss its counter-terrorism strategy, prepared by the experts of the National Action Plan Committee (NAPC), and then the army will be tasked to implement the plan.

Nisar said that the Pakistan Army “has never targeted the families and children of militants.”

“If our aim was to target civilians, we could have wiped out Miramshah [town and administrative headquarters of the North Waziristan Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan] where both militants and civilians live side by side – with a couple of airstrikes,” the minister said. “But we do not target non-combatants.”

“In Pakistan, militants and their sympathizers look like us and live among us. It is an internal war for us,” Nisar added, urging the nation “to stand up and join the fight.”

Nisar acknowledged that Pakistan authorities are well aware of intelligence reports warning that mass executions of terrorists will inevitably increase the risk of terror attacks in the country.

“But we should not let our guard down if we want to avenge the victims of the Peshawar attack… we are in a state of war,” Nisar said, adding: “We will win this war.”

People hold funeral prayers for the victims of the Taliban attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, at the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, December 17, 2014. (Reuters/Mohsin Raza)

READ MORE: Pakistan starts hanging militants in revenge for school massacre

Pakistan imposed a moratorium on capital punishment in 2008, but after the massacre by militants in Peshawar, PM Sharif reinstituted the death penalty.

So far six convicts have been executed following the lifting of the moratorium. The latest four, executed this weekend, included Russian citizen Akhlas Akhlaq. All four had been convicted of attempting to assassinate former President Pervez Musharraf.

Pakistani federal government and authorities in the country’s four provinces have drawn up lists of convicted terrorists to be sent to the gallows soon. Preliminary estimates have put the number of terrorists awaiting execution at more than 3,000.

The seven-year Taliban insurgency in Pakistan has claimed more than 60,000 lives, according to Australian newspaper The Age.