PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan lifted a moratorium on the death penalty Wednesday as the government declared three days of official mourning and grappled with the aftermath of an attack on a school by the Pakistani Taliban that killed 145 people.
The national flag was lowered to half-staff on all official buildings and prayer services were scheduled across the country.
Gen. Raheel Sharif, the country’s army chief, and officials from the provincial government attended a funeral service for the victims at the Corps Headquarters in Peshawar, the volatile northwestern city where the attack took place on Tuesday.
General Sharif later left to visit Kabul, the Afghan capital, for a “special visit,” a Pakistani military spokesman said. General Sharif was accompanied by the Pakistani intelligence chief, Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar. “He will meet Afghanistan president and ISAF commander and will return to Peshawar,” the military said in a statement, referring to the International Security Assistance Force.
All businesses and schools in the city were closed, and long lines of vehicles were backed up on the roads, delayed by security checkpoints and barricades.
Banners expressing solidarity with the victims’ families and condemning the attack were displayed across the city’s main squares. Student organizations were planning to hold candle vigils later in the evening.
A moratorium on the death penalty has been in place since 2008, and governments have been reluctant to lift it, fearing a backlash from the militants. But the attack in Peshawar appears to have altered their thinking.
A team of nine Taliban gunmen stormed the school, the Army Public School and Degree College, on Tuesday, firing randomly, throwing grenades and lining up some students to be executed. Of the 145 fatalities, 132 were students.
The Taliban said the attack had been retaliation for the military’s operation against the group in the North Waziristan tribal region.
Muhammad Khurasani, the Taliban spokesman, said the school had been selected for the attack because it serves predominantly children of military personnel.
“Our shura decided to target these enemies of Islam right in their homes so they can feel the pain of losing their children,” he said.
Salman Masood contributed reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan.
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.
Want something else to read? How about ‘Grievous Censorship’ By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed’s Blog