LAHORE: (By Yasir Habib Khan)– By-elections remained terror-free as part of deal between government and Taliban over suspension of state executions besides paving a way for winning most of seats by PML-N. More fruits to Nawaz government are on the way if it decides to keep suspended all state executions till the proposed negotiations with defunct Tehreek Taliban Pakistan get a head-start and reach a conclusion selecting options between peace and violence.
Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif and President Asif Ali Zardari were also seen on same page over the strategy during yesterday meeting. Taliaban’s goodwill gesture to appreciate Nawaz’s proposal for peace talks is a major headway to decide future scenario. The US, UK and EU are learnt happy as they prefer peace to execution.
Several convicts, including a number of Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants, were scheduled to be hanged last week but at the eleventh hour Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif halted the capital punishments. Pakistan’s hard-line Sunni groups had warned the government of retaliation if their comrades were executed.
The Taliban distributed pamphlets in the tribal regions of North and South Waziristan bordering Afghanistan where most militant groups are based that “If the prisoners are executed it would amount to a declaration of war on the part of the PML-N’s (ruling party) government,” said the pamphlet.
According to sources, up to 8,000 inmates are believed to languish on death row in dozens of Pakistan’s overcrowded prisons. The state of Pakistani jails jumped to the top of the government’s agenda this month after a jailbreak in the northwestern city of Dera Ismail Khan in which 250 inmates escaped, including Taliban militants.
That attack came a year after a similar mass jailbreak in the northern town of Bannu. Security has been tightened at jails around the country, but there are fears that the Taliban might be plotting similar attacks.
A senior prison official said that four convicted criminals, including two militants from the radical Sunni group Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, had to be hanged at the Sukkur Jail between August 20 and 22. Another senior jail official identified the two as Attaullah alias Qasim and Mohammad Azam alias Sharif. Both were sentenced to death in July 2004 after being found guilty of killing Shia doctor Ali Raza Peerani in Karachi in 2001.
Leaders and purported spokesmen of Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e Jhangvi, and Mujahedeen-e Ansar had warned PML-N leaders to brace themselves for a wider war if Aqeel and the two other militants are executed.
The groups, widely seen as close allies, warned of suicide attacks and assassinations across the country of 180 million people, which is already reeling from militant violence.
Hassan Askari Rizvi, a defense analyst based in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, suggests that the Taliban is feeling confident of pressuring the government after carrying out a string of successful assaults since the administration took office in June. In 2008, the previous administration put in place a moratorium on executions that expired on June 30.
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