ISLAMABAD, April 25, (Agencies): Pakistan on Tuesday hanged four militants involved in attacks on civilians, police and troops after they were convicted by the country’s controversial military courts, an army statement said.
It said the four, who were hanged at a prison in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, all belonged to the umbrella militant group Tehreek-e-Taleban Pakistan (TTP).
Pakistan’s powerful army chief last week confirmed death sentences passed by military courts on 30 militants, some of whom were involved in the country’s worst-ever extremist attack.
The assault on a school in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, saw Taleban gunmen slaughter more than 150 people, the majority of them children.
The military courts — in which the army can try civilians on terror charges in secret, despite strong criticism from rights groups — were established in the wake of the 2014 attack, which traumatised a country already grimly accustomed to atrocities.
They were seen as an “exceptional” short-term measure to give the government time to reform the criminal justice system as the military targeted militants in the tribal areas of the northwest.
Security has dramatically improved since then. The law expired in January with the controversial tribunals having hanged 12 people and ordered the executions of 149 more.
But in February a fresh wave of militant violence killed 130 people across the country. Shortly afterwards, parliament voted to extend the courts for another two years.
Figures earlier this month showed 161 executions have been ordered by the courts since they were created and 24 of them have been carried out — not including Tuesday’s hangings.
Pakistan’s army is pledging that the corruption probe of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family will be carried out in a “legal and transparent manner.”
Monday’s army statement comes after the Supreme Court last week ordered the investigation, postponing a decision that could have jeopardized Sharif’s political future. The court acted on petitions dating back to documents leaked in 2016 from a Panama-based law firm, which had disclosed the Sharif family’s offshore wealth.
Military officials are to be part of the court-ordered commission, which has two months to complete the investigation.
The allegations have been a serious blow to Sharif, with opposition parties demanding the premier, in power since 2013, resign over tax evasion and concealing foreign investment.
Sharif has defended his financial record. His family has acknowledged owning offshore businesses.
At least nine people were killed, including women and children, and 13 others injured when a passenger vehicle struck a roadside bomb in Pakistan’s northwest tribal region bordering Afghanistan on Tuesday, officials said.
The blast tore through the heavily-loaded pickup truck in the Godar area of Kurram tribal district early in the morning, according to Irfan Ali, a local administration official in the area.
Hospital officials said that the dead included an infant.
“Among them is a baby and another nine-year-old child. Two women were also killed,” Doctor Mujahid Khan, a senior health official in the district told AFP.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bomb.
The Kurram tribal district is known for sectarian clashes between Sunnis and Shiites, who make up roughly 20 percent of Pakistan’s population of 200 million, and it has also been a stronghold for the Pakistani Taleban as well as its factions.
Parachinar, the district capital, was the location of the first major militant attack in Pakistan in 2017, a marketplace bomb which killed 24 people in January and was claimed by the Pakistani Taleban.
The same group claimed a car bomb attack in the district in March that killed at least 22 people.
The area also continues to suffer from a high casualty rate linked to landmines placed by Soviet forces in Pakistani border towns during their war in Afghanistan that began in 1979 and ended ten years later.
The Soviets planted the bombs as a means of intimidating local populations to prevent them joining an anti-communist uprising across the border.