After Taliban Attack, Pakistani PM Lifts Moratorium on Death Penalty

Mass funerals underway as Pakistanis mourn 142 killed in massacre at military school in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

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Pakistani mourners carry the coffin of a victim of an attack by militants on an army-run school during a funeral ceremony in Peshawar on December 17, 2014.
Pakistani mourners carry the coffin of a victim of an attack by militants on an army-run school during a funeral ceremony in Peshawar on December 17, 2014. Credit: AFP

The Pakistani prime minister lifted a moratorium on the death penalty on Wednesday, a day after Taliban gunmen attacked a school, killing 132 students and ten teachers, a government spokesman said.

Mohiuddin Wani said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had approved the decision of a ministerial committee to life the moratorium.

"It was decided that this moratorium should be lifted. The prime minister approved," he said.

On Wednesday, Pakistanis mourned as mass funerals got underway for those killed the day before in the massacre.

Prayer vigils were held across the nation and in other schools, students spoke of their shock at the carnage in the city of Peshawar, where seven Taliban gunmen, explosives strapped to their bodies, scaled a back wall using a ladder to get into the Army Public School and College in the morning hours on Tuesday.

Students were gunned down and some of the female teachers were burned alive. The attack was the deadliest slaughter of innocents in the country and horrified a nation already weary of unending terrorist assaults. Army commandos fought the Taliban in a day-long battle until the school was cleared and the attackers dead.

The government declared a three-day mourning period, starting Wednesday.

Overnight, the body of the school principal, Tahira Qazi, was found among the debris from the rampage. Her death raised further the earlier reported death toll of 141.

Some of the funerals were held overnight, but most of the 132 children and 10 school staff members killed in the attack were to be buried Wednesday. Another 121 students and three staff members were wounded.

"They finished in minutes what I had lived my whole life for, my son," said laborer Akhtar Hussain, tears streaming down his face as he buried his 14-year-old, Fahad. He said he had worked for years in Dubai to earn a livelihood for his children.

"That innocent one is now gone in the grave, and I can't wait to join him, I can't live anymore," he wailed, banging his fists against his head.

The Taliban said the attack was revenge for a military offensive against their safe havens in the northwest, along the border with Afghanistan, which began in June. Analysts said the school siege showed that even diminished, the militant group still could inflict horrific carnage.

The attack drew swift condemnation from around the world. President Barack Obama said the "terrorists have once again showed their depravity."

Pakistan's teenage Nobel Peace laureate Malala Yousafzai — herself a survivor of a Taliban shooting — said she was "heartbroken" by the bloodshed.

Even Taliban militants in neighboring Afghanistan decried the killing spree, calling it "un-Islamic."

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledged to step up the campaign that — along with U.S. drone strikes — has targeted the militants.

"We will take account of each and every drop of our children's blood," said Sharif, who rushed to Peshawar shortly after the attack to offer support for the victims.

In neighboring India, which has long accused Pakistan of supporting anti-India guerrillas, schools on Wednesday observed two minutes of silence for the Peshawar victims at the urging of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who called the attack "a senseless act of unspeakable brutality."

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