Despite fears of violence, thousands of Pakistanis in Peshawar are mourning the loss of 149 people – mainly children – killed by the Taliban in an attack on a military-run school.
Men, women and children from Peshawar and other cities on Sunday brought flowers, bouquets, placards, and lighted candles to commemorate those killed in Tuesday’s attack, now dubbed, Pakistan’s “mini 9/11”.
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Residents of Peshawar have begun to rebuild the school but fears have not subsided in the poverty-stricken city where the Christian community has cancelled Christmas celebrations and will just hold a service.
Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Vall, reporting from the area, where education is one of few means out of poverty, quoted local residents as saying they would not succumb to “Taliban provocation”.
“These terrorists are having guns in their hands and they want to impose their agenda on us… They want to snatch the pens from our children and give them weapons, but they will not succeed,” Walayat Khan, a Peshawar resident, told Al Jazeera.
Meanwhile, Chaudhry Nisar, Pakistan’s interior minister, has said that about 300 suspects have been arrested from a suburb of Islamabad, and around 4,000 intelligence-based raids made across Pakistan in the latest crackdown.
He said on Sunday that a joint working group of parliamentary parties would complete its recommendation by Monday evening on the government’s future course of action on “eliminating terrorism”.
Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistani prime minister, has ended a six-year moratorium on the death penalty, reinstating it for terrorism-related cases with the first executions of two fighters on Friday in Punjab.
“Aqil” had been convicted of an attack on the Pakistan army headquarters in Rawalpindi in 2009, while Arshad Mehmood had been sentenced for involvement in a 2003 assassination bid on former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.
Ghulam Sarwar, Zubair Ahmed, Akhlaq Ahmed and Rashid Tipu were hanged on Sunday in the same prison for the attempted assassination.
However, the country’s decision to reinstate executions has been criticised by human rights groups, with the UN also calling for it to reconsider.
Human Rights Watch, the US-based rights monitor, on Saturday termed the executions “a craven politicised reaction to the Peshawar killings”, and demanded that no further hangings be carried out.