ISLAMABAD — Pakistan executed seven prisoners Tuesday, including one who had been convicted of taking part in an attack on a U.S. consulate, as part of a broader crackdown on extremism in the wake of last month’s school massacre in Peshawar.
The hangings, which took place in four prisons under conditions of increased security, coincided with the second day of a visit to Pakistan by Secretary of State John Kerry, who had come for talks on counterterrorism cooperation, economic aid and other issues.
Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, Kerry said that just as the United States stood by France in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack, so it would support Pakistan against Islamist extremists, including the Pakistani Taliban, which carried out the Dec. 16 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, killing 150 people, most of them children.
Pakistan lifted a six-year moratorium on executions after that attack. Tuesday’s hangings, which were announced by the office of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, brought to 16 the total number of executions since the assault on the school.
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Human-rights groups say the hangings smack of revenge and have failed to address the root causes of Islamist extremism. The Pakistani military and Sharif’s government insist that capital punishment acts as an effective deterrent.
Some of those executed in the latest wave were convicted for their part in a plot to kill Pervez Musharraf, the former military ruler. One of those hanged Tuesday was convicted for his part in a 2003 assault on the U.S. Consulate in the southern port city of Karachi.
Three others were hanged for their involvement in the 2001 killing of a Defense Ministry official.
“There is no room for terrorism or terrorists in our society, and government is determined not to be at ease till the elimination of the last terrorist from our country,” Sharif said earlier Tuesday while reviewing progress on the “National Action Plan,” a 20-point strategy devised to deal with terrorism in the aftermath of the Peshawar massacre.
Public alarm and anger at the ruthlessness of the Taliban attack in Peshawar have led to new powers handed to the military by lawmakers. Last week, Parliament passed a constitutional amendment that empowers military courts to try suspected insurgents. On Tuesday, the government said the jurisdiction of those courts would be extended to Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir — districts that are administered under special rules, which may allow the courts to operate with a greater degree of secrecy.
Officials say that since the Peshawar school attack, the police have started 164 investigations into hate speech in Punjab province and Islamabad, and have made 157 arrests and closed 40 printing presses.
The United States also ratcheted up pressure on the Pakistani Taliban. On Tuesday, the State Department announced that it had classified the group’s nominal leader, Maulana Fazlullah, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, forbidding American transactions with him and freezing any assets of his that the United States can find. Some Pakistani officials have claimed that Fazlullah was being used as a proxy against Pakistan by Afghan and U.S. officials.
In his remarks in Islamabad, delivered alongside Sartaj Aziz, the adviser to Sharif on national security and foreign affairs, Kerry said he had urged Pakistani officials to also target the Haqqani network, which has carried out many attacks in Afghanistan, and other militant groups with long-standing ties to the Pakistani military.
“Clearly there are sanctuaries,” he said, but added that the United States was “very pleased” at recent Pakistani efforts to diminish those havens.
Aziz said Tuesday that a continuing military operation in the North Waziristan tribal district had “totally destroyed” the Haqqani infrastructure in that area and that the network’s ability to use Pakistan for attacks in Afghanistan had “virtually disappeared.”
But the American assessment of the damage done to the Haqqanni network was more qualified.
“They’ve been disrupted in the course of the North Waziristan operations,” a senior State Department official said Monday night.