"Terror takes many different forms in Pakistan. Much of it is extrajudicial, much falls between the cracks of the law and much of it is undertaken in the name of the law itself."Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif claimed that there would be no more distinction between "good Taliban and bad Taliban" -- the notorious strategy under which the Pakistani military aligned itself with the “good” militants who undertook operations in Afghanistan and Kashmir while cracking down on those who operated against Pakistan itself. He illustrated this new mood by lifting a 2008 moratorium on the death penalty. A wave of prisoners who had been sitting on death row after being convicted under anti-terrorism legislation have been sent to the hangman, their corpses gruesomely pictured in the national media. Shafqat Hussain had been 14 years old when he allegedly confessed under torture to murder and was sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court. He was due to by hanged on January 14 until granted a stay of execution this week. But many more are expected to be executed over coming months after the passage of a bill of constitutional amendments that extends the categories of civilians who can be tried by military courts. I took a straw poll of lawyers around the High Court, where their black legal robes blended seamlessly with the Raj architecture. The mood was one of strong support for the lifting of the moratorium on the death penalty but anger at the passage of the constitutional amendments. “Strong action is required. These executions will help to protect poor people against the terrorists who have been oppressing them.” But these men had taken part in the Lawyers Movement (otherwise known as the Black Coat Protests) which had led to the eventual overthrow of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf. They had not suffered tear-gassings and baton charges in order to see authority transferred from the judiciary to the military. “These changes are not justice. They are thuggery.” Last year, the Lahore High Court made international headlines after Farzana Iqbal was stoned to death by her family members outside the court in an unofficial "honour killing" for having married without her family's consent. Her father, brother, former fiance and cousin were then sentenced to death by the anti-terrorism court in November for their role in her murder. Initial reports of this case described it as a Romeo and Juliet romance, until it emerged that this particular Romeo had murdered his first wife, but escaped punishment because their son had forgiven him -- grounds for a pardon under Pakistani law. Terror takes many different forms in Pakistan. Much of it is extrajudicial, much falls between the cracks of the law and much of it is undertaken in the name of the law itself. Pakistan's former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was convicted and sentenced to death by the Lahore High Court in 1978. We know Farzana's name and story only because her murder was committed in such a public location. Most such deaths go unrecorded. The same is true of those killed in the conflict between the armed forces and the Taliban, not to mention those killed in US drone attacks. We could not light enough candles to commemorate all those who die anonymous deaths in so many different forms.
Terrorism has many faces in Pakistan
Extrajudicial punishment is meted out with alarming inconsistency in a state torn apart by terrorism.