Prison authorities in Pakistan on Friday were preparing to hang convicted terrorists after the government lifted a six-year moratorium on executions, officials said.
The decision followed the massacre of 135 school children and 12 others by Taliban gunmen at an army-run school in the north-western city of Peshawar.
At least 17 militants convicted in bombings and mass killings would be executed in jails in Rawalpindi, Lahore and Faisalabad in the coming week, prison officials said.
Pakistan had adopted an undeclared moratorium on carrying out death sentences from 2008 to win a trade deal with the European Union. Since then only one hanging has taken place, of a soldier convicted by court-martial.
The Trade Minister, Khurram Khan, said on Wednesday that the decision to lift the ban would not endanger the deal with the 28-nation bloc.
Army Chief, Raheel Sharif, a General, signed death warrants for six militants, a military statement said late Thursday.
The army chief’s signature is the go-ahead for the execution of those sentences by military courts, the statement added..
The statement did not give the six names, but an official told journalists that they included the ringleader of gunmen who attacked the military headquarters in Rawalpindi city.
“His execution is expected on Saturday,” said the official, who asked not to be named.
Prison officials in Central Punjab and Southern Sindh provinces were also making arrangements to execute militants in the next couple of days.
An estimated 8,000 prisoners are on death row across Pakistan, according to the Interior Ministry, and nearly 30 per cent on terrorism charges.
The military also stepped up the offensive after the school attack, with fighter jets and ground troops killing scores of militants in airstrikes and ambushes in Khyber tribal district near Peshawar, officials said.
Intelligence officials and police commandos arrested several people linked with militants in Punjab and south-western Balochistan provinces, Geo television reported.
Reports say people took to the streets for a third day of anger and grief, with several processions condemning Tuesday’s attack, and activists from civil society holding vigils in many cities.