Pakistan military chief signs death warrants for 30 militants

Residents of Karachi hold lighted candles during a ceremony on December 16, 2016, as they pay tribute to victims on the second anniversary of an attack on The Army Public School in the northwestern city of Peshawar Parents of children killed when Taliban gunmen overran a Pakistan school have gathered to mark the second anniversary of the attack, just days after another youngster died from his wounds. More than 150 people -- mostly students -- perished when heavily-armed men raced through the Army Public School in Peshawar on December 16, 2014, firing indiscriminately

Pakistan's powerful army chief has confirmed the death sentences passed by military courts on 30 militants, some of whom were involved in the country's worst-ever extremist attack, authorities said Wednesday.

The military did not give a date for the executions, but when the army chief has given such orders in the past the hangings have usually been carried out within 24-48 hours.

"These terrorists were involved in committing heinous offences relating to terrorism," a military statement said.

It listed a string of offences including a Taliban assault on a school in Peshawar in 2014 in which more than 150 people -- mostly children -- were killed in Pakistan's deadliest-ever such assault.

The statement did not name the militants, specify what role they had played in the attacks, or say who was involved in which assault.

The order came almost three weeks after Pakistan extended for another two years a law allowing military courts to try civilians on terror charges in secret, despite strong criticism from rights groups.

The courts were established in the wake of the Peshawar school attack, which traumatised a country already grimly accustomed to atrocities.

They were seen as an "exceptional" short-term measure put in place to give the government time to reform the criminal justice system -- part of a National Action Plan against extremism as the military targeted militants in the tribal areas of the northwest.

Security has dramatically improved in Pakistan since then. The law expired in January with the controversial tribunals having hanged 12 people and ordered the executions of 149 more.

In February, shortly before parliament voted to extend the courts, a fresh wave of militant violence killed 130 people across the country.