PESHAWAR, Dec 4: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is in a fix over handling of young suicide bombers, who escape punishment due to their juvenile status, according to Provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain.

“If a young suicide bomber is arrested by law enforcement agencies, the law treats him leniently as he is underage. But he kills innocent people if not arrested,” he said.

The minister was briefing journalists after the 53rd meeting of the provincial cabinet, held on Tuesday to discuss law and order situation in the province. Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti chaired the meeting.

Mr Hussain said that most of the suicide bombers were children as they were below 18. “The provincial government is in trouble as they (young bombers) are not convicted in most of the cases,” he said.

The minister said that a suicide bomber was arrested by police on November 20 and suicide vest was removed from his body in front of cameras of different private television channels. However, he couldn’t be punished as he was only 13-14 years of age, he added.

“It is also a weakness of the government, which has failed to enact proper laws for handling such cases,” the minister said. He requested the judiciary not to treat terrorists like other people when they were arrested with proofs.

According to him, the home secretary told the cabinet meeting that conviction rate of militants was only four per cent.

Inspector General of Police Akhbar Khan Hoti told the cabinet that terrorist attacks on police and politicians were increased while attacks on common people had registered a decrease, the minister said. He added that incidents of terrorism were decreased in the current year as compared to the previous one.

Mr Hussain said that attacks on police were decreased by 49 per cent and on common people by 45 per cent while suicide bombings were decreased by 30 per cent in the current year as compared to the previous year. He said that the law enforcement agencies foiled five out of 17 suicide bombing attempts this year.

The minister said that withdrawal of army from Malakand division was also discussed in the meeting. He said that the cabinet was of the view that there should be a timeframe for withdrawal of army.

“Army has already been withdrawn from Buner and Shangla districts of Malakand division and some parts of Swat. However, there is a need for presence of army in the districts sharing borders with Afghanistan owing to presence of militants in Nuristan and Kunar provinces of the neighbouring country,” he said.

Mr Hussain said that he suggested to the meeting that decision about withdrawal of army from Malakand should be taken by the apex committee. The apex committee is consisted of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor, chief minister and Peshawar corps commander.

The minister said that home secretary told the meeting that withdrawal of Nato forces from Afghanistan would not eliminate militancy in Pakistan. “We have precedence that situation further deteriorated when Russia withdrew from Afghanistan,” he said.

Regarding repatriation of Afghan refugees, the minister said that they should be repatriated with dignity. Everyone living in Pakistan illegally should be expelled, he said.

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