not to interfere in politics
From Iftikhar Ali
NEW YORK - In a tough new report released Monday, the United States
called on the Pakistani military to refrain from interference in
domestic politics and to open the way for the establishment of fully
functioning democracy in the country.
Although the State Department report, “Supporting Human Rights and
Democracy”, said that Pakistans human rights “remained poor”, it gave
full marks to President Pervez Musharraf-led government for “some
improvements in several areas”, including opening the landscape for
“Opposition parties and civil society are beginning to criticize the
Government and its policies, however, some political opposition leaders
remained in prison or in exile abroad,” the report said.
“The United States believes that the success of Pakistan’s
democratisation efforts is critical to the strength of our long-term
relationship and will positively contribute to its effective
participation in the Global War on terrorism,” the 293-page document, a
follow-up to the annual country reviews released a month ago, said.
The report issued by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Monday, said
constitutional Amendments passed by the Pakistan Government have
strengthened the powers of the President at the expense of the National
“The military remains heavily engaged in politics, and President
Musharraf’s decision to continue as Chief of Army Staff has spurred
political debate. Political parties are generally weak, undemocratic
institutions centred on personalities instead of policies.” The
judiciary is corrupt, inefficient and malleable to political pressure.
Politically motivated prosecutions of opposition figures continue...
Leaders of three major parties remained outside the country, and the
leader of one opposition party in Parliament remained in prison
appealing a conviction for sedition, the report said.
“The United States continued to encourage the Pakistani military to play
an appropriate role in the emerging democratic set-up and to refrain
from interference in domestic politics”, the report said.
“The government has committed that new local elections will be scheduled
for 2005 and national elections to be held no later than 2007 will be
free and fair,” the report said. “The United States will continue to
encourage the government to adhere to this commitment and will provide
However, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights And
Labour Michael Kozak acknowledged that Pakistan was “a really difficult
case,” and chose his words carefully when asked if the F-16 deal was
dependent on additional moves to bolster democracy there.
“I wouldn’t make that linkage right here, right now, but, yes, in a more
general sense, that any country that expects to have good relations with
us needs to pay attention to their human rights,” he told a news
briefing in Washington.
Ms. Rice hammered home the drive for global freedom in presenting the
report. The document vowed to make respect for human rights a test of
its bilateral relations across the world. “In all that lies ahead, our
nation will continue to clarify for other nations the moral choice
between oppression and freedom,” Rice told reporters.
“We will make it clear that, ultimately, success in our relations
depends on the treatment of their own people.” The report issued Monday
illustrated the difficulties facing President George W Bush’s
administration as it tries to square its pro-democracy drive with
political realities across the world.
Pakistan’s neighbour — India — was also criticised for its human rights
record. Despite being a “vibrant democracy” with strong constitutional
protections, the report said, India’s human rights enforcement record
has been “poor” and needed improvement, the State Department said. It
took note of the extra-judicial killings, custodial deaths, excessive
use of force by security forces, torture, poor prison conditions, and
extended pretrial detention. “Combating insurgencies in Jammu and
Kashmir led to arbitrary arrests and disappearances”, the report said.
Dealing with Pakistan, the report said: Despite its increasing freedom,
the media lacks journalistic standards and continues to practice
self-censorship in some areas. Security forces have committed numerous
human rights abuses, including extra-judicial killings and torture.
Societal discrimination and violence against women and religious
The Government has passed new legislation to address honor killings and
to prevent abuse of laws against blasphemy, adultery, and fornication.
Human rights groups remained concerned that perpetrators of honor
crimes, in a limited number of cases, could still be pardoned by the
victim or heirs. Strategies to combat child labour and trafficking in
persons have been accelerated in cooperation with international donors
and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
On the human rights front, the United States continued to work with the
Pakistani Government, civil society institutions, and international
organizations to combat religious discrimination and violence,
trafficking in persons, child labor and legalized discrimination against
women. For example, when opposition leader Javed Hashmi was sentenced in
April for sedition, the United States expressed concern with the closed
nature of proceedings against him, and urged that the case be handled in
a fair and transparent manner. In May, when the Government did not allow
member of the opposition Shahbaz Sharif and brother of deposed former
Prime Minister to enter Pakistan, the United States encouraged the
Government to resolve the matter in a transparent manner, within the
context of Pakistan’s legal system. The United States also urged the
Government to release or charge journalists held in incommunicado
The United States, through USAID is actively engaged in a multi-year
strategy to strengthen Pakistani democratic institutions. Through its
legislative strengthening program, the United States provides training
to national and provincial parliamentarians that strengthens their
secretariats and research capacity; helps to develop a functioning
committee system; and promotes regular dialogue between constituents and
civil society organizations.
During the year, the United States concluded a multi-year assistance
program to civil society organizations. Under this programme, USAID
provided assistance to train leading civil society organizations in
effective advocacy tools and to organize dialogues with the Government
on key policy issues...
The United States continues to advocate for the elimination of
discrimination against women and children...
The United States has continued efforts to combat religious
discrimination in Pakistan. The U.S. Embassy has pressed the Government
to reform discriminatory legislation such as the so-called anti-Ahmadi
laws and has encouraged its efforts to prevent abuse of the blasphemy
laws. United States officials have spoken out against sectarian violence
within the country’s Muslim community and urged the Government to
continue its efforts to dismantle organizations responsible for such
violence. The U.S. Embassy maintains close ties with the Christian,
Ahmadi, Shi’a, and Hindu communities and raised cases of discrimination
and violence against such groups with the Government. In addition, the
Embassy has actively engaged with the country’s religious leadership,
advocating tolerance and promoting President Musharraf’s vision of
enlightened moderation. The United States continued cooperative efforts
with the Government as part of the Global War on Terrorism to apprehend
terrorist suspects and curtail the activities of terrorist groups.
Pakistani law enforcement implicated such groups in sectarian and
extremist violence against religious minorities by arresting a few of
As part of its education programme, USAID assisted the Government in its
reform efforts and in school construction. The Federal Minister of
Education, Javed Ashraf Qazi, vigorously promotes the philosophy of
During the year, the United States established a programme to assist the
Pakistani Government in combating trafficking in persons. This programme
utilizes a three-pronged approach emphasizing prevention, prosecution
and protection of victims. The International Organization for Migration
(IOM) is concluding a U.S.-funded study on the nature and extent of the
trafficking problem in Pakistan and has conducted a series of
awareness-raising activities in collaboration with the Interior Ministry
and local and provincial officials.