Fuel to the fire

As our clear winter skies were shrouded with thick plumes of black smoke rising from the warehouse fire in East London, today further reports of political turmoil emerged from Pakistan amid mounting international pressure on General Musharraf to end the imposed state of emergency, which has engulfed the country for the past nine days.

 

Giving his first press conference since he suspended the constitution, President Musharraf announced that forthcoming elections will go ahead as scheduled. However, he declined to give a date for lifting emergency rule so the questions emerges: how fair could elections be? Despite his insistence that these actions are in the national interest, the past week has seen disturbing scenes of heavy-handed police tactics and the arrests of lawyers, pro-democracy supporters and human rights campaigners; unlikely advocates of rising Islamist extremisim, which has been partly blamed for the emergency rule.

On Friday we wrote about Benezir Bhutto being placed under house arrest. Thats now been lifted but the uneasy power-sharing alliance between the two looks precarious to say the least and there has been a continued curtailing of press freedom, which this weekend culminated in the expulsion of three reporters from The Daily Telegraph after an article deemed as defamatory emerged last Friday. Today reported (at 8.10) that once again Musharraf seems to be reaffirming his status as a military general rather than offering a measured presidential response to rising unrest.

In other news, David Camerons new speech on rape conviction rates has garnered large-scale interest call for tougher sentencing for rapists. Ahead of a speech to the Conservative Womens Organsation conference the opposition leader highlighted what he has termed as a moral decline and justice gap which sees only 5.7% of prosecutions resulting in conviction; well below the average for other European countries. He has also promised greater stability and funding for rape crisis centres. Thats something we at Amnesty have been highlighting since our poll two years ago on attitudes to sexual violence. Part of our Stop Violence Against Women campaign, the results of the poll achieved widespread media coverage.

Look out for coverage for a new Amnesty report on NATO in Afghanistan tomorrow Tuesday 13th November. The report will look into the way troops from NATO-including UK forces-have transferred detainees to the Afghan security services despite them having a record of torture.

Incidentally, no blog tomorrow - we're all in an away day! Lots of powerpoints, brainstorming and planning. It's gonna be great.

(Today's blog from Bibi!)

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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