Musharraf visit: Pakistan on brink of 'political catastrophe', says Amnesty

Human rights violations are undermining prospect of free and fair elections

Amnesty International delivered a stark warning to Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf today (25 January 2008), stating that the country was on the brink of “political catastrophe”. Musharraf begins a four-day visit to the UK today, which is set to culminate with a meeting with Gordon Brown on Monday.

Pakistan is due to hold elections on 18 February, however, an Amnesty International delegation, which spent the last month in the country, has uncovered a worsening human rights crisis despite the lifting of the State of Emergency last month.

The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that Amnesty International believes it represents a serious threat to the political process in Pakistan.

Amnesty International UK’s Director, Kate Allen, said:

“In recent months thousands of people have been detained without trial – lawyers, journalists and human rights activists among them. Torture and ill-treatment remains common place. The judiciary system has been seriously undermined. Against this backdrop, how can Pakistan have free and fair elections?

"Amnesty International has collected a wealth of evidence of human rights violations and the breakdown of rule of law, which are sowing the seeds of a political catastrophe, with devastating consequences for ordinary people.”

President Musharraf has spent the week traveling around Europe meeting political and business leaders – and is due to meet Gordon Brown on Monday.

"Gordon Brown must take this opportunity to demand that Musharraf’s government bring to an end the human rights violations that have characterised the recent period of Pakistan's history, including by immediately restoring the independence of the judiciary.”

Amnesty International is urging the Government of Pakistan to:

  • end arbitrary arrests and detentions, enforced disappearances, and ill-treatment, politically-motivated criminal prosecutions, civil proceedings against or harassment of politicians, human rights defenders, journalists and media workers, and other members of civil society
  • stop the use of "blind First Information Reports" – police complaints in which the suspect is unidentified – a practice which allows the government to harass and detain political opponents
  • restore the independence of the judiciary by returning to service all judges removed during emergency rule
  • respect the right to freedom of expression and information, and the right to peaceful assembly. At rallies or other mass gatherings law enforcement officials must comply with international standards, and in particular should not use force unless strictly necessary and only to the minimum extent required
  • conduct full and independent investigations into political assassinations, including that of Benazir Bhutto, and other unlawful killings and suicide attacks, and make public the findings

Kate Allen added:

"The international community must give a clear and unequivocal message to President Musharraf that restoring respect for human rights and the rule of law is key to establishing confidence in the forthcoming elections and arresting the spate of political violence in Pakistan.”

Amnesty International will be holding a demonstration outside Downing Street tomorrow (Saturday) to voice their concerns over the ongoing human rights violations in Pakistan.

Find out more about the demonstration on Saturday 26 January

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