State Dept report on human rights: US will keep pressure on Pakistan for rights
* Musharraf’s decision to keep uniform has stirred political debate
* Army heavily enaged in politics
WASHINGTON: The United States pledged on Monday to press nations such as China and Russia but also US allies like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia over their human rights record.
The third annual US State Department report on “Supporting Human Rights: The US Record 2004-2005” said Islamabad’s human rights record “remained poor.” “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,” it said.
The report said Pakistan’s President General Pervez Musharraf’s government had amended the country’s constitution to strengthen his powers at the expense of the National Assembly and that the military remains heavily engaged in politics. It also cited Musharraf’s decision to continue as the army chief, saying that had stirred political debate.
“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 needed support.”
However, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights And Labour Michael Kozak acknowledged that Pakistan was “a really difficult case” and offered only a lukewarm response 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 said.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hammered home the drive for global freedom in presenting the report. The 293-page 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 journalists.
“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.
It cited how the United States lifted most economic sanctions on Libya and moved to normalise ties after Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi renounced weapons of mass destruction. But at the same time, the report said Libya “remained among the world’s worst violators of human rights” and, for all the promises made by Khadafi to reform, “in reality there has been little change.” The report did provide a response to concerns by critics that Washington would subordinate human rights in China to more strategic goals in dealing with the growing Asian power.
“The United States continues to place a high priority on urging China to bring its human rights practices into compliance with international standards,” the department said. It said the United States was using diplomacy, lobbying and educational programs too loosen up a regime that “continued to suppress political, religious and social groups as well as individuals” considered a threat.
The report said human rights were “a major public diplomacy theme” in dealing with Russia amid concerns that President Vladimir Putin’s regime was backsliding in its commitment to democracy.
“The US human rights and democracy strategy in Russia promotes democratic institutions and processes, a vibrant civil society, fundamental freedoms, rule of law, human rights and anti-trafficking measures,” it said. The department also took key Middle East ally Saudi Arabia to task, saying it still had “serious problems” on the rights front, including arbitrary arrests and abuses of prisoners. agencies