HRCP criticises Commonwealth for restoring Pakistan’s membership
LAHORE: The Human Right Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has criticised the Commonwealth decision to restore Pakistan’s membership.
Repression of fundamental freedom and human rights continues in Pakistan, says a report titled ‘State of Democracy in Pakistan’ prepared by HRCP and sent to the Commonwealth Secretariat in London on Monday. The HRCP said the Commonwealth should have monitored the rights situation in Pakistan before restoring the membership. “Rights groups, bar associations and opposition political parties have reservations about the state of democracy in the country,” the report says. “Power transfer from the military to the civil administration is a must to restore democracy, but the constitution has been amended to institutionalise the military’s role,” the report says.
The report says the harassment of opposition leaders including Javed Hashmi, suppression of the press, interference in political affairs and tampering with electoral results were examples of the “continued restraints on basic democratic liberties”. The HRCP said that the prospects of democracy were poor in Pakistan and the Commonwealth had poor information about the state of fundamental freedom in the country.
Rigging in elections, constitutional manipulation, inability of parliament to make laws, absence of an independent and impartial judiciary, harassment of political opponents, intervention in the working of political parties and intimidation of activists and journalists by the government agencies show repression of basic liberties in Pakistan. The decision to restore Pakistan’s membership did not conform to the basic tenets of the organisation. The HRCP report says the Commonwealth’s decision was misguided, politically motivated and undermined its credibility.
The Commonwealth’s decision created an impression that it was driven by a desire to reward President Pervez Musharraf for combating terrorism rather than democratic progress.
“The Commonwealth expects that there will be no deviation from the agreement between the government and the opposition parties in December 2003 and that the separation of the offices of president and chief of army staff will be restored. But the agreement referred to by the Commonwealth was merely between the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, constituting only one-third of the opposition, and Musharraf’s military government. Other opposition parties opposed the LFO and boycotted the vote on constitutional amendments. The Commonwealth’s decision has, therefore, given official endorsement to the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal.” The refusal by the government to set a deadline for Gen Musharraf to resign as the army chief had led to a breakdown in the relationship between the government and MMA, it said.
The HRCP feared Gen Musharraf would continue to carve a permanent army role in the country’s political structure and he would have enormous power even if he quit as army chief.