The United States should consider suspending financial aid to Pakistan's internal security forces because of their failure to respect human rights, a leading US think tank said in a report on Wednesday.
The RAND Corp study evaluated US assistance to security forces in Afghanistan, El Salvador, Uzbekistan and Pakistan since the attacks of September 11, 2001, examining whether police performance improved as well as human rights practices.
"The United States should significantly restructure or even withdraw its assistance to repressive regimes if their internal security agencies fail to improve transparency, human rights practices and overall effectiveness," said Seth Jones, one of the lead authors of the study.
In repressive climates, "cooperation might continue, but assistance to law enforcement agencies should stop," Jones said. And "this option should be considered in Pakistan," the think tank said in a statement.
Despite US assistance, Pakistani security forces continue to impose "highly draconian punishments such as home demolition, the seizure of businesses, and the forfeiture of other properties and assets," according to RAND.
"We found little evidence that the United States has paid very much attention to human rights issues in its programmes of security assistance to Pakistan," said Olga Oliker, the other principal author of the report.
"Moreover, there is little evidence of improvement in Pakistan's accountability and human rights practices over the last five years," she added.
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday rejected the report. "Well, this is a report by one think tank. I don't think it is important to dignify this report," said ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam in Islamabad.
"Human rights are important and we attach great importance to the protection and promotion of human rights," she said, adding that human rights violations occur everywhere, "even in the United States."
Human rights "are closely linked with development and as we make progress and move towards a fairer global trade regime, we hope that it would facilitate our effort of promoting human rights in Pakistan," she said.
Of the four countries studied, the aid directed to countries moving from an authoritarian system to democratic reform, such as Afghanistan and El Salvador, "has been more effective in improving their internal security forces than assistance to governments that remain repressive, such as Pakistan and Uzbekistan," the study said.
Countries emerging from conflict provide a window of opportunity to shape new security forces and are more open to advice from outside actors such as the United States or the United Nations, the report said.
As for Uzbekistan, US assistance was "largely unsuccessful in fostering broader reform." RAND recommended improved oversight of the aid effort and curtailing less effective programmes.
Entitled "Securing Tyrants or Fostering Reform," the study was conducted by California-based RAND for the Open Society Institute, a private foundation founded by investor and philanthropist George Soros.