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UNHR condemns deals with militants

world Updated: Jun 28, 2008 10:14 IST
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Criticising peace deals Pakistan government is entering with some militants groups, the United Nations' human rights chief has said they have undermined the state authority in areas controlled by the ultras, leaving local people vulnerable to a range of "serious" rights abuses.

The abuses range from social restrictions to attacks on minorities and extra-judicial killings and girls and women are particularly affected, Louise Arbour said after a three-day visit to Pakistan.

Stressing on the government responsibility to ensure protection of civilians as it pursues various strategies to deal with security threats, Arbour said "we have seen human rights violations in the context of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations, including hundreds of unresolved cases of people disappearing, apparently not of their own free will."

She listed establishing an independent judiciary and protecting human rights while ensuring national security as among the major challenges currently facing Pakistan.

Emphasising that an independent judiciary is fundamental to a functioning democracy, she noted that current judicial crisis in Pakistan following President Pervez Musharraf's sacking of judges during the emergency rule in November last year "centred on the composition of the Supreme Court, risks paralysing the new government's ability to address other critical policy challenges."

She urged the parties to find a solution to the issue as soon as possible. "However, in the process of restoring the Supreme Court judges it will be important not to compromise in any way the court's long term independence and remedial powers," she cautioned.

"I am conscious this is an incredibly challenging period of Pakistan's history, as it attempts to manage its transition to democracy, and balance and stabilise its key state institutions, while simultaneously grappling with global economic difficulties and standing on the front line in the global fight against terrorism," Arbour said.

During the trip her last before stepping down at the end of the month as the UN's top human rights official Arbour met Musharraf, Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi as well as representatives of civil society, UN agencies and the diplomatic community.

She urged the government to drop all outstanding charges against the human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and political activists who were detained during emergency.

Arbour said she was "deeply impressed" by the "historic" mobilisation of Pakistan's civil society including the lawyers' movement, human rights activists, political parties and trade unions in defence of democracy and the rule of law. "This movement has had a transformative effect on people's consciousness of their human rights...," she said.

In addition, she hoped the country's "vibrant and diverse" media will continue to play an important role in holding government accountable to the people. "Taken together, the courage and commitment shown by all these actors give me hope that the country has both the internal resources and resilience to surmount the many major challenges that lie ahead," she stated.

She said she was also encouraged by the Prime Minister's recent announcement that he intends to push for thousands of death sentences to be commuted to life terms.

Arbour urged the government to join the global movement towards a moratorium on the use of the death penalty and, as a first step, to considerably reduce the number of offenses for which capital punishment can be imposed in Pakistan.