Human rights in Pakistan worsened in 2007: US HR Report

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Washington, Mar 12 : A human rights report released by the US has said that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's actions last year, like imposition of the 42-day emergency, suspension of the Constitution and dismissal of Supreme Court judges, had resulted in worsening of the human rights situation in the country.

The annual Human Rights Report was released by the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, yesterday.

The report's section devoted on Pakistan said that during 2007, the judiciary sought to check executive power and reverse Musharraf's March decision to suspend the chief justice of the Supreme Court. It said that civil society and the press widely supported the judiciary, and the restored Chief Justice Iftikhar Chowdhary then began a series of "legal interventions" that received some public support but were considered "excessive" by the government.

"When he believed the Supreme Court was about to rule him ineligible for re-election as president, on November 3, General Musharraf declared a state of emergency and suspended the Constitution, which enabled him to replace the Supreme and High Court justices," the Daily Times quoted the report as saying.

It further said that under his new powers, Musharraf suspended basic civil liberties, including freedom of speech and assembly. In December, he lifted the emergency and restored and amended the Constitution, which enhanced his presidential powers.

Regulatory restrictions continued on press activities and freedom of assembly. During the 42 days of the emergency, the government imposed curbs on the media and arrested and/or detained over 6,000 lawyers, judges, political party workers/leaders, and civil society activists. By the end of the year, around one dozen activists, primarily lawyers and judges, remained under house arrest, said the report.

According to it, the government restored public cable access to all but two channels of one private television station, but required the media to sign a code of conduct that discouraged criticism of the government and led to self-censorship.

The report also noted: "Other major human rights problems included restrictions on citizens' right to change their government, extra-judicial killings, torture, and disappearances. Discrimination against religious minorities continued. Child abuse, commercial sexual exploitation of children, discrimination against persons with disabilities, and worker rights also remained concerns."

ANI

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