US says ties with Pak will be affected over reports of disappearances

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Washington, Dec. 30 (ANI): The Obama administration has expressed alarm over reports that thousands of political separatists and captured Taliban insurgents have disappeared into the hands of Pakistan's police and security forces, and that some may have been tortured or killed.

The issue came up in a State Department report to Congress last month that urged Pakistan to address this and other human rights abuses, if it did not want ties with Washington to be affected.

The concern, according to the New York Times, is over a steady stream of accounts from human rights groups that Pakistan's security services have rounded up thousands of people over the past decade, mainly in Balochistan, a vast and restive province far from the fight with the Taliban, and are holding them incommunicado without charges.

Some American officials think that the Pakistanis have used the pretext of war to imprison members of the Baloch nationalist opposition that has fought for generations to separate from Pakistan.

Separately, the report also described concerns that the Pakistani military had killed unarmed members of the Taliban, rather than put them on trial.

"The Pakistani government has made limited progress in advancing human rights and continues to face human rights challenges. There continue to be gross violations of human rights by Pakistani security forces," the NYT quotes the State Department report, as concluding.

"It is very difficult to put numbers on disappearances as they are accompanied by intimidation of the next of kin of the disappeared," said Ali Dayan Hasan, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch in Lahore, Pakistan.

He added: "People are unable to speak publicly. But we can safely say that disappearances are the order of the day across Pakistan, particularly in relation with counter-terrorism."

Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to Washington, said in an e-mail on Wednesday that "the courts and the government are investigating cases of disappearances with a view to establishing the whereabouts of the disappeared persons and the circumstances under which the alleged disappearances took place." (ANI)

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