US highlights deterioration of human rights in Pakistan

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Washington, Mar 12 (UNI) The United States of America has singled out Pakistan as a country where human rights 'worsened' last year, stemming primarily from President Pervez Musharraf's decision to impose a 42-day State of Emergency (SOE), suspend the constitution, and dismiss the Supreme and High Provincial Courts.

''Under the SOE, Musharraf suspended basic civil liberties, including freedom of speech and assembly,'' says the State Department's annual human rights report released here yesterday.

Briefing the press on the report, Acting Assistant Secretary in the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Jonathan Farrar said, ''indeed, in 2007, the countries that captured the headlines were those that regressed in human rights and democracy'' and in this context he mentioned Pakistan.

''Pakistan, under the state of emergency, suspended the constitution and approximately 6,000 opposition political party workers, human rights advocates, lawyers and judges were arrested.

By the end of the year, the state of emergency was rescinded and most detainees released,'' he said.

The report says in December Musharraf lifted the SOE and restored an amended constitution, which enhanced presidential powers. Regulatory restrictions continued on press activities and freedom of assembly.

It says the other major human rights problems that exist in Pakistan included restrictions on citizens' right to change their government, extrajudicial killings, torture, and disappearances.

While the civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces, there were instances when local police acted independently of government authority.

It says ''violence from a low-level secessionist movement in Baluchistan continued.'' UNI XC SBA VP0705

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