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Prime Minister comments on events in Pakistan

14 November 2007 Media Statement

Prime Minister comments on events in Pakistan

Prime Minister Helen Clark has today expressed grave concern at President Pervez Musharraf’s decision to place Pakistan’s Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto under house arrest again.

Helen Clark said that a heavy police presence surrounding Benazir Bhutto’s home had prevented her from leading a planned protest march from Lahore to Islamabad against the imposition of emergency rule.

“These restrictions on Benzir Bhutto are unacceptable. The New Zealand Government remains deeply concerned by President Musharraf’s actions since he imposed emergency rule on 3 November in Pakistan,” Helen Clark said.

President Musharraf, who is also head of Pakistan’s military, has suspended the constitution, citing what he said were threats posed by Islamic extremism and judicial interference. A number of political opposition figures and senior lawyers have been taken into custody or placed under house arrest.

“The New Zealand Government was also gravely concerned at the detention of Asma Jahangir, the head of the Pakistan Commission for Human Rights and also UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief. She participated in the Alliance of Civilisations Symposium I hosted in Auckland in May, and I have concerns for her safety,” Helen Clark said.

At its extraordinary meeting on 12 November in London, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) issued a strong statement on the situation in Pakistan, outlining a specific set of measures the Government of Pakistan must implement by 22 November. If Pakistan has failed to implement these necessary measures, CMAG will suspend Pakistan from the Commonwealth.

“New Zealand welcomes the strong stance taken by CMAG and will be closely watching what progress President Musharraf makes in the next nine days.

“I intend to discuss New Zealand’s concerns over Pakistan with other leaders at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) on 23 November in Uganda.

“New Zealand wishes to see a full restitution of the constitution, free and fair elections as promised in January 2008, President Musharraf stepping down from his military post, an end to media restrictions, and the release of detainees.

“New Zealand calls on President Musharraf to lift emergency rule immediately, respond to CMAG’s announcement, and return Pakistan to constitutional rule as a matter of urgency.

“New Zealand’s concerns have been clearly conveyed to Pakistan’s Acting High Commissioner, when he was called to a meeting with senior officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade last week. New Zealand will be using every opportunity to add our voice to the growing international opposition to President Musharraf’s actions,” Helen Clark said.

ENDS

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