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PM must challenge Musharraf over torture

16 June 2005

PM must challenge Musharraf over torture

The Prime Minister should challenge Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf over torture, honour killings, and disdain for democracy when she meets him tomorrow.

Mr Musharraf arrives in New Zealand this evening.

"Musharraf is all but a dictator, and the Prime Minister will be betraying the Pakistani people if she doesn't speak out strongly against his shocking human rights record during his visit here," Green Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Keith Locke said.

"It is good for New Zealand to have closer relations with Pakistan, but they must be accompanied by plain speaking on human rights.

"The routine torture of political dissidents in Musharraf's prisons has been condemned around the world, including in US State Department reports. Pakistan's Human Rights Commission estimates 5000 cases of police torture a year, including beating, whipping the soles of feet, and administering electric shocks.

"Miss Clark says she will be discussing counter-terrorism with Mr Musharraf. We ask her not to accept excuses from the President that the 'war on terror' justifies the use of force against prisoners and their detention without trial. The truth is that many ordinary Pakistanis have been terrorised by the country's security forces."

Mr Musharraf had also failed to protect women's rights, and our Prime Minister should relay our disquiet, Mr Locke said.

"At least 1500 women are killed in Pakistan each year for 'dishonouring' their families. Rape victims are discouraged from laying a complaint. Women can even be charged for the crimes of family members.

"Three years ago, a Pakistani woman Mukhtaran Bibi was sentenced to be gang-raped for a crime allegedly committed by her brother. She has now been detained by the Pakistani police because she dared to speak out about her case in the international media.

"It is good that Mr Musharraf is visiting our nuclear-free country, and it gives us the chance to impress upon him the need for Pakistan to extend the thawing relations with India to a discussion about nuclear disarmament. We should tell Mr Musharraf that we see Pakistan's nuclear programme as a threat not only to those living on the subcontinent, but to the whole world," said Mr Locke.

ENDS

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