WASHINGTON: Pakistan has made only limited progress in improving human rights with reports of thousands of disappearances despite US pressure on its wartime partner, a State Department report claimed on Thursday.
In a report mandated by the US Congress, the State Department told lawmakers that the United States was vetting units’ human rights as it extends billions of dollars to the country in the war on terror.
The US State Department, in the report completed in late November, said that Pakistan “has made limited progress in advancing human rights and continues to face human rights challenges.”
“The State Department continues to press military and civilian authorities in Pakistan, at the highest levels, to take serious and sustained action to eliminate extrajudicial killings, provide humanitarian access and investigate all cases of disappearances,” it said.
The assessment, which was first reported on Thursday by The New York Times, voiced its concerns about Balochistan’s long-running insurgency. The State Department said that non-governmental organisations “have reported thousands of disappearances, mostly in Balochistan,” with hundreds of cases pending in the courts.
The State Department also pointed to some progress, such as hearings by the Supreme Court into the missing in Balochistan.
Amnesty International, in a report in October, called on Pakistan to investigate the alleged torture and killing of more than 40 political leaders and activists in Balochistan.
Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch said that at least 22 teachers and other education professionals were killed by suspected militants in Balochistan between January 2008 and October 2010.
T Kumar, the international advocacy director of Amnesty International USA, praised the Obama administration for paying greater attention on human rights in Pakistan but said: “Obviously, they can do more.”
Kumar expressed his fear that the Pakistani government may be using its cooperation with the US to cover up its crack downs in other parts of the country, in particular Balochistan. Focusing on human rights, Kumar said, would help lower anti-US sentiment in Pakistan.
“In the long run, you’re going to be the losers by keeping the population resentful,” Kumar said. “Instead you can send a message to the people who live in the area and are against terrorism that the US is not against civilians.”
Pakistan entered a complicated partnership with the United States after the September 11, 2001 attacks, with the US dependant on Pakistan for crucial access to Afghanistan and providing the country with various types of aid.
In diplomatic cables recently released by WikiLeaks, the US embassy in Islamabad said there was credible evidence of abuses by Pakistani forces but hoped to raise the matter quietly so as not to alienate the military.