HRF Executive Director Back from Pakistan
From December 9 to 14, Human Rights First Executive Director Maureen Byrnes traveled to Pakistan to get a firsthand view of events on the ground. The following statement is her response to the lifting of Pakistan’s State of Emergency on December 15.
None of us should be fooled into believing that things will change with President Musharraf’s recent lifting of the State of Emergency. The coming weeks are crucial. Without concerted pressure from the Bush Administration and other governments now, the fired judges are not going to be reinstated, nor is strict censorship of the media going to be lifted. And the people with whom I met are convinced that as a result of this loss of freedom, the upcoming elections will not be free or fair.
It is amazing that the Bush Administration can characterize what’s happening in Pakistan right now as a good step for the Pakistani people. The lawyers, judges and human rights activists I spoke with last week in Lahore and Islamabad told me they wanted President Bush to make it clear that anything short of the following was unacceptable:
- restoration of an independent judiciary,
- release of all those who were placed in jail or under house arrest during the emergency,
- all restrictions on the press lifted,
and a demonstrated respect for human rights and the rule of law.
Failure to meet these demands, they said, should be met with strong public criticism by President Bush followed by political and financial consequences.
Lifting the emergency meets none of these demands and what does the Bush Administration do? It gives President Musharraf a public pat on the back. Once again President Bush has abandoned the courageous lawyers, judges and activists who are standing up for the rule of law when our own government won’t.