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Pakistan

Volume 77: debated on Wednesday 24 April 1985

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20.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Britain's current relations with Pakistan.

Following the statement on Poland a short time ago, is it not obscene that the British Government have a close relationship with the Zia regime, which not only murders and tortures political opponents and trade unionists, but turns a blind eye to the exports of heroin to this country?

I find it quite extraordinary that the hon. Gentleman, who has twice visited Afghanistan at the invitation of the Karmal regime, should speak in such terms about Pakistan, where there are now 3 million refugees who have fled from Afghanistan and who are being looked after as well as they possibly can be by the Pakistan Government. We regularly make known to the Pakistan Government our views and concern about violations of human rights. I visited the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control Centre in Peshawar in January, and I have spoken to Pakistani and United Nations officials there about their attempts to substitute the crops from which opium and then heroin come. I remind the hon. Gentleman that elections have now been held in Pakistan—admittedly under martial law, admittedly on a non-party basis—and that six Ministers lost their seats in those elections. That, for the Opposition, should be quite a good test of progress towards democracy.

My hon. Friend has already referred to the results of the elections in Pakistan. Will he encourage the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown) to encourage his hon. Friends to follow President Zia's example in Afghanistan, and in particular will he tell the House how important it is for the stability of Pakistan to continue in order that the oppression of the Afghan people by the Soviets may be resisted by the will of the people themselves in refugee Pakistan?

I very much endorse what my hon. Friend has just said. It would be very good indeed if the Karmal regime in Kabul would look across the mountains south into Pakistan and take some of the tentative steps towards the restoration of democracy which are now being undertaken by President Zia.

What further representations has the Minister made to Pakistan about opium production and export from Pakistan following the revelations in The Sunday Times a few weeks ago, which appear to be well documented?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that question. It is only fair to say, and I am sure the hon. Gentleman will accept, that the responsible officials in those parts of the Pakistan Administration have, I understand, written to The Sunday Times rebutting many of the details in those articles. The growth of poppies in Pakistan is properly a matter of concern to both sides of this House, and we should all use our efforts to ensure that the crop substitution programme is successful. In fact, the Pakistanis are taking a good lead in trying to achieve that end.