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Pakistan: Detainees

Volume 467: debated on Thursday 15 November 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to urge the Pakistani authorities to release all non-violent democracy and human rights activists recently arrested, including the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion and Belief, Ms Asma Jahangir, and the Director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Mr. I. A. Rehman. (163937)

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has made clear in a statement to the House on 7 November 2007, Official Report, columns 130-32, that we condemn the mass detentions of politicians, lawyers and human rights activists, and call for their immediate release. It is vital that the Government of Pakistan act quickly to restore the constitution, hold free and fair elections on schedule, honour the president’s commitment to step down as army chief and lift restrictions on the media.

Our high commission in Islamabad has raised our concern at the highest levels for the welfare and safety of Asma Jahangir, head of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission and UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, I. A. Rehman and all those in detention. Close attention is being paid to their treatment and preparations are under way both bilaterally, and through the EU, to visit or contact as many as possible.

In parallel, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and my noble Friend the Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN, the right hon. Lord Malloch-Brown, met Hina Jilani (Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders) on 8 November to discuss the current situation in Pakistan. They expressed concern about the hundreds of political detainees in Pakistan, including Hina Jilani’s sister, Asma Jahangir.