Skip to main content

Pakistan: UK Citizens

Volume 692: debated on Thursday 24 May 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether they have raised with the Government of Pakistan the disappearance of certain United Kingdom citizens in Pakistan.

My Lords, our High Commission in Islamabad has raised a number of cases of reported disappearances of United Kingdom nationals with the Government of Pakistan. We will always seek consular access to British nationals who are detained in Pakistan and will make inquiries with the relevant authorities when we are informed of the disappearance of a British national in Pakistan. We would be very concerned in any case where the law enforcement authorities did not use transparent procedures for arrest.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his Answer. Is he aware of the Amnesty International report on the widespread disappearance of Pakistani citizens and British nationals? There were over 200 cases in front of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and the chief justice of the Supreme Court was suspended soon after. Will Her Majesty’s Government make the strongest representations to the Government of Pakistan about British citizens being held in custody, in relation to human rights, the rule of law and democracy in Pakistan?

My Lords, I am of course aware of the Amnesty International report. We have continued to be concerned about and to argue about human rights issues in Pakistan, and we will continue to urge reform on the country. Pakistan would do well to observe the inalienable human rights established by international law and enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan. Nothing will dissuade us in our dealings with the country from urging those issues.

My Lords, has the Minister any information about the reappointment of the United Nations working group on disappearances and whether it has taken on board the Amnesty International report, which was published as long ago as December 2006? Is this not a part of a wider breakdown of the rule of law in Pakistan following the suspension of the Chief Justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry? What help can the international community give in restoring the rule of law and preventing further violence such as that which has taken place in Karachi?

My Lords, the best thing that we can do is to try to ensure that Pakistan has the support of other members of the international community, on the basis of all the bilateral links that we have. The issue is likely to continue to be discussed in the United Nations, the Commonwealth and other fora.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that we fully support the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, in his concern? There have been a number of extremely ugly and tragic cases. I have just had the privilege of meeting the wife of the abducted individual concerned. Does he accept that, at the same time as telling Pakistan that it must seek to adhere to the rule of law much more than it appears to do, we need to work very closely with Pakistan at the moment? It says that we are a breeding ground for terrorism; we say that it is a breeding ground for terrorism. We need to work very closely with each other at the intelligence level to see that the effects of the madrassah schools are mitigated and the effects of some of our extremist operations here are mitigated. Bearing in mind everything that has been said, we should pursue these cases, but in a spirit of wishing to co-operate with Pakistan in these difficult times.

My Lords, I would have chosen the word “co-operate” as well. This is an area in which mutually supportive work is most likely to succeed. It is quite right to place it in the context of saying that our mutual work, particularly on counterterrorism, is of vital interest to both countries. If we were to lose sight of that, I fear that we would place our own people in very much greater danger.

My Lords, will the Government take up two specific cases? The first is Mr Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost, who was released from Guantanamo Bay after three years but who has disappeared in Pakistan. The second is Mr Munir Mengal, the director of the independent Baloch language TV station, who was arrested on 4 April in Karachi. Both have disappeared, and both have had habeas corpus proceedings with no result.

My Lords, the House will appreciate that I am not aware of every case in the detail that the noble Lord has just described. Our consular policy is to provide all of the services that we can to British citizens. I will not give undertakings to start providing services to people who are not British citizens; nor do I suspect that the House would want me to do so.