Saturday, March 26, 2005

World Sindi Institute presses for human rights in Pakistan

The World Sindhi Institute (WSI) has sent a letter to Condoleeza
Rice, the U.S. Secretary of State, urging the State Department to
reconsider its recent support of Musharraf's decision to continue as
Army Chief. Citing the lack of democratic freedoms and the
prevalence of gross human rights violations, WSI urged the State
Department to press the Musharraf regime for true reforms.
Secretary Rice visited Pakistan in a recent tour of Asia.

A copy of the letter is provided below.

March 25, 2005

The Honorable Condoleeza Rice
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Rice,

On behalf of the world Sindhi community (historically from the
region of Sindh, a province of Pakistan), and the World Sindhi
Institute, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you
on your recent appointment as Secretary of State. We wish you the
best of luck in your new position, and look forward to positive
changes in troubled areas of the world. With peace and security
increasingly important in global affairs, we ask for your attention
on the most pressing issues in Pakistan.

You recently commented that the U.S. government would not pressure
Musharraf to step down as army chief and effectively end his rule as
military dictator. This statement sends a negative message to the
Pakistani people – that the United States does not support
democracy in Pakistan. We ask you to support the rights of the
Pakistani people by demonstrating your continued support for and
commitment to a democratic Pakistan and promoting honorable human
rights practices. We urge you to reconsider this decision.

Secondly, we urge you to increase your level of support for human
rights in Pakistan. Extra-judicial killings, domestic abuse,
military brutality, police torture, rape, killings, and
disappearances are common, particularly in Sindh. All of these
instances of human rights violations are well documented by the
State Department, and we ask for your continued support and advocacy
to bring justice to the people of Pakistan. In particular, the
United States must press the Musharraf regime to denounce acts of
Violence Against Women (VAW). It must also ensure that such cases
are brought forth to the Pakistani judicial system, and that women
are not victimized by the legal process. The recent case of Dr.
Shazia Khalid has gained national press attention in recent months,
and justice has hardly been realized. She fled the country last
week in response to inaction and threats of violence. Her case is
but one example of the inability and unwillingness of the Pakistani
government to properly investigate cases of VAW and to bring them to
trial. Incidences of rape committed by the military, and within
Pakistani society as a whole, will continue until the U.S. no longer
tolerates corrupt leadership within the government, and holds it
accountable for fully prosecuting cases of VAW in Pakistan.

As regards the nuclear issue, the United States must continue to
monitor nuclear activity in Pakistan, and ensure that adequate
funding is allocated to perform such a task. The volatility and
instability of many South Asian governments creates an environment
ripe for nuclear proliferation, as the case of Dr. A.Q. Khan
demonstrates. The United States must remain focused on Pakistan and
ensure that nuclear devices, technology and expertise stay out of
the hands of those who may use them for destructive purposes.

We also ask that U.S. funds be denied to water projects along the
Indus River in Pakistan, in particular, the Kalabagh Dam and Thal
Canal. Dams and canals along the Indus have already had a
detrimental effect on Sindh, environmentally, socially and
economically. Additional projects will only worsen conditions. The
State Department must ensure that the Pakistani government does not
use U.S. funds to destroy the natural environment and the indigenous
people that occupy it.

We respectfully request the following of you, Dr Rice: Carefully
review U.S. policy towards Pakistan and its military ruler, and
offer support to the truly democratic movements that do exist,
however suppressed, in Pakistan. Authentic democratic movements,
particularly of the peace-loving and oppressed Sindhi, Baloch,
Serraiki and Pakhtun people, exist throughout the country – but
are stifled by authoritarian and unrepresentative regulations and
limited resources. Ongoing support of President Musharraf and his
military dictatorship, which shelters many of the terrorists that
the U.S. currently seeks, poses a serious threat to the United
States, Pakistan, and, indeed, the entire world. Your continued
support of democracy as well as human rights is of great importance,
and we urge you to answer its call in Pakistan.

I appreciate your time and consideration. My colleagues and I would
be available to meet with you and/or your assistants to further this
discussion. I may be contacted directly at 202-637-324/3245.

Sincerely yours,

Munawar Laghari
Executive Director
World Sindhi Institute
733 15th Street, NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202-637-3244/3245
Fax: 202-637-3246



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