Pakistan’s Ashraf government makes history


Raja Pervez Ashraf (June 2012)PM Raja Pervez Ashraf is facing corruption allegations
BBC

Pakistan‘s PM has hailed as “a victory” for democracy the completion of a full term by an elected government for the first time in the country’s history.

“No-one will be able to harm democracy in future,” Raja Pervez Ashraf said.

An interim government will now be installed until the next election, which is expected to be held in May.

Since Pakistan was founded in 1947, government were often overthrown in coups, toppled by political infighting or end in assassinations or murders.

But overhanging the democratic transition is the continuing militancy and growing sectarian unrest, the BBC’s Mike Wooldridge in Islamabad says.

‘No rivers of milk and honey’”There is a long history of tussle between the democratic and undemocratic forces in Pakistan, but the democratic forces have finally achieved a victory,” Mr Ashraf said in a televised address to the nation.

He added that Pakistan had finally managed to strengthen “the foundations of democracy”.

And admitting that his governing Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) may not have been “able to provide rivers of milk and honey”, the prime minister said it had tried its best to alleviate the country’s problems.

Residents walk through debris after a bombing in Quetta, Pakistan. Photo: February 2013Pakistan continues to be racked by sectarian violence and Taliban insurgency

Mr Ashraf also promised that the forthcoming elections would be free and fair, and said he hoped the parties would reach consensus “amicably” on which of the rival candidates should head the caretaker cabinet.

Pakistan’s parliament was dissolved at midnight local time (19:00) GMT, and the interim administration is expected to be installed in the next few days.

Two opposition parties – led by ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and former cricket star Imran Khan – are expected to present the greatest challenge to the PPP in the elections.

At the same time, Mr Ashraf is facing a corruption investigation over allegations that he took bribes while he was a minister.

Mr Ashraf, who became prime minister after his predecessor was forced out amid a dispute with the judiciary, has been in the job for less than a year.

 

Pakistan’s human rights review: Internet censorship comes under scrutiny


Published: November 3, 2012

Netherlands asks Islamabad to remove restrictions on internet access. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: As part of a review of Pakistan’s human rights standing, the Netherlands has recommended that Pakistan remove restrictions on internet access.

The recommendation is part of a draft report of the UN Human Rights Council working group on the Universal Periodic Review of Pakistan.

In the draft report, released on November 2, the working group has listed this demand along with 163 other recommendations on the country’s rights record.

The video sharing site, YouTube, has been suspended in Pakistan since September 17, 2012.

Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf ordered the ban over a blasphemous movie trailer that incited protests around the world.

It is the fourth time the site has been banned since 2008.

Second review

Pakistan presented its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Report in the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, October 30. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar defended Pakistan’s progress since the last review in 2008. The Review, created in 2006, takes place every four years and is a state-driven process.

Pakistan will have to respond to the recommendations by March 2013 at the 22nd session of the Council. The response will then be included in the outcome report adopted by the Council in that session.

“It is a great opportunity as it is now part of UN Human Rights Council’s recommendations to the government and we can continue to build pressure on the government to do better on net freedom in the country,” said Shahzad Ahmad from Bytes for All (B4A), Pakistan, a human rights organisation that focuses on the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for social justice and development in the country.

Ahmad presented a shadow report along with two UN accredited international NGOs, Association for Progressive Communications and Freedom House.

“This is first time ever that a shadow report on internet rights in Pakistan was submitted and a UN member state picked it up and put it as a recommendation for the government to improve internet rights in the country,” he wrote to The Express Tribune in an email from Geneva.

Internet-based human rights

Netherlands made the recommendation that Pakistan “(r)emove restrictions on accessing internet in the country, which runs counter to the criteria of the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] and the principle of proportionality.”

Internet-based human right issues were not part of Pakistan’s first review in 2008. President Asif Ali Zardari signed the ICCPR in June 2010 and made Pakistan signatory to the law which commits it to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to a fair trial.