Amnesty presses Pakistan on rights amid terror row

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Amnesty International urged Pakistan on Monday to tackle human rights violations ahead of a visit to Britain by the country's president, which has become clouded by a diplomatic row over terrorism.

The spat erupted after British Prime Minister David Cameron said last week that Pakistan could not be permitted to "look both ways" in promoting the export of terror while publicly working for stability in the region.

Much of the Taliban-led insurgency in Pakistan is centered in the country's lawless northwest tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, a region branded by Washington as the most dangerous place on Earth.

On the eve of President Asif Ali Zardari's arrival in London Tuesday, Amnesty said the worsening security situation there has left thousands of civilians dead and over a million displaced, and urged Islamabad to take action.

"The conditions are right for Pakistan to show it is serious about political solutions to the human rights violations, poverty, and constitutional rights vacuum in the northwest," said Amnesty Asia-Pacific head Sam Zarifi.

"President Zardari should take this opportunity to answer his critics by announcing specific, major reforms, like the abolition of the Frontier Crimes Regulations that treat northwestern Pakistan like a human rights-free zone."

The Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) is a colonial-era law that applies only to the population of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in the northwest, where the Pakistani police and courts have no jurisdiction.

It advocates collective punishment and restricts electoral rights, Amnesty International said.

Cameron's public denunciation of Pakistan's alleged double-dealing -- made during a visit to Islamabad's arch-foe India -- led some in Pakistan to urge Zardari to cancel his British visit in protest.

London did not temper its criticism, however, and a spokeswoman for Cameron said Monday: "He stands by his remarks."

© 2010 AFP

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