Previous SectionIndexHome Page


3. Mr. Geraint Davies (Croydon, Central): If he will make a statement on progress towards restoring a democratic Government in Pakistan. [104190]

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Robin Cook): We continue to press General Musharraf for progress towards the restoration of democracy. Last week, Sir Charles Guthrie, Chief of Defence Staff, took a strong message from the Prime Minister to the military regime seeking a route-map to the restoration of democracy. We look to General Musharraf to fulfil his commitment to prepare Pakistan for a civilian, democratic Government.

Mr. Davies: Is my right hon. Friend aware that many in the Pakistani community, particularly in Croydon, are fairly happy about the military coup in Pakistan, which they regard as a necessary condition of getting rid of bad governance and bringing about stability? They also welcome the announcement by the new regime of local government elections. Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming that announcement and, given Britain's wealth of experience in local government, will he give an idea of the support that we might give to enable successful, democratic and blossoming local government in Pakistan?

Mr. Cook: We have already said that we are willing to provide technical assistance to help Pakistan return to a credible and fair form of democracy. It would be welcome if General Musharraf proceeded with his commitment to local democracy, and the Government would be happy to consider any bona fide request for help. At the same time, however, and while we do not call for the restoration of the status quo in the form of the Sharif Government, we cannot condone a military coup. That would not be welcome to our many friends around the world who are determined to retain civilian democratic government.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): Will the Foreign Secretary make it clear to the Government of Pakistan that any attempt to bring the former Prime Minister to trial will be viewed with great suspicion and dismay? When the matter is next discussed by Commonwealth heads of Government, will the right hon. Gentleman make the point to some of them--for example, Mr. Mugabe of Zimbabwe--that if they put their own houses in order, they would have much more plausibility on this matter?

Mr. Cook: We would all deplore a show trial of the former Prime Minister. Mr. Sharif and others are, of course, covered by the law, and they can therefore be fairly brought to court if they have committed a bona fide breach of the law. The circumstances around the abandonment of the first attempt at a trial of Mr. Sharif were of some concern, and we shall continue to press

18 Jan 2000 : Column 673

Mr. Musharraf's Government fully to recognise the rights of the former Prime Minister and the others on trial with him.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley): We all want a return to democracy in Pakistan as soon as possible, and the previous Government of Pakistan were not acceptable and had many failings. What steps has General Musharraf announced to ensure a return to normality? What support can we give to ensure that that objective is achieved as quickly as possible?

Mr. Cook: We very much welcome General Musharraf's repeated commitments to a return to democracy and his specific commitment to local elections. We await with keen anticipation the details of how and when those commitments will be fulfilled. General Sir Charles Guthrie went to Pakistan last week and pressed the Government to produce both a route to democracy and a date by which we might expect some of the announced measures to occur. We await the return of democracy, both on the map and the calendar, and I hope that General Musharraf will meet his own commitment in the near future.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife): May I undertake to pass on the Foreign Secretary's invitation to my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes)? Do we not need real and credible evidence of measurable progress in the restoration of democratic government to Pakistan and in the recognition of human rights before there can be any question of our raising the suspension of arms sales to that country? Should not similar principles lie behind our relations with other countries, particularly East Timor? What evidence is there of the achievement of stability, democratic government and universal recognition of human rights in that country?

Mr. Cook: East Timor is entirely administered by the United Nations and a security force is present to ensure that stability is maintained. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman intended to refer to Indonesia, I am happy to respond in that spirit. There has been progress towards a democratic Government in that country, including election of the first democratically chosen president and appointment of the first human rights minister, who, because of what he has said in the past on human rights, has some credibility. The Indonesian Cabinet is also a genuine attempt at achieving a better balance of representation across Indonesia.

It is early days yet, and we shall continue closely to review the situation. In Brussels last week, we made it clear that if there were a return to the kind of episodes seen in East Timor, there would be a case for reconsidering the arms embargo. I stress that it is not the case, as has been suggested, that there are no limits on arms sales to Indonesia. As before, any sale will be judged fully against our criteria, and we approved only £2 million worth of licences for new equipment last year.

Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley): When my right hon. Friend holds discussions with the Pakistani Government on the return to democracy in that country, will he also

18 Jan 2000 : Column 674

have a word about the human rights of women, especially in regard to last year's Amnesty International report on so-called "honour killings"?

Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend makes an important point. We have reflected on the honour killings in several representations that we made to Pakistan under its previous regime, and for some time. It will continue to be a major issue of concern in our dealings with that country.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): Is not the sad truth that, whether Pakistan's Government have been military or democratic, it has been one of the most corrupt countries in the world? It has been linked, as a state sponsor, to terrorism in Kashmir; it is a source of the drugs trade, as well as being a route for the hard drugs trade in this country; it has co-operated with North Korea on missile and nuclear technology; and it has been prey to Islamic extremism.

Set against that, the coming or going of a military Government in Pakistan is perhaps less important than it would be elsewhere. Should not the policy of our Government be more determined by those very serious factors, which affect our interests as well as those of our partners and allies, before we deal with the nature of the Government of Pakistan? Surely, those fundamental problems of Pakistan must be sorted out first.

Mr. Cook: The hon. Gentleman raises a number of very important issues, which are indeed of concern to the Government. However, in many cases, the conduct of the Pakistan military has been much at the forefront of matters of concern. A military regime is not more likely to address those concerns than were past Governments.

As for the visit last week, I report to the hon. Gentleman and to the House that we did make a particular point of including in our message that we expect Pakistan to abide by its international obligations to fight international terrorism. We shall watch events closely in the coming months.

Drugs Trade

4. Mr. Frank Roy (Motherwell and Wishaw): What action his Department has taken to combat the drugs trade, with particular reference to Latin America. [104191]

10. Mr. Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe and Sale, East): What recent discussion he has had with the US Government with regard to the drugs trade involving Colombia. [104197]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Keith Vaz): The Foreign Office co-ordinates the United Kingdom's international counter-drugs activities. We attach importance to the effective engagement of all Departments and agencies concerned--including the intelligence agencies--in combating the drugs trade. During the financial year 1998-99, the Foreign Office spent £5.9 million on projects in support of the UK drugs strategy. On 5 January, we announced a contribution of £2.286 million towards projects under the

18 Jan 2000 : Column 675

United Nations international drug control programme concerning Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Romania and Macedonia.

Mr. Roy: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that banks should do everything in their power to reveal where the criminal elements--the drugs barons of Latin America and, indeed, throughout the world--stow their criminal money? Will he support moves to ensure that off-shore tax havens are far more transparent?

Mr. Vaz: I agree with my hon. Friend. I assure him that the UK, in all dealings and discussions with our colleagues abroad, ensures that the issue is raised. We believe that there should be transparency and international co-operation, and that those who profit from illegal trafficking of drugs ought to be exposed. That is why we are leading members of the global programme on trafficking and of the financial action task force on money laundering. We believe that that is the only way to combat the hiding of the proceeds of crime.

Mr. Goggins: Last Tuesday, President Clinton announced a $1.3 billion aid programme for Colombia--most of it military aid. Although effective action on drugs is essential, does my hon. Friend agree that military aid alone is not enough? Will he encourage the United States to work with the Colombian Government to strengthen human rights in Colombia, and to secure the peace that alone can defeat the drugs barons whose filthy money currently funds the civil war in that country?

Mr. Vaz: I know of my hon. Friend's interest in these matters and that he visited Colombia last year. He is absolutely right. We should give as much support as possible to the Government of President Pastrana. We are giving support: we are giving advice and assistance on conflict prevention and helping the Colombians to deal with those who traffic in drugs. We shall continue that support on our own, and also bilaterally with other countries that share our view.

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): On reflection, does the Minister agree that it was a mistake to cut the role of the Royal Navy's West Indies guardship in the Caribbean, especially remembering that only last November the crew of HMS Northumberland was responsible for recovering cocaine with a street value of £135 million? Would not restoring the guardship for the full 12 months of the year be a cost-effective way of playing our part in tackling drug trafficking?

Mr. Vaz: There are many ways in which we play a part in ensuring that drug trafficking is kept under control--for example, in preventing the inflow of drugs to this country. Last year, Customs and Excise seized 2,800 kg of cocaine. This is not just a matter for the Foreign Office. We need to work with all the agencies involved in this country and abroad to ensure that the practice is dealt with as effectively as possible.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): I appreciate the work that is being done to try to combat the pernicious traffic in drugs. What success has been achieved in the

18 Jan 2000 : Column 676

banking world or with other Governments in curbing numbered bank accounts, which create one of the great difficulties in tracking drug traffickers?

Mr. Vaz: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. That problem goes to the root of what we need to do on the various bodies, such as the global programme on money laundering, on which we sit. We need to ensure that there is transparency and accountability. The only way that we can achieve that is to work with financial institutions and other countries to ensure that that happens.

Next Section

IndexHome Page