Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Seventh Report

4  PAKISTAN (continued)

252.  The tribal areas have been the focus of Pakistan's recent efforts in the war against terrorism.[339] However, the Pakistani government is also seeking to address the area's developmental needs, in particular by opening up and integrating it by means of infrastructure projects (road-building and communications), improved service provision and job creation efforts. We heard during our visit that Islamabad is seeking financial assistance with these development projects. While in Pakistan, we also learned that efforts are under way to bring a degree of democratic representation to the region.

253.  The situation in the tribal areas is made more urgent by the fact that most of the country's poppy cultivation is located in the tribal areas, which also serve as a transit route for drugs coming from Afghanistan. According to the UN, most processing takes place in "small, mobile laboratories in the Afghan-Pakistan border areas … Opiate processing on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghan border has created a trafficking and, importantly in the case of Pakistan, a drug abuse problem especially since the early 1980s."[340]

254.  We conclude that progress of development efforts in Pakistan's tribal areas has been disappointingly slow. These efforts are critical to successfully addressing the root causes of extremism as well as tackling the drug problem. We recommend that the Government give serious consideration to increasing its support for development efforts in these areas, including financial and administrative assistance.


255.  Pakistan and India have twice gone to war over Kashmir and the issue remains a major source of tension between the two countries.[341] As well as being a potential source of extremism, the conflict over Kashmir is of particular concern given the fact that both Pakistan and India are nuclear powers. In December 2000, India blamed Pakistan for an attack against the Indian Parliament; the incident resulted in the mobilisation of one million troops by India and brought the two nuclear powers to the brink of war until US mediation helped bring about a stand down in 2001. Relations have eased considerably since then with the restoration of diplomatic relations, the restoration of transport links across the 'Line of Control' and the recent tour of Pakistan by the Indian cricket team. The two countries held talks in February 2003 and met for their first formal negotiations on Kashmir in June. It is encouraging that the relationship developed between President Musharraf and former Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has been transferred to the new Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. Nevertheless, fundamental differences remain over Kashmir.

256.  We conclude that the conflict over Kashmir is a potential catalyst for extremism. The conflict is made more serious by the fact that both parties are nuclear powers. However, we welcome the constructive approach being taken by both governments. We recommend that the Government encourage both parties to prioritise their work towards a resolution. We further recommend that the Government ensure that the US remains fully seized of the importance of resolving the Kashmir problem.

Nuclear proliferation

257.  For years, Pakistan denied spreading nuclear technology and claimed that its nuclear arsenal was safe from extremists. However, documents provided by Iran to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in November 2003 exposed a significant procurement network, which some have called a "nuclear Wal-Mart".[342] Notably, the Butler Inquiry praised the work of the intelligence communities in uncovering and dismantling the AQ Khan network.[343]

258.  Discussing the extent of Pakistani proliferation, Dr Gary Samore told us: "Certainly in the case of Libya, Iran and North Korea, there is no question that Pakistan provided significant nuclear weapons systems, although I think there are still some uncertainties about exactly what Iran and North Korea acquired."[344] Dr Samore also mentioned reports that the 'father of the Pakistani nuclear programme', A Q Khan, or his representatives, approached Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria, but that these countries did not pursue the contact. "I think we have to assume that A Q Khan knocked on every door. We may very well learn that he had contacts with other governments in the Middle East but whether anybody actually bought anything, at this point in time, I am not aware."[345]

259.  The revelations about nuclear transfer from Pakistan have prompted concern that nuclear technology could have been passed to terrorist groups. In his speech on the continuing global terror threat on 5 March 2004, the Prime Minister said:

    We knew that Al Qaida sought the capability to use WMD in their attacks. Bin Laden has called it a "duty" to obtain nuclear weapons. His networks have experimented with chemicals and toxins for use in attacks. He received advice from at least two Pakistani scientists on the design of nuclear weapons.[346]

260.  In 2001, two Pakistani nuclear scientists were detained and questioned about links with the Taliban and al Qaeda. They were subsequently cleared of all charges and released in December 2001. Dr Samore told us that:

    As far as I know, there is no information that A Q Khan was in touch with any non-state actors. The package that he was offering was centrifuge designs and components, nuclear weapons designs and some feed material, either natural or low enriched uranium hexafluoride. That package would be of little use to a terrorist group. For a terrorist group to acquire nuclear weapons, they would either need to obtain ready-made weapons or sufficient highly enriched uranium to make a crude nuclear bomb. I am less worried about non-state actors, even if they did get access to the package that A Q Khan was offering.[347]

261.  Under international pressure, Pakistan launched an inquiry into its nuclear scientists, including Dr Khan. On January 23 2004, President Musharraf admitted that individuals in Pakistan's nuclear programme might have profited from an international black market for nuclear technology. However, Pakistan continues to insist that the government never authorised nuclear transactions with any other country. On 4 February 2004, Dr Khan publicly confessed to transferring nuclear technology to Iran, Libya, and North Korea during the 1980s and 1990s. Dr Khan, who received a full pardon from President Musharraf for the offences to which he had confessed, also said that his activities were not authorised by Islamabad. "There was never, ever, any kind of authorisation for these activities by the government. I take full responsibility for my actions and seek [the Pakistani people's] pardon."[348]

262.  In March the Prime Minister expressed confidence that "the A Q Khan network is being shut down, its trade slowly but surely being eliminated".[349] Similarly, the Foreign Secretary expressed his satisfaction that progress is being made in the investigation into proliferation at a press conference during his visit to Pakistan in March 2004.[350]

263.  However, suggestions that the A Q Khan network operated without government knowledge have been met with some scepticism, while President Musharraf's decision to pardon Dr Khan rather than prosecute him has prompted concern that Pakistan is not dealing sufficiently rigorously with the problem of proliferation. The Committee heard from Dr Samore that: "it is very difficult to analyse A Q Khan's activities as an individual scientist and his close coterie of friends acting on a freelance basis. I think it is much more likely that what we are witnessing is proliferation as a matter of state policy".[351]

264.  Nevertheless, Dr Samore is confident about President Musharraf's commitment to tackling proliferation:

    I think that President Musharraf is serious about putting A Q Khan out of business and at least for now controlling any further occurrences, but I do not think we can necessarily be confident that in the future, perhaps under a different leadership, Pakistan might very well judge again that it is in its interests to share this technology. I think it is a matter that requires very close vigilance to try to continue maintaining a political relationship with Pakistan that puts us in a position to influence their decisions.[352]

265.  Moreover, Dr Samore believes that the A Q Khan network was unique and that: "putting it out of business and by uprooting all the individuals and companies that were involved, that by itself will contribute more to strengthening the global regime than any other step you could take."[353]

266.  However, there are clear difficulties in ensuring that Pakistan does not continue to proliferate. Pakistan is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and is therefore under no international obligation to co-operate with IAEA investigations. Moreover, there are limits to what can be achieved by means of pressure. As Dr Samore told us:

    [T]he problem about putting pressure on Pakistan is that it might break. It is a very fragile country. Now it is armed with nuclear weapons. I really think we have to tread very carefully. … I think for now probably our best bet is to try to support President Musharraf as much as we can. That is not a guaranteed strategy. We do not know whether President Musharraf will survive the next attempt on his life. We do not know what kind of government will emerge if he is gunned down.[354]

Indeed, President Musharraf's decision to pardon Dr Khan reflects his limited room for domestic manoeuvre: Dr Khan is a national hero—moves against him prompted popular protests and strikes.[355]

267.  In May, the FCO wrote to us about what it is doing to prevent further proliferation:

    The UK, together with other countries, remains in contact with the Government of Pakistan over the action it is taking to ensure there is no further proliferation of nuclear technology. In particular, we are calling on Pakistan to introduce effective export controls including an end-use control. We are ready to work with Pakistan to develop effective legislation and implementation mechanisms.

    We have also offered assistance with safety and physical security measures for Pakistan's nuclear facilities as foreseen in the Bradshaw Statement of 15 March 2002.

    In addition to our contacts with Pakistan we have put proposals to India to develop cooperation on export controls and nuclear safety, building on India's existing good record of controlling the export of sensitive technology.[356]

268.  Our witnesses also noted the importance of addressing Pakistan's regional concerns as a means of containing the threat of proliferation. Dr Samore told us:

    the more Pakistan feels confident and secure and economically prosperous, the less likely it is that it will feel the need to resort to further transfers of nuclear technology. I completely agree with that…. Although I think we do need to try to integrate Pakistan as much as possible, nonetheless we have to be worried about the possibility that in the future a Pakistani government or a different Pakistani government might decide to trade nuclear assets for other things they feel they need.[357]

However, Dr Samore does not believe that Pakistan can be persuaded to relinquish its nuclear ambitions and sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapons state:

    I think Pakistan believes that it must have a nuclear deterrent to defend itself against a much larger enemy in every way. Even if you sold Pakistan every single conventional weapon on its wish list, I do not believe Pakistan would be willing to give up its nuclear deterrent.[358]

269.  We welcome the Pakistani government's co-operation on proliferation following the alarming revelations about the AQ Khan network. We recommend that the United Kingdom Government continue to work closely with Pakistan to pursue the trail of Dr Khan's proliferation activities and to prevent further proliferation.

Democratisation and Human Rights

270.  We now turn to consider the issue of democracy and President Musharraf's seizure of power. In October 1999, army Chief of Staff General Pervez Musharraf overthrew Prime Minister Nawaz Shariz in a bloodless coup. The national and provincial assemblies were dissolved and the constitution suspended. General Musharraf proclaimed himself Chief Executive, pledging to return power to parliament once he had reduced the corruption associated with the Sharif and Bhutto governments; he appointed himself President nine months after the coup. In April 2002, President Musharraf held a referendum on his role and secured a further five years as president with 98% of the vote on a 70% turnout. Pakistan's political parties, human rights groups and media claimed that there were widespread electoral abuses.[359]

271.  General elections were held in October 2002. However, these were also criticised, with the EU Observation Mission reporting serious misgivings about some aspects of the poll. Its strongest criticism was directed at the restrictions placed on the nomination of candidates, the enactment of legislation aimed at preventing some candidates from standing, the institutionalisation of the role of the army in governing the country, and the apparent departure from a parliamentary form of democracy to a presidential system. The EU Observation Mission considered these to constitute "unjustified interference in the electoral process".[360]

272.  More recently, moves to entrench further the position of the President have prompted concern. In December 2003, the National Assembly passed a bill on constitutional amendments allowing President Musharraf to remain in power until 2007, subject to a vote of confidence, and to remain Army Chief of Staff until the end of 2004. President Musharraf won the vote of confidence on 1 January 2004; he promised not to use his power to dismiss parliament early, but pushed through a bill establishing a National Security Council that enshrines the military's role at the centre of Pakistani politics. The National Security Council will consist of 13 members, four of whom come from the military, the rest being civilian leaders, and will advise the government on matters of importance to the state, including national security.

273.  The army remains the most powerful institution in Pakistan, overshadowing the weak institutions of civilian government and politics.[361] The weakness of the government has been underlined by the powerlessness of the prime minister. Prior to his resignation in June, Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali was widely regarded as weak and ineffective—memorably he referred to President Musharraf as his 'boss'.[362] During our visit to Pakistan, some of those we met were sceptical about the President's pledge to stand down as Chief of Staff. However, others downplayed the importance of the pledge given the institutionalised role of the army in politics. The Committee also heard about serious concerns that the military has stunted the growth of democratic institutions, causing long-term damage to the independence of the judiciary and parliament. The Committee did not hear any suggestions as to how this situation might be reversed.

274.  Pakistan was suspended from the Commonwealth following the coup in 1999. In November 2001, Commonwealth ministers decided that pending further progress towards democracy, Pakistan's status should not change. However, in May 2003, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) welcomed the progress made by Pakistan in setting up democratic institutions, but noted that parliament was deadlocked over the status of the Legal Framework Order (LFO). In September 2003, CMAG linked readmission to the Commonwealth with a constitutional resolution of the LFO and agreed to review Pakistan's suspension at their meeting in Spring 2004.

275.  At its meeting on 21-22 May 2004, CMAG noted the adoption by Parliament of the LFO and welcomed the country's progress restoring democracy, rebuilding democratic institutions and restoring the Constitution. As a result, CMAG decided to readmit Pakistan to the Commonwealth.[363] Nevertheless, CMAG noted "continuing concerns over strengthening the democratic process" and Secretary-General Don McKinnon made it clear that Pakistan's readmission was contingent upon continued progress towards democratisation as well as President Musharraf's adherence to his pledge to stand down as military leader by the end of the year.[364] President Musharraf reacted angrily to these conditions, saying that he would not be dictated to by the Commonwealth: "We will take steps that are in the interests of Pakistan, not of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth should be proud of having a country like Pakistan joining it, therefore we don't accept such conditional ties."[365] Pakistan will remain on the CMAG agenda.

276.  We recognise the progress that Pakistan has made towards restoring democracy and welcome Pakistan's readmission to the Commonwealth. However, we are concerned about the slow progress of democratisation and in particular the dominant role of the army in the country, which we believe is detrimental to the democratic process. We recommend that the Government work with Pakistan to encourage democratic reform, and also provide assistance in institution-building.

277.  There is also concern about the human rights situation in Pakistan. In an open letter sent to President Musharraf in October 2003, Human Rights Watch cited its concerns about the torture and mistreatment of political opponents and journalists, the failure to meet internationally recognised standards of due process and legal discrimination against and mistreatment of women and religious minorities.[366]

278.  We are also concerned about evidence of continuing cases of forced marriage between United Kingdom and Pakistani individuals, although during our visit to Pakistan we heard about important co-operation between the United Kingdom High Commission and the local authorities as well as local non-governmental organisations to address this problem. We were also deeply concerned by what we heard about legal discrimination against religious minorities, bonded labour and the inadequacies of law enforcement and criminal justice capacity and procedure. With regard to women's rights, the application of the hudood ordinances and honour killings are the main problems. Although some work has been done to address these issues, progress is hindered by objections from religious parties. The position of women is worsened by their generally low socio-economic position, which makes them vulnerable to a range of abuses. On a more positive note, we also heard about the effectiveness of international advocacy in addressing such problems.

279.  We conclude that the human rights situation in Pakistan remains unacceptable. We commend the work of the Foreign Office to tackle the problem of forced marriage in Pakistan involving United Kingdom citizens. However, we recommend that the Government encourage Pakistan to adhere to international human rights standards and guarantee the rights of all Pakistani citizens. We further recommend that the Government offer Pakistan assistance in capacity-building and training with regard to law enforcement, the criminal justice system and human rights.

339   See para 235 Back

340   United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Back

341   We commented on the Kashmir dispute in our Second Report of Session 2001-02, HC327, 'British-US Relations', paras 171-74 Back

342   'Nuclear program in Iran tied to Pakistan', Washington Post, 21 December 2003. Back

343   HC (2003-04) 898, para 74. Back

344   Q33 Back

345   Q34 [Samore] Back

346   'PM warms of continuing global terror threat', 5 March 2004, available at: Back

347   Q38 Back

348   'Pakistani who shared secrets is pardoned', 6 February 2004, International Herald TribuneBack

349   'PM warms of continuing global terror threat', 5 March 2004, available at: Back

350   'Straw 'satisfied' after WMD talks', BBC, 4 March 2004. Back

351   Q37 Back

352   Q40 Back

353   Q44 [Samore] Back

354   Q42 Back

355   'Strike held for nuclear scientist', BBC, 6 February 2004. Back

356   Ev 70 Back

357   Q41 [Samore] Back

358   Q46 [Samore] Back

359   'Pakistan national and provincial assembly election, 10 October 2002', European Union Election Observation Mission, Final Report, p 5-6. Back

360   'Pakistan national and provincial assembly election, 10 October 2002', European Union Election Observation Mission, Final Report, p 6-7. Back

361   'Pakistan's future and U.S policy options', Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, March 2004, p 6-8. Back

362   'Pakistan's prime minister resigns', BBC, 26 June 2004. Back

363   'Twenty-third meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on the Harare Declaration (CMAG), Marlborough House, London, 21-22 May 2004, concluding statement', Commonwealth news release, 22 May 2004, p 2. Back

364   'Musharraf defies Commonwealth', The Times, 26 May 2004. Back

365   Ibid Back

366   'Return Pakistan to Civilian Rule', letter to General Pervez Musharraf from Human Rights Watch, 10 October 2003. Back

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