|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
The Government's aims and role are fourfold. The first priority is to ensure that the circumstances of Mrs. Bhutto's death are properly established. A five-member
UK police team arrived in Pakistan at the end of last week and has begun work in support of Pakistani colleagues.
The second priority is to promote free and fair elections. The delay in the elections as a result of the assassination is regrettable but the period between now and 18 February needs to be used to build confidence in the democratic process. When I spoke to the House on 7 November, I made clear my conviction that democracy and the rule of law were allies of stability and development in Pakistan. Since then, President Musharraf has retired from the military. He has lifted the state of emergency. Almost all political prisoners have been released and most media restrictions have been rescinded. But more needs to be done, and we have continued to stress the Pakistani Government's responsibility to create a level playing field under which credible and transparent elections can take place. This means that all remaining political detainees need to be released and the remaining restrictions on the media must be lifted.
In my last telephone call with Mrs. Bhutto on 9 December, I pledged that the UK would work on the details of the election process. In recent days, the Prime Minister has discussed the elections on three separate occasions with President Musharraf. I have also spoken to interim Pakistani Foreign Minister ul-Haque. We continue to call on the Government of Pakistan to improve the prospects for credible elections, particularly by increasing transparency, both now and on election day itself. This includes setting out clearly and early where all of the approximately 54,000 polling stations will be, posting the results for each station publicly immediately after the count and ensuring that the media's ability to report is untrammelled.
I am glad that the EU is now working to put together a full-scale election observation mission. I understand that the American International Republican Institute mission may also be reinstated. I believe that the Commonwealth can make an important, positive contribution and I hope that Pakistan will decide to invite an observer mission.
Our third priority is further to improve counter-terrorism co-operation. The deadly attack on Benazir Bhutto shows terrorism to be a threat to Pakistan, not just to the west. Over the last year, hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in shootings and suicide bomb attacks in that country. We have reiterated the UK Government's commitment to build on the already significant counter-terrorism support that we provide to Pakistan. A team of cross-Government UK experts will travel to Pakistan next week for further consultations. This will be a precursor to a further British visit to deepen our counter-terrorism relationship.
Fourthly, we are determined to ensure that British citizens of Pakistani heritage and Pakistanis resident in the United Kingdom are informed about developments and engaged in the drive to build a decent society in Pakistan. I met some of their community leaders earlier today. Although the next five weeks are important, so are the next five years and beyond, and economic, social and political development in Pakistan need to proceed hand in hand, with international support.
Kenya provided the second crisis of the new year break. When President Kibaki won the presidency in 2002, it was hailed as the most free and fair election
Kenya had seen. Daniel Arap Moi's party accepted the result and ceded power. Tribal and ethnic divisions were overcome as the population rallied behind the new Government. It was a moment of great optimism. It is a marked contrast with the situation that has unfolded since the election on 27 December. I know I speak for the entire House in condemning the appalling post-election violence in Kenya, particularly the brutal killing of Kikuyu women and children in the church near Eldoret on 1 January.
Let me deal with the three issues that have preoccupied the Government and indeed the whole international community over the last week: violence and the resulting humanitarian crisis; the elections; and mediation. I have arranged for the nine statements put out by myself, the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for International Development over the last week to be deposited in a single file in the Library. I have spoken to our high commissioner in the last hour and I can confirm that his view is that of the media reports: that the urban violence of the middle of last week has subsided. That is obviously welcome, but the reporting from rural areas suggests that there are up to 250,000 refugees, and there is the potential for violence to erupt again. That is why since 2 January our travel advice, along with other countries, has advised against non-essential travel to Kenya. That advice will remain in place until the security and political situation is clarified. We are advising Britons in Kenya to exercise extreme caution, to remain indoors in the affected areas, and to seek local advice, from the tour operators or local authorities, if they need to travel.
The humanitarian crisis we have seen unfolding on our television screens is due entirely to the post-election violence. The UN, World Food Programme and Red Cross are leading the international effort. The Department for International Development is monitoring the situation closely and has had a team on the ground in western Kenya. A £1 million contribution to the Red Cross was announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development last week, and it has helped to provide shelter for those displaced and to facilitate major food shipments from Mombasa, which took place over the weekend. DFID stands ready to provide more assistance if it is needed.
In respect of the election itself, millions of Kenyans queued for hours, peacefully and with dignity, to cast their votes for parliamentary and presidential candidates after a relatively calm election campaign. It is vital not just for Kenya, but for the whole of Africa with important elections over the next 18 months, that the democratic process works and is seen to work. However, the counting of votes in the presidential election, and particularly the reporting of votes from local to regional and then national centres, has, according to reliable European Union observation, been plagued by irregularity. Those irregularities stand in the way of the formation of a stable Kenyan Government who would have the confidence of their own people and the international community.
All allegations of fraud need to be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice. That requires due legal process, but there is also a need for political mediation. Individual acts of fraud are reprehensible, but there is a deeper issue. Whatever the actual result,
the country was deeply split. Kenya needs the diversity of its views to be respected, but the presidential system is designed to concentrate power when Kenyas immediate and medium-term future requires the sharing of power.
Kenyas political leaders must be willing to make the necessary compromises to find a way forward. They are more likely to do so with external help. That is why at the heart of all our conversationswith Kenyan, African, EU, Commonwealth, US and UN partnershas been the need for a credible mediation process. I am pleased that President Kufuor of Ghana, the current chairman of the African Union, is due to arrive in Kenya soon, and he will do so with our full support. He needs Kenyan leaders ready to engage. On 2 January Condoleezza Rice and I called for a spirit of compromise from those leaders. If they fail to compromise, they will forfeit the confidence, good will and support of their own people and the international community. The stakes are high for the Kenyan people, and we will remain fully engaged on the political and consular track.
May I conclude by thanking staff in the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development, in-country and in London, for their outstanding consular and political work around the clock in the very trying circumstances of the last 10 days? Their work is far from done, but both countries are better off for their engagement, and they deserve the thanks of the House.
Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks) (Con): I thank the Foreign Secretary for taking the earliest opportunity to make a statement on the situation in these two countries, as we requested last week. In both cases a flawed democratic process has given rise to tragedy, but in both cases democratically elected leaders and democratically enshrined institutions are the best hope for overcoming extremism, instability and corruption.
I echo what the Foreign Secretary said about the horror with which we have greeted the butchery of innocent people, including children, in the aftermath of the Kenyan elections. The result of that ethnic strife in the case of Kenya is a humanitarian tragedy, and providing urgent assistance to the 250,000 displaced both within Kenya and across its borders must be at the forefront of our concerns. On that subject, the Conservatives welcome DFIDs contribution of £1 million to the Kenyan Red Cross. Will the Foreign Secretary tell the House what is his latest assessment of the relief effort? How is that being evaluated? Given that the medical charity Merlin yesterday warned that Kenya faces a health crisis within days as dangerously low supplies of food and water are putting many people at risk of infection and dehydration, is it likely that international aid will need to be increased?
Is the Foreign Secretary confident that aid convoys are able to move freely and to reach those most in need, and that they themselves will not be vulnerable to attack? What representations have been made to the Government of Kenya about the need to protect and safeguard the people driven from their homes, and does he have any information about the number of refugees now in neighbouring countries such as Uganda, and the extent of their needs?
On the political crisis in Kenya, can the Foreign Secretary say more about the role that British officials and Ministers are playing? Are there any plans for any
member of the Government to visit Kenya? Like him, we fully support the mission of the President of Ghana. It has been reported that the US Assistant Secretary of State has secured an offer from President Kibaki to form a coalition Government, and a concession from the Opposition leader that he will negotiate without preconditions. Can the Foreign Secretary confirm those reports? Is it not important that the EU monitoring mission issue a formal public report on the elections as soon as possible? Is the Foreign Secretary aware of any findings or recommendations from that mission, or from the Kenyan electoral assistance programme that Britain helped to fund?
Ethnic conflict is now threatening the decades of stability that have set Kenya apart from so many of its neighbours. In this situation, Kenyas leaders have a clear responsibility to compromise and work togetherwhether this means joint rule or an eventual rerun of the elections under international supervision. Is it the Foreign Secretarys view that a recount or re-tally of the election is not practical, given the likely destruction of ballot papers and records, and will he assure the House that he will not entertain the idea of sanctions at present, as some have suggested? Kenya is not a country hostile to Britains national interest, but a friendly country that needs our assistance.
I turn to Pakistana major ally, as the Foreign Secretary has said, in the war on international terror and another friend with whom we have immensely strong links and a united view that the demands that this country has made for the lifting of the remaining aspects of the state of emergency are wholly justified. The whole House will agree that the assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a sickening and appalling crime and that such violence is a major threat to the stability and future of Pakistan. This was aimed not only at her, but at democracy in Pakistan itself.
The Foreign Secretary referred to the team of detectives sent to help with the investigation; can he say what their precise remit is? It is vital that when the elections are held, international monitors have full access, that the elections are free and fair, that restrictions on press and broadcasting are lifted and that the results are respected. The Foreign Secretary said in November that a decision would be made about some £3.5 million of UK funding for the elections on the basis of the conduct of the Government of Pakistan. Can he say now whether any decisions have been reached about that? Is he confident that a robust election monitoring mission will be accepted by the Government of Pakistan, and that it will have all the access that it needs to the electoral process?
spillover of the situation in Pakistan[ Official Report, 7 November 2007; Vol. 467, c. 134.]
into Afghanistan had been detected at that time. However, the outgoing UN special representative said last week that violence in Pakistan was affecting Afghanistan, and there are reports today of thousands of Pakistanis fleeing their tribal areas into Afghanistan. What is the Foreign Secretarys latest assessment of that, and does it have any implications for our troops and their operations in Afghanistan?
Finally, once a way has been found through the present crises in both countries, is it not our responsibility
to help guide both toward a secure democratic future? Will that not require a reduction in corruption, a free press and an independent judiciary, so that disputes can be settled through reason and law, rather than through violence and death?
David Miliband: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the content and tone of his remarks. We wholeheartedly support his identification of the need in both Kenya and Pakistan for democratic institutions that are not just those of formal democracy, but which are supported through the judiciary, the media and political partiesnever mind education, health and other systems.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about aid, and I am sure that he will recognise that, importantly, the aid and security questions are two sides of the same coin. Yesterday, the food convoy from Mombasa did get through to western Kenya without alarm or difficulty. That is obviously encouraging, but we will follow the situation very carefully. The ongoing assessment to which he referred is made partly by our staff or by DFID staff on the ground, working closely with the high commission in Nairobi. I am happy to keep the House informed on that basis.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about the nature of the power-sharing arrangements that could come into play. A balance needs to be struck, because it is for the Kenyans to decide the nature of their power sharing, not for us to prescribe a particular type of coalition Government or constitutional arrangement. He reiterated the word that I use, compromise. It relates to compromise between the two main political parties, and it is important to stress that clearly. Of course, Kenya has a history of so-called Governments of national unity. It had such a Government in 2002, which did not lead to the sort of power sharing that is needed. I hope that he will understand my saying that at this stage we do not want to prescribe a particular type of constitutional or other reform, but we will all know it when we see it: when a Government reflects the divided will of the Kenyan people in respect of the political parties for which they voted.
The head of the EU mission has returned to Brussels, but the deputy head has rightly stayed in-country, so that he can brief President Kufuor and others as they come through. I shall find out for the right hon. Gentleman the formal timing of the write-up from the head of the EU mission, but it will, in part, want to reflect the ongoing investigations.
The right hon. Gentleman is right to say that there are significant obstacles to a full-scale recount. Some people have called for a rerun of the elections, others for a recount or re-tally, and I was careful to refer in my statement to the problems beyond the individual ballot stations as the results were referred onwards. What is important is that any allegations of irregularities are properly followed throughit would be wrong to sweep them under the carpet. I know that that is not what he was suggesting, but the first priority was to stop the violence.
The second priority is to get some sort of political mediation under way. The investigation of the irregularities and the possibility of a further future election obviously will be discussed by the parties. I am happy to confirm to the right hon. Gentleman that the £50 million that we are spending through DFID for the benefit of the
Kenyan people, which will be spent on bed nets and other essential development assets, will not be harmed as a result of this process.
In light of the forthcoming debut of the Liberal Democrats new foreign affairs spokesman, the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey), perhaps I shall not condemn him until he condemns us, and then we can return [Interruption.] He says that I will not be disappointed, so I shall save my best volleys until later.
On Pakistan, I was told as I left the office today that there had been agreement on the terms of reference of the Scotland Yard mission to support the Pakistani authorities, and I would certainly like them to be published. Secondly, in respect of the UK funding, which was to support democratic processes, they are as important as ever, and although we keep that funding under review, no decision has been taken to terminate it.
In respect of Afghanistan, I have heard the media reports that were mentioned. The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) asked for our latest assessment. Our latest assessment on the situation in the federally administered areas is not a new oneit is that the lack of political integration between the federally administered areas in Pakistan and the rest of the country is a threat to the integrity and stability of not only Pakistan, but Afghanistan. I have received no reports of it being an immediate threat to our troops, but the sort of instability to which he refers provides a haven for some of those who are attacking our troops and is a real concern for us. I discussed it when I was in Helmand, and I guess that he and his colleagues have discussed it with people there too.
The right hon. Gentleman rightly raised the issue of corruption. He will know that none of the money in our bilateral aid is put through the Kenyan Government. We put the money through non-governmental organisations and other organisations precisely to ensure that it reaches the targets for which it is intended. Good government is an essential part of the sort of democratic process in which he and I believe, and it is certainly something that we are working to achieve.
Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab): Kenya needs democracy, not a political fix, because democracy is the way to make leaders accountable to the people. Does the Foreign Secretary share my concern about the statement from the chair of the electoral commission of Kenya that his announcement of President Kibakis win was made under duress? Will the Government continue to fund work to strengthen political institutions and parties in Kenya in order to reinforce their commitment to democracy and the rule of law, and their ability to resist anti-democratic pressures wherever they may come from?
David Miliband: I am happy to confirm that to my hon. Friend, who speaks with authority on these issues from his long interest in them. His reference to strengthening parliamentary links is important. The role of political parties needs to be developed, and that is something to which hon. Members and colleagues in the other place can contribute.
Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD): I thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement and associate my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Liberal Democrat Benches with both his tribute to Benazir Bhutto and his sadness at the violent deaths of so many others in the recent crises in Pakistan and Kenya. Benazir Bhutto was a politician of great courage. She put her life on the line for the restoration of democracy in Pakistan and her death presents the world with the nightmare of an unstable, divided Pakistan.
The Foreign Secretary has described well why we should all be alarmed at recent events in those two countries and the urgent need to restore law and order through democratic means. I pay tribute to his efforts and those of the Prime Minister and many British diplomats in these difficult and often frustrating days. May I say how strongly we agree with much of what the Foreign Secretary has said todayfor example, about the decision to send Scotland Yard detectives to assist the investigation into Miss Bhuttos murder and the humanitarian aid through the Red Cross for parts of Kenya cut off by the violence?
None the less, there remain some serious questions about the judgments made by Britain, the United States and the wider international community, not just in response to these events but well before. On Pakistan, why have the British Government failed to be more critical of the Musharraf regime and its deeply damaging actions, most recently in its attacks on the independence of the judiciary, which the Foreign Secretary failed to mention in his statement? Is it not the case that Britain has been totally complicit with the US policy of bolstering President Musharraf over the years? Does not this crisis show how mistaken that policy has been, with extremism having spread and democratic institutions having been so undermined?
I am sure that the Foreign Secretary will at least agree that democracy is now the way forward, and we welcome the announcement of a new and early timetable for elections. It is clearly essential that Pakistan enjoys elections that are free and as fair as possible in a political climate that is as stable as possible. So can he tell the House what extra support Britain is prepared to offer to the election monitoring mission from the EU? While it is good that the EU is sending 50 so-called long-term observers for the new elections, does he believe that the increase of just seven on the monitoring mission for the 2002 elections is really sufficient, given the heightened tension and especially given that the Commonwealth election monitoring operation was suspended in November and has yet to be invited back to Pakistan? Is there not a danger that the February elections will have less international scrutiny than the flawed 2002 elections? Given the crucial role of the judiciary in supervising elections matters, what representations are being made to President Musharraf to insist that he reverses his recent dismissal of critical judges and ends the intimidation of the entire legal profession?
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|