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Baroness Seear: One fully understands the enormous difficulties in a country the size and variety of India, but if the countries and the circumstances that the noble Baroness has just described qualify for the white list, what on earth do we have to do to be black?

Baroness Blatch: First of all, I have not conceded black and white. I do not use those terms. It is the noble Baroness and her colleagues who have been using those terms throughout the course of the day.

I have given both the criteria for consideration to enter--not the white list, as the noble Baroness calls it, but the designated list--and said that that would be a matter for both Houses to consider. I have also given the statistics for these particular seven countries, where there are many and growing numbers of applications, most of which do not qualify under the United Nations Convention of 1951. It is for those reasons that the countries are designated.

That still does not deny full and proper consideration of an application. All that happens is that, following a substantive consideration, it is determined whether the certificate should be given or not. The presumption is in favour of the certificate, but if the particular circumstances of an applicant are such that the applicant qualifies, that applicant will be given asylum.

Lord Avebury: I am grateful to the Minister for the trouble she has taken in putting together a considerable weight of evidence to form her reply, even though she has been rather selective in her choice of material. It is on the basis of that selectivity that decisions are made whether to include countries such as India on the list.

I have not used the term to which the Minister takes objection during the whole of these proceedings. It is a coinage of the newspapers and not something that any noble Lord invented for the purposes of this debate.

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Whatever you call the list, to get a country onto it you examine facts and circumstances of the kind we have been discussing in relation to India, and you build up a picture from the individual case to the general. When I cite individual cases it is not because they are the only ones known to me. I could keep the Committee here a great deal longer if I were to relate all the individual cases that have been drawn to the attention of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group. In deference to the feelings of the Committee I shall not do that. It is sufficient merely to draw attention to some examples of a situation which is all-pervasive.

When the Minister says that these things are being addressed by the Indian authorities and that the National Human Rights Commission is doing a wonderful job, I wonder whether she knows that the legislation which set up the National Human Rights Commission specifically barred it from investigating any allegations of human rights abuses in Kashmir. I do not see the Minister assenting or denying that proposition, but it is a fact. If she goes back to the parent legislation, she will find that the National Human Rights Commission is forbidden to look at anything that happens in Kashmir. Extra-statutorily, it has done so in one particular case only where the Government invited it to look at a massacre which occurred in a town called Bijbehara where something like 50 peaceful demonstrators were killed by the Indian armed forces.

That massacre has already been investigated by Justice Bahauddin Farooqi, who took evidence from a great number of villagers who were eyewitnesses to the tragedy. The National Human Rights Commission relied entirely on information supplied to it by the government and the authority of the state. It more or less repeated the conclusions of Justice Bahauddin Farooqi that these people had been extra-judicially killed. But that was the only incident of which I know where the Human Rights Commission has intervened to examine a case of human rights violations in the state of Jammu in Kashmir.

The Minister said also that there is greater access to Kashmir by outside organisations, and she quotes specifically the European Union ambassadors and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. But if she looks at the reports of the individual rapporteurs from the UN Human Rights Commission, and of the working groups which report to the Commission, she will find that none of them has been allowed entry. The report of January 15th 1996 of the working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances said:

    "It is the view of the Government of India that the suggestion of the working group regarding a visit to India is deemed inappropriate and unnecessary."

The special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, Mr. Bacre Waly Ndiaye, in his report of 25th January 1996, expresses his dismay at allegations of deaths under torture and the lethal force used by security forces in their efforts to curb the separatist movement in Jammu and Kashmir. Due to the systematic allegations of violations of the right of life in India, the special rapporteur would like to reiterate his

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interest in visiting India. He is concerned that no substantial progress has been made since 1993 regarding his proposed visit.

The special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, Dr. Nigel Rodley--a citizen of the United Kingdom, by the way--devotes no fewer than 122 paragraphs of his report of 16th January 1996 to India, just displacing Turkey, which has 94 paragraphs, from the head of the league table. A great deal of the material in Dr. Rodley's section on India relates to Kashmir. In the parent report of 9th January 1996, he concludes by saying that he continues to believe that the situation remains such that a visit to the country would be desirable and he regrets that the Government have not yet deemed it appropriate or opportune to invite him.

So there we are. The noble Baroness can quote the EU ambassadors and high commissioners, but these are the people whose job it is to investigate particular violations of human rights on behalf of the UN Human Rights Commission. Amnesty International has still not been allowed to visit Jammu and Kashmir and neither has the Parliamentary Human Rights Group of which I have the honour to be chairman.

The noble Baroness says that holding elections in Jammu and Kashmir is a step forward. I can assure the noble Baroness that that is not how it is seen by the people of Kashmir. They believe that it is entirely wrong to attempt to hold elections in circumstances where there is a curfew which begins at five o'clock in the afternoon, half a million troops are pinning the inhabitants down in their houses, no freedom of assembly or expression exists and the electoral register is six years old. How can one expect to have a proper and fair election under such circumstances?

I appeal to the noble Baroness not to place such reliance on elections as has been evident from the three speeches she has made on Bulgaria, Ghana and India, as though they were a panacea and that once one had people in the voting booths that would solve all the human rights problems that existed prior to that date. I can assure the noble Baroness that, because of the vehement opposition of all the parties in conference to a process of elections which does not allow them to express their opinion on the one issue which is of great importance to them, namely, the constitutional status of the territories of Jammu and Kashmir, they will not allow elections to be held. If the Indians insist on going ahead with elections the turn-out will be 1 per cent. or 2 per cent. So, please, do not let us get the impression that having an election in May is going to solve the problem or make it go away. It will simply exacerbate it by antagonising and raising the hostility of people still further to the continuation of Indian rule.

I know that there is no point in putting this matter to a Division at this late hour. However, I hope that some of what has been placed on the record this evening will help the Committee to decide that it is wrong in principle when the time comes for us to vote on an order which the Secretary of State will place before us calling for this and other states, which have no reason for being on it, to be placed on a list which makes their inhabitants

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subject to special procedures giving them fewer rights than other asylum seekers in the United Kingdom. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment No. 8, as an amendment to Amendment No. 1, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Avebury moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 1, Amendment No. 9:

Line 16, at end insert (", but no such order shall include Pakistan").

The noble Lord said: As it is getting on, I shall not hold the Committee up at great length on the question of Pakistan, but I must reiterate a couple of the points which have already been made. There is the question of extrajudicial killings in the city of Karachi and in Sind, generally, which, as the noble Baroness is aware, is a subject of anxiety to the US State Department, Amnesty International and to many other human rights authorities.

Here again, the rapporteurs could play a useful role in reducing the level of violence. Every day we get reports from Karachi of killings by the security forces, and by the police and the rangers. I have no doubt that there are also killings by the MQM, which is the main organisation responsible for the Mohajirs--that is to say, the people who came into Pakistan at the time of Partition when they had to flee from India, but who still largely consider themselves to be a separate people. Because they have organised themselves into a political party which seeks a degree of separation from the state, there is a continuing political difficulty which has turned into a violent confrontation.

Both sides say that they want to end it by coming to the conference table and deciding how the constitutional future of the Sind province and of Karachi itself shall be determined. In the meantime, every single day people are being murdered on the streets and are disappearing. In those circumstances, if refugees from Karachi came to this country it would be difficult for us to claim that the general situation in that area and the province as a whole was not such as to cause a general refugee problem.

The question of the Ahmadis has also been mentioned. In the past few years I have had a great deal to do with the Ahmadis. I have had a good deal of discussion with them as to the infamous Ordinance 20 which was introduced under General Zia's regime. That penalises the Ahmadis so that in religious matters they cannot express themselves in the way that they wish. They cannot say that they are Moslems, use the call to prayer, display sentences from the Koran on their mosques and congregate to pray in the way that they wish. The upholding of this legislation by the Supreme Court last year has placed the whole of the Ahmadi community at a severe disadvantage. The effect of the legislation is to cause hostility on the part of the public as a whole toward the Ahmadi community. The problem is not simply the existence of Ordinance 20 and the legal action taken against Ahmadis in the courts. Serious though that is--it is in contravention of internationally accepted norms as to freedom of religion--the effect of the legislation on the minds of ordinary people is to incite them to think of the Ahmadis as being in some

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way unacceptable to Moslems as a whole and to the Pakistani state. Many Ahmadis are murdered. The murders are not properly investigated. A good many Ahmadis have had to flee into exile, as the noble Baroness will be aware.

Notwithstanding the fact that the rule of law generally prevails in Pakistan and that it has a democratically elected government--I concede this point to the noble Baroness--I believe that the situation in that country is somewhat different. There have been changes of government from one party to another. I believe that, on the whole, the democratic system works far better than in other countries that we see on the list. However, the fact that there are democratic elections is no guarantee that human rights will be observed. In the case of Pakistan in particular, I do not believe that it qualifies for inclusion in a list of this kind. I beg to move.

9.15 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: I deal specifically with Pakistan. Christians enjoy religious freedom under the law, and the majority of Christians continue to practise their religion openly. The Ahmadis--a minority Moslem sect--are subject to discriminatory religious legislation, but convictions remain rare. Some harassment of both Christians and Ahmadis occurs, but it is not systematic or government-led. Asylum claims from these groups will continue to be considered carefully and on their merits, but it should not be assumed that all are automatically well founded. The great majority of applications from Pakistan are not by Christians or indeed Ahmadis.

Pakistan is a poor country with great extremes in the distribution of wealth. The biggest sector of the colony is agriculture. Prosperity in most sectors is confined to a few family cartels, while unemployment grows among ordinary people. Although the framework of Pakistan's legal system is based on the constitution, it inherited many aspects of English common law filtered through British Indian law. The framework unites with elements of Islamic law to produce federal and provincial statutes. According to the Constitution of Pakistan, the judiciary enjoys almost complete independence from the executive.

Although Pakistan declared itself an Islamic republic in 1956, successive governments have guaranteed the civil rights of religious minorities. There is no systematic or government-led persecution of religious minorities, but discrimination and harassment exist. There are two main religious minorities which apply for asylum in the United Kingdom: Christians and Ahmadis. As I have said the Ahmadis are a minority Moslem sect, and are classified as non-Moslem under Pakistan law. There is no systematic or government-led persecution of Christians in Pakistan.

The constitution guarantees the civil rights of religious minorities, and Islamic law supports the constitutional position. Nevertheless, in parts of Pakistan Ahmadis face a problem. Most of Pakistan is peaceful, but there has been violence in Karachi and to a lesser extent in Hyderabad. The main reason for the violence is the confrontation between the MQM and the

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government, but ethnic and sectarian violence is also a feature. Shia and Sunni sectarian violence has occurred mainly in urban areas of the Punjab such as Jang, Faisalabad and Lahore. On occasions there has also been sectarian violence between Moslems, Ahmadis and Christians.

In terms of political rights and freedom in Pakistan, membership of political parties is widespread, and ordinary Pakistanis are neither discouraged from joining the party of their choice, nor are they harassed for their political opinion.

As a democracy there is freedom of opinion and assembly. Pakistan has a thriving newspaper industry with hundreds of titles, the vast majority of which are privately owned. In December 1985 freedom of the press was restored in principle when martial law was repealed and the constitution restored. In 1990 the press was further liberalised, and is now generally free to discuss public issues. The Government retain the power of confiscation for a wide range of prohibitions.

The case is that a small number of Christians suffer intimidation, vandalism and harassment by their non-Christian neighbours, or by misapplication of, or false accusations under, the blasphemy laws. The majority of Christians in Pakistan are, generally speaking, able to practise their religion openly. The stringency of the blasphemy laws has increased progressively since 1980 and may raise issues in exceptional cases and those are the ones that would be dealt with sympathetically and they are consistent with the United Nations Convention. Ahmadis are recognised as a minority religious group and their rights are safeguarded under the constitution.

Women in Pakistan: Pakistan's current constitution recognises the equality of men and women before the law, prohibits sexual discrimination within the civil service, and grants women the right to participate fully in all activities in the national arena. In 1979--I think the noble Lord is aware of this--Hudood Ordinances subordinated women's status to that of men. They brought together laws relating to theft, prohibition of alcohol and narcotics, "Zina" (rape, abduction, adultery and fornication), and "Qazf" (false accusation of Zina). In 1992 it was estimated that 2,000 women were held in prison under those ordinances. A further estimate concluded that 85 per cent. of women in police custody were sexually assaulted in detention.

However, in October 1992 the Sharif government approved an amendment to the code of criminal procedure that women should not be detained in police stations overnight and that they should only be interrogated in the presence of a close male relative. This amendment has yet to be passed by the National Assembly. Some organisations which aim to improve the status of women in Pakistan have emerged; various local groups offer legal and medical advice and assistance.

In January 1994, Benazir Bhutto established the first police station for women, administered exclusively by women. It remains to be seen whether further measures to improve the situation of women in Pakistan will follow.

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The point is being made that the majority of applicants from Pakistan do not succeed. Some do, and where they do, it is because the merits of the case are entirely consistent with the 1951 convention and, of course, there is additionally, for some, extra leave to remain.

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