President's boast undermined by human rights violations

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The Independent Online

President Pervez Musharraf may like to claim that Pakistan's human rights record is envied the world over, but you would have a hard time finding many countries that agree.

General Musharraf, who appears to be on a world tour to court international approval, was last night wooing the British establishment in the form of the Oxford Union. But his mission suffered the misfortune of coming a day after the shocking human rights abuses perpetrated in Pakistan were brought back into the spotlight of the international media.

In a damning report into the reality of the situation in Pakistan, Amnesty International accused the country's security forces of acting like bounty hunters. Several cases in which Pakistani security forces detained innocent people and sold them to the US as suspected "terrorists" for cash rewards are detailed, as are their subsequent flights to the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay.

The US typically offers $5,000 (£2,600) for a captured "terrorist". Children as young as 10 are sent from Pakistan to Guantanamo, where they could face torture and other forms of abuse. Amnesty focuses on the case of a 14-year-old boy from Chad who was regularly hung by his wrists at a prison in Karachi before being sold to US forces and taken to Guantanamo.

Moazzam Begg, a British citizen who was abducted from his home in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, at gunpoint in January 2002 by Pakistani and American forces, is another case in point. Mr Begg was handcuffed and a hood was put over his head. He was thrown in the back of a vehicle and driven to a private house where he was interrogated by Americans. After some time he was taken to Guantanamo, where he was tortured. He was released without charge last year.

But it is not just the rate of "disappearance" from his country that worries human rights groups. You wouldn't guess it from General Musharraf's self-serving memoirs, In the Line of Fire, which have just been published, but he remains an unelected military dictator. Pakistan has a cipher parliament, but does what it is told by the man known as the "general-president".

Then there is the dark truth behind rape in Pakistan. Women continue to be raped as an "honour" punishment in Pakistan and the police do nothing. The case of Mukhtar Mai, who demanded justice after she was gang-raped as an "honour" punishment, has not stopped the practice.

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