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The United States has castigated Pakistan, a key ally in the fight against terrorism, for multiple human rights failures, but Amnesty International accused it of turning a blind eye to many abuses there.

Pakistan’s ‘poor’ record included restrictions on citizens’ right to change their government, extra-judicial killings, torture, rape and an increase in disappearances of activists and political opponents.

However, Amnesty International accused the Bush administration of continuing to turn a blind eye to many instances of abuse by countries cited by the State Department for appalling human rights records in the name of national security.

Its own analysis reveals that US, in the context of the war on terror, has been silent on human rights abuses committed by many of its new-found friends, said Larry Cox, Amnesty International USA executive director.

The Pakistani government needs to treat this issue with the gravity and urgency it deserves — we are talking not only about the fate of hundreds of people but also the devastating effect on their families. The situation involves serious breaches of international law,” says Angelika Pathak, South Asia researcher at Amnesty International.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf dismissed the September report out of hand, refusing to reply when questioned on it by a BBC journalist. Other government officials were similarly offhand. Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammed Khan told Amnesty International delegates that legal procedures were too longwinded to be followed in Pakistan in a political context in which results were needed quickly.

“Politics, economics, security — all have variously been given as excuses as to why the government needs to break international law. But there is never an excuse for violating human rights. Human rights are the bedrock — the starting point for approaching politics and security,” says Pathak.

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