- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) | An international rights group pressed Pakistan’s new government Wednesday to quickly investigate the disappearance of hundreds of people purportedly rounded up by security agencies as part of the anti-terror campaign.

President Pervez Musharraf purged the Supreme Court last year after it began questioning Pakistani security services about the cases. Mr. Musharraf said judges were obstructing counterterrorism efforts.

But the former army chief has lost influence since opponents won February parliamentary elections and formed a government that insists it is committed to improving the country’s human rights record.

In a report released Wednesday, Amnesty International urged the government to immediately reveal the whereabouts of the people who have been reported missing and bring some relief to their families.

It also pressed authorities to restore the purged judges, investigate all the cases and hold to account those responsible, including in Pakistan’s feared intelligence services.

Foreign governments, especially the U.S., should ensure they are not “complicit” in disappearances, Amnesty said.

“Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has emphasized the coalition government’s commitment to upholding human rights. We urge him to act immediately to resolve all cases of enforced disappearance,” said Sam Zarifi, the London-based group’s Asia-Pacific region director.

Government spokeswoman Sherry Rehman had no immediate comment, and Law Minister Farooq Naek, who has reportedly pledged to trace the missing persons and publish the government’s findings, was not available.

Pakistani rights organizations say some 500 people were held secretly by Pakistani security services. They say many are political activists opposed to the government.

Officials, including Mr. Musharraf, last year acknowledged some of the detentions.

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