Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a federal republic. The February 2008 parliamentary elections and the September 2008 presidential election of Asif Ali Zardari, widower of assassinated Pakistan People's Party leader Benazir Bhutto, restored civilian democratic rule to the country. Zardari replaced former president and head of state, General Pervez Musharraf, who resigned in August, and Yousuf Gilani was elected Prime Minister and head of government in March 2008.

In March 2009 the government reinstated those Supreme Court and provincial High Court judges who had not already returned to the bench following the 2007 state of emergency. However, the country's human rights situation remains poor, and its democratic institutions face significant challenges. Allegations of extrajudicial killings, torture, and disappearances continue. The government imposed some media restrictions and temporarily detained political activists and lawyers during a protest known as the "Long March" in March 2009. Violence and societal discrimination against women persisted, as did religious discrimination and mistreatment of minorities. Government security forces continue to battle extremists in a growing insurgency; in 2008 approximately 1,000 individuals died in more than 65 militant suicide attacks, and military operations killed approximately 1,150 civilians. 

Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

The United States supports the democratically elected, civilian government as it seeks to overcome political and economic crises and roll back an increasingly violent insurgency. Specifically, the United States aims to foster a stable constitutional and democratic government; strengthen good governance through transparent and accountable civilian institutions; build capacity of the media; improve rule of law; and foster a vibrant civil society. The U.S. Government pursues these goals through assistance programs and interaction with host government officials, political parties, civil society, and the public. Improving effective, transparent, accountable, and representative governance in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) is a high priority, as is targeting USAID assistance to the poorest geographical areas where the nexus of poverty and despair breeds extremism that undermines democratic institutions.

Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

The United States conducts diplomatic and assistance efforts to support the democratic process and human rights in the country. To strengthen the independence of the legislature, the U.S. Government provided funds to build a new staff facility; train new members of the national and provincial parliaments to draft, review, monitor and pass legislation; and train members of party caucuses. Funding also supported nationwide polling to help political parties identify priorities among their constituencies. One U.S. program aims to improve civilian control over the armed forces by enabling members of the parliamentary defense committees to travel to the United States to study U.S. congressional oversight of the military. Embassy officers at all levels meet with local officials charged with electoral processes and reforms. The U.S. government works with the government to increase voter registration in the country and to improve election management through the modernization of the country's Election Commission, evaluation of the adjudication and complaints process, and computerization of the electoral rolls. The United States also funds programs that enable civil society groups to conduct civic education throughout the country, including for women, and to consult local tribal stakeholders on the constitutional future of FATA. The U.S. Government further empowers women in the democratic process by supporting the development of national and provincial parliamentary women's caucuses and providing female parliamentarians exchange opportunities for professional development.

The United States continues efforts to develop competent and professional security forces in the country to protect citizens against militant attacks and help curtail human rights violations and civilian casualties. Embassy officers meet with civil society activists who monitor human rights in the country. The United States supports improvement in administration of the courts to enhance accessibility, efficiency, transparency, independence, and accountability of the justice system and reduce case backlogs that undermine public confidence in the justice system. Other U.S.-funded programs train auditors in the parliamentary National Accounts Committee, which builds local governments' capacity to deliver essential services efficiently and transparently.

Through advocacy and training programs, the United States continues to promote independent media and professional journalism. The United States funds training for radio and print journalists and supports radio development in key regions such as NWFP and the adjoining FATA. In 2008 the United States supported the participation of 23 journalists in International Visitor Leadership Programs and facilitated three participants for an International Center for Journalists program that embedded journalists with U.S. newspapers to observe the U.S. elections.

The United States regularly lobbies the government to combat child labor, sexual exploitation, and trafficking in persons, with an emphasis on prevention, prosecution of offenders, and protection of victims. It also supports a civil society organization that assists survivors of gender-based violence. U.S. assistance helps worker organizations promote freedom of association and collective bargaining rights in Balochistan and NWFP. The United States works to promote religious freedom and combat religious discrimination and victimization of religious communities, particularly minorities and vulnerable Muslims, by maintaining close ties with all religious communities. In a continuing dialogue with government and religious representatives, the United States raises issues of sectarian violence, mistreatment of minorities, and discriminatory legislation, including blasphemy and anti-Ahmadiyya laws.