Britain urged to suspend aid to Pakistan as hangings loom

LONDON (INP): Britain is under pressure to suspend aid to Pakistan as the country prepares to resume executions, The Telegraph newspaper said Thursday. Shoaib Sarwar, a convicted murderer, is scheduled to be hanged on Monday, ending a six-year moratorium on the death penalty and opening the door to the executions of thousands more on death row. Britain will this year spend 446 million in Pakistan, making it the largest recipient of overseas aid in the world. It includes millions of pounds to support anti-drug trafficking operations by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), under a United Nations scheme to halt the flow of drugs from Afghanistan. British aid has provided extensive training, as well as bullet-proof vests, night vision goggles, vehicles, body scanners and paid for the maintenance of helicopters. Drug possession is a capital offence, and 111 drug offenders are on Pakistan?s death row, including British nationals who were convicted in trials which critics argue fell short of international standards. Reprieve, the charity that campaigns against the death penalty, said Britain risks being ?complicit in a gross human rights abuse? if drug mules caught by a force trained and equipped by Britain are executed. The ANF prides itself on securing a conviction rate of more than 92 per cent. Its annual report notes the organisation?s ?thirst? for guilty sentences, adding: ?Fear of having 92 percent chances of being convicted would surely forbid a sane man from falling prey into the hands of drug traffickers?. There are widespread allegations of police corruption and fabricated evidence in trials. British aid in Pakistan is frequently judged on its success in increasing the number of arrests and successful prosecutions. Britain and Denmark suspended funding for a similar UN anti-drugs programme in Iran because the Tehran regime was using the death penalty for drug offences. Sarwar, one of 8,000 people on death row, was due to be hanged on September 18. The execution was postponed twice until Monday. Maya Foa, the director of Reprieve?s death penalty team, said continued British aid for the program must be made conditional on Pakistan abolishing the death penalty for drug offences. ?The people whose death sentences British aid has supported are hardly the barons or kingpins of the international drug trade; rather, they are innocent scapegoats or vulnerable mules, often targeted by notoriously corrupt police forces eager to meet quotas,? she said. ?British aid for executions breaches the Government?s own human rights rules and makes a mockery of its commitment to fight capital punishment abroad.? A spokesman for the Department for International Development said: ?Our aid relationship with any government is based on an assessment of commitment to our partnership principles, including to human rights.? A Foreign Office spokesman added: ?We are concerned by any suggestion that executions might resume in Pakistan. The UK opposes the death penalty in all circumstances and continues to urge the Government of Pakistan to abolish the death penalty, and as a minimum to maintain its de facto moratorium on executions.? The Coalition has committed to spending 0.7 per cent of GDP on overseas aid. MPs on the International Development Select Committee have called for aid to Pakistan to be cut, arguing that it is a middle income country whose leaders failed to collect and payable taxes.

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