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The Role of the International Community
Actions of the international community focused primarily on Pakistan’s nuclear tests, its economic crisis, and regional conflicts, particularly Afghanistan. A number of countries also registered concern about continuing religious persecution under the blasphemy laws.

United Nations
As it had done with India, on June 6 the U.N. Security Council strongly condemned Pakistan’s nuclear tests and demanded that both countries refrain from further testing. The council also expressed concern about a potential arms race between India and Pakistan. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed “deep regret” at the tests.

In February, the U.N. Special Rappporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers issued a report expressing concern about the independence of the judiciary in Pakistan. The special rapporteur noted, among other incidents, that in late November 1997, a senior advocate of the Supreme Court, Mohammad Akram Sheikh, had been assaulted and threatened with death by members of the PML on more than one occasion for opposing the PML’s policies on the role of the judiciary. The government disputed the report and failed to provide any assurance that security would be provided to Sheikh.

European Union
In addition to imposing limited sanctions on Pakistan (and India) for May’s nuclear tests with other members of the G-7, in June the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for revision of the blasphemy laws and greater protection for the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan.

As it had done with India, Japan suspended aid to Pakistan but did not link that suspension to human rights concerns. Japan is Pakistan’s largest single aid donor; it gave Islamabad 36 billion yen [U.S. $307.7 million] in 1997.

United States
A series of high-level visits between senior U.S. and Pakistani officials took place in the course of the year. A visit by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson in April was designed in part to pave the way for a planned presidential visit later in the year, but the discussions that took place were largely focused on the conflict in Afghanistan. After the nuclear tests, the presidential visit was placed “under review;” in early October the administration announced that the visit had been postponed until 1999.

As mandated by legislation, President Clinton immediately imposed sanctions on Pakistan for its nuclear tests, including denial of loans from the Export-Import Bank, restrictions on trade between the two states, and withdrawal of support in international financial institutions, effectively removing Pakistan from consideration for new aid under the IMF or the World Bank. In light of Pakistan’s economic crisis, however, with dwindling foreign reserves and possible default on prior debt obligations, the United States, in addition to the other members of the G-7, have permitted limited financial assistance. In July, a waiver was granted for the sale of food grains. Such assistance may have come in exchange for guarantees from the Sharif government that Pakistan would sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Relations between the U.S. and Pakistan were further strained after the U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan on August 20. Some fifty men were killed in the attack, including a number of militants of the Harakat-ul Mujahideen, a militant group backed by Pakistan that has been fighting Indian security forces in Kashmir. Pakistan has long denied supporting such groups.

Following the suicide of Bishop Joseph in May, the U.S. condemned the blasphemy laws and urged the Sharif government to repeal them.

World Bank
In the immediate aftermath of the tests, the World Bank put all new loans to Pakistan on hold, but ongoing lending continued for a wide range of projects focused on health, education, infrastructure, and agriculture. The World Bank approved U.S.$399.5 million in loans to Pakistan in the 1998 fiscal year.





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