President Bush decided Wednesday to waive any financial sanctions on Saudi Arabia, Washington's closest Arab ally in the war on terrorism, for failing to do enough to stop the modern-day slave trade in prostitutes, child sex workers and forced laborers.From your Sun-Times:
In June, the State Department listed 14 countries as failing to adequately address trafficking problems, subjecting them all to possible sanctions if they did not crack down. ***
In addition to Saudi Arabia, Ecuador and Kuwait -- another U.S. ally in the Middle East -- were given a complete pass on any sanctions, [Darla Jordan, a State Department spokesperson] said. Despite periodic differences, oil-rich Saudi Arabia and the United States have a tight alliance built on economic and military cooperation. ***
The White House statement offered no explanation of why countries were regarded differently. Jordan also could not provide one.
As many as 800,000 people are bought and sold across national borders annually or lured to other countries with false promises of work or other benefits, according to the State Department. Most are women and children.
Leader in the war on terror, survivor of al-Qaida assassination attempts, advocate of moderate Islam: Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has emerged as a darling of the West since the Sept. 11 attacks.Another AP story in the Union-Tribune details the inhumanity of Pakistani law:
He has won little praise, however, for his response to another blight facing his country: rape and other violence against women.
Hundreds of attacks -- including gang rapes, "honor killings" of wives accused of having affairs and brides murdered for marrying without family consent -- are reported each year. Most go unpunished. ***
Last week, Musharraf returned from a U.S. visit marred by controversy over his reportedly telling the Washington Post that many Pakistanis see rape allegations as a way for women to make money and get visas to leave the country. He later denied saying that, but the newspaper said the recorded interview proved he was correctly quoted.
During his trip, the military leader also said Pakistan is unfairly censured over rape and denounced activists he claimed profit from making such accusations "to malign Pakistan, the government and me."
Rights workers retort he is more concerned about shielding the nation's reputation overseas than taking action at home.
"Violence against women is a universal problem," said Kamila Hyat, co-director of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. "Many governments have taken serious steps to deal with it. Pakistan hasn't."
She called Musharraf's reported comments "insensitive and rather pointless."
"There are thousands of victims of rape in Pakistan," she said, "and as far as I know, none went abroad" other than a doctor who claimed she was raped by a military officer. The government paid for her to migrate to Canada.
Another rape victim, Mukhtar Mai, barred by Musharraf from traveling to the United States to speak to a rights group earlier this year until Washington protested, said the government's campaign to tackle violence against women "seems limited to talk." ***
Musharraf has condemned violence against women. But he has failed to reform a harsh penal code that makes it extremely difficult to prosecute rape cases and leaves victims vulnerable to adultery charges.
The laws, known as the Hudood Ordinance, make it extremely difficult to prosecute rape cases and leaves victims vulnerable to adultery charges.Rest assured ladies -- once Bush Inc. has secured all the oil in the Middle East, they will get around to protecting your human rights.
The ordinance is "like a sword hanging over the heads of the women of Pakistan," said Shahnaz Bokhari of the Progressive Women's Association, which helps victims of violence. According to the government, about 80 percent of the more than 2,000 women jailed in Pakistan were convicted under the ordinance.
The only sure ways to obtain a rape conviction are with a confession by the accused or the testimony of four adult Muslim men who witnessed the assault. A woman's testimony carries half the weight of a man's.
Human Rights Watch said that when the ordinance was first issued, it was common for the victim to be prosecuted for illicit consensual sex – punishable with a long prison sentence.