HC Deb 06 July 1988 vol 136 cc1057-8
13. Mr. Brazier

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department is taking to monitor the actions of Soviet troops towards the indigenous population in Afghanistan during their withdrawal.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

There have been persistent allegations about violations of human rights by Soviet troops. We look to the Russians to withdraw quickly and end the misery that they have inflicted on the Afghan people.

Mr. Brazier

May I draw my right hon. and learned Friend's attention to the recent article by Bernard Levin on the massacre of Afghan children by Soviet forces in the village of Kolalgu? May I put it to him that there are two lessons in this for the West? The first is that the West must continue to support and arm the Mujahideen until their country is free? The second is that we must continue to strengthen our own armed forces, as the Soviets are strengthening theirs, at the same time as talking to the Soviet Union.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

My hon. Friend does well to draw attention to that article, because it serves to remind us of how quickly the horrors of that kind of denial of human rights can be disregarded and overlooked. The most important text is the report from the United Nations' special rapporteur, which, for 1988, identified more than 14,000 civilian deaths last year. Even the regime admits to more than 3,000 political prisoners, and torture is still being used in interrogation. It is plainly right that the world should continue to support the heroism of the Afghan people during implementation of the agreement for the withdrawal of Soviet troops. It is important also for us to continue to monitor that process carefully.

Mr. Cousins

Will the Secretary of State hold urgent discussions with the Government of Pakistan, in order to have an orderly run-down of refugee camps, and to prevent the Central Intelligence Agency from creating there yet another generation of well-armed extremist gangsters who will haunt the world long after the Afghan conflict is over?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I think that the hon. Gentleman has a bizarre and distorted idea of what goes on in refugee camps in Pakistan. Pakistan deserves the admiration of the world for the part that she has played in accommodating a large proportion of the 5 million people displaced by Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. From my own experience of visiting those camps, I know that the overwhelming majority of those people want only one thing—the right to return to their own country. Their willingness to do that will be the best judgment of the effectiveness of Soviet withdrawal.