Monday, November 15, 1999

Pakistan’s ex-premier
could face execution

Bullet The issue: Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been charged with hijacking and kidnapping and could be sentenced to death.
Bullet Our view: The military rulers of Pakistan would risk widespread condemnation if they subjected Sharif to a show trial followed by a death sentence.

THE military regime that overthrew the civilian government of Pakistan a month ago has charged the ousted prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, with hijacking and kidnapping. Conviction could lead to a death sentence.

Britain warned the generals against staging a show trial of the former leader. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook declared that Pakistan must respect the rights of Sharif and other ministers arrested in the coup.

Leaders of the Commonwealth nations assembled for a summit in Durban, South Africa, and were expected to set a deadline for a return to civilian government in Pakistan.

A formal complaint was filed by a senior military officer against Sharif in connection with the attempted diversion on Oct. 12 of a plane carrying Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who overthrew Sharif in a bloodless coup only hours later.

Shortly after Sharif announced that Musharraf had been fired, the plane carrying Musharraf and 200 civilians back from Sri Lanka was denied landing rights at Karachi airport. The plane was forced to circle the airport and ran dangerously low on fuel before troops loyal to Musharraf seized control of the country and the airport.

Musharraf said the lives of the passengers were put at risk because of the refusal to allow the plane to land. He said that the plane landed with seven minutes worth of fuel left.

However, no evidence has yet emerged that Sharif or any of the others charged personally ordered the diversion of the plane. Even if they did, it would hardly seem to qualify as a crime under the circumstances.

Execution of Sharif on these charges would tarnish the image of the military government and strain relations with Western countries including the United States. The 1979 execution of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, another prime minister who was ousted by a coup, produced wide condemnation of the military regime of that era.

General Musharraf has vowed to eradicate the corruption that pervades Pakistani government, and the public seems to approve. However, execution of the former prime minister on these flimsy charges could cost the new regime the respect of the world community and cast doubt on the sincerity of the general's promise to restore civilian rule quickly.


INS making progress
on illegal immigration

Bullet The issue: The Immigration and Naturalization Service is trying to stem the tide of illegal immigration, which brings an estimated 275,000 people to the country every year.
Bullet Our view: Congress should give the INS the means to deal more effectively with the problem.

AN estimated 5.5 million people live in the United States illegally, and the figure grows by some 275,000 annually. These illegal immigrants are easy prey for criminals and exploitive employers because they are afraid of deportation if they complain to the authorities.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service is trying to stem the tide, both by stopping undocumented aliens at the border and by expelling those who succeed in gaining entry. But it's a losing battle. The undocumented population continues to grow.

The Associated Press reports that more than 176,000 undocumented immigrants, a third of whom have criminal records, were expelled from the United States during the recently concluded fiscal year. The 176,990 removals marked a record for the INS, and a 3 percent increase over the 171,154 deported a year earlier.

But the increase represented a significant slowdown over the progress made between 1997 and 1998, when the agency improved its removals record by 50 percent. An INS spokeswoman explained that removals were slowed because of the decision to temporarily suspend deportations of Central American detainees whose homelands were devastated by Hurricane Mitch.

For the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the INS removed 62,359 criminal aliens -- a 12 percent increase over fiscal 1998. INS Commissioner Doris Meissner attributed the increase to her agency's improved record in working with prison administrators to identify criminal aliens and initiate removal proceedings so that deportation can occur immediately after sentences are completed.

The agency previously was criticized for initiating removal proceedings only after inmates were freed from custody. This allowed many of them to disappear and avoid showing up for their removal proceedings.

Mexican nationals accounted for 83 percent of all removals and 77 percent of criminal deportations.

THE numbers don't include the estimated 1.5 million cases of illegal immigrants apprehended at the U.S. borders last year, most at the Southwest border, and immediately turned back. Also not included were the cases of 72,000 other aliens in INS custody who agreed to voluntarily depart after being charged with immigration law violations.

Illegal immigration may never be fully halted, but vigorous enforcement of the law can remove some of the undocumented aliens and serve as a deterrent to others. Among the victims are people seeking to enter this country legally. Congress should give the INS the means to cope more effectively with the problem.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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