Keith Locke questions the government on its support of women’s rights in Afghanistan

5. Afghanistan—Women’s Rights

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

5. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Has he received any advice on whether a law curtailing women’s rights in Afghanistan has been “brought into line with the expectations of the international community” as he was promised by Hamid Karzai; if so, what was that advice?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs) : I have received no formal advice; commentary suggests there may have been some changes to the law. However, officials are seeking an official translation of that law as it has been legislated, before assessing what changes have been made.

Keith Locke: What action will New Zealand take should Hamid Karzai’s assurance, to the Minister, on women’s rights turn out to be false—for example, that men are still to be legally permitted to starve their wives if denied sex?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: The Government is not prepared to jump to conclusions about whether the President has done something he indicated he would not do. We are not alone in this matter. New Zealand has expressed the same concerns as the rest of the international community, and if we find those concerns remain, we will consult our international partners over what appropriate steps ought to be taken.

Hon Chris Carter: Did the Minister seek advice on the possible impact on existing social and economic projects—including those affecting women—in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan province, following this Government’s decision to phase out the highly regarded, and very successful, provincial reconstruction work being done by New Zealand personnel in that province?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I am not in a position to answer that question. I undertake to get back to the member as soon as I can obtain some advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Keith Locke: What assurance did the Minister get from the Afghan Government about the humane treatment of any prisoners handed over by New Zealand military personnel, and is he confident that any such assurance would be kept, should the prisoners be handed over to Afghan forces controlled by brutal warlords such as Rashid Dostum?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I am not in a position to answer either of those questions. Again, I undertake to get back to the member as soon as I have been briefed on the particular matter concerning that warlord.

Keith Locke: Why does the Minister think that our SAS soldiers should risk their lives to defend a hopelessly corrupt administration, which is currently renewing its mandate through an obviously fraudulent election, and should not the Minister be sufficiently briefed by what has been in the papers over the last 2 or 3 days?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Both the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister have given answers to those questions; I have nothing to add.

Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just to say that answers have been given and we do not know where and how, etc., is surely—

Mr SPEAKER: I invite the member to reflect on the question he asked. Rather than it being a question, the member made a string of allegations about the situation in Afghanistan, which may or may not be correct. But given the nature of the question, it is a bit rich then to expect the Minister to answer it in any particular way.