The 'dramatic and unprecedented' rise to power of religious parties in Pakistan signal 'a defiant rejection' of President Pervez Musharraf's pro-US policies, says the Human Rights Watch in its annual global survey.
The measures taken by Musharraf's administration in the months preceding the first parliamentary elections since his coup 'all but ensured a military-controlled democracy', the New York-based group says.
It says that official results for the referendum held by Musharraf on April 30, 2002, showed a 97.5 per cent vote in his favour. However, independent observers, including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and Pakistani journalists, found evidence of widespread fraud and coerced voting.
The HRW also notes the increase in sectarian violence and attacks against foreign nationals, heightened threats to religious minorities, especially Christians, victimisation of women under discriminatory laws and harmful customary practices, intimidation of journalists, deterioration in physical conditions for refugees and killings of aid workers in Pakistan.
The Bush administration, it says, showered Musharraf with praise and economic and military assistance because of Pakistan's role as a 'key partner in the global coalition against terror'.
Despite severe election-related abuses and Musharraf's consolidation of power in the months leading up to the election, the US hailed the October polls as an important step in Pakistan's transition to democracy, it says.
The group adds that the US is generating resentment in Pakistan by uncritically backing Musharraf.
While criticising the US for ignoring rights abuses by its allies like the Afghan warlords and Saudi Arabia, the 558-page report identifies positive trends such as the peace talks in Sri Lanka, the end to wars in Angola, Sudan and Sierra Leone.
Among negative developments it lists the outbreak of communal violence in Gujarat and the continued killing of civilians in wars in Colombia, Chechnya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.