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Wednesday, 27 March, 2002, 18:51 GMT
Pakistan rights indictment
Plainclothes policemen arrest political activist
The report criticised restrictions in freedom of speech
Pakistan's independent human rights commission has said religious extremism is on the rise in the country, despite government promises to improve the situation.

Sadly, earlier on in the year, few efforts were made to curb militancy

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

In its annual report, the commission accused the government of reluctance to act against those promoting intolerance towards minorities.

It also said that violence against women was increasing.

President Pervez Musharraf pledged to wipe out religious extremism in January and subsequently banned five militant groups.

But the commission said militancy still posed a serious threat to millions of ordinary Pakistanis.

Commitment doubted

The report said that religious minorities had suffered from a backlash by extremists opposed to Pakistan's co-operation in US-led war on terrorism.

Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar at UN Human Rights conference
The government says it is curbing extremism

"Sadly, earlier on in the year, few efforts were made to curb militancy and even as arrests were made and bans imposed mainly under international pressure, doubts about the regime's commitment to this cause persisted," the commission said.

The report spoke of a rising spiral of sectarian violence, with at least 100 murders in the past year, and it said intolerance appeared to be on the rise at universities and in the workplace.

The report also said General Musharraf appeared to be consolidating his power by making himself president while dissolving assemblies and the Senate.

General Musharraf took power in a coup two and a half years ago and last summer proclaimed himself head of state.

Commission members said throughout last year, democratic practices have been curbed, with political leaders facing arrest to prevent them from addressing meetings.

They added that despite the announcement that elections would be held in October, there were doubts whether this would mean a true transfer of power.

Violence against women

The report also said highlighted a shocking rise in violence against women.

Soldiers guard Islamabad church
Religious minorities have suffered most

Hundreds of women are killed every year in so-called "honour killings", where women are murdered if they are thought to have damaged their family's reputation.

"More cases of mutilation, acid burning and other heinous crimes appeared to come in than before," it said.

"According to some estimates appearing in the press, every second woman in the country had suffered some form of violence in the form of verbal, physical or sexual abuse," it said.

There was no comment from the government on the report.

See also:

23 Mar 02 | South Asia
Arrests mark Pakistan Day
20 Mar 02 | South Asia
Grenade attack in Pakistan
18 Mar 02 | South Asia
Pakistan probe into church attack
12 Mar 02 | South Asia
Violence at Shia funeral in Pakistan
08 Mar 02 | South Asia
Pakistan amnesty for Islamic radicals
27 Feb 02 | South Asia
Killings challenge Musharraf's resolve
14 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Pakistan
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