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Wednesday, March 10, 1999 Published at 17:12 GMT


World: South Asia

Pakistan rejects human rights criticism

!Women's rights are human rights" read the banners in this protest in Karachi

By Owen Bennett-Jones in Islamabad

The Pakistani Government has rejected a report produced by the Human Rights Commission as one-sided and not based on fact.

Information Minister, Mushahid Hussain, said that while he welcomed any initiative by a civil society to highlight abuses of the law, many of the issues raised by the commission were long-standing social evils which could not be blamed on the government.

The Human Rights Commission's annual report, published on Tuesday, listed a wide range of alleged human rights abuses.


[ image: Human rights activists air their views in Islamabad following publication of the report]
Human rights activists air their views in Islamabad following publication of the report
It said for example that there had been 566 deaths in police encounters over the last 12 months, which the commission said were often faked by the authorities so that suspects were killed before their cases even went to trial.

But the information minister said that the federal government has no information about any fake encounters and that if any have happened such incidents would be aberrations committed by the lower levels of the police.

"Unless we get specific and concrete evidence to point out and verify any extra judicial encounters we cannot testify to that," said Mushahid Hussain. "In the past people have resorted to extra judicial killings as a part of policy. We have not done that."

As for other issues raised by the Human Rights Commission, the minister said that many were political matters which do not directly impinge on human rights.

Mushahid Hussain accepted that there is work to be done on prison reform and upholding the rights of children, women and the oppressed.

The government, he said, was trying to resolve these issues but it should not be blamed for long-standing social evils, which exist in what he described as a feudal and in some places male chauvinistic society.



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