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Friday, August 20, 1999 Published at 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK

World: South Asia

Pakistan to probe rights abuses

Alleged human rights abuses have been met with violence

By Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad

Pakistan's Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, has set up a high-level ministerial committee to look into the reports of human rights violations in the country.

The four-member committee, which includes the ministers for foreign affairs, law, information and religious affairs, has been asked to give its recommendations in the next cabinet meeting with the view to ensure that the rights of religious and ethnic minorities and women are fully protected.

The decision to appoint a high-level committee was taken after foreign secretary Shamshad Ahmed on Friday presented a report on the human rights situation before the cabinet.

Details of the report have not been released.

According to an official announcement Prime Minister Sharif said that all citizens of Pakistan, irrespective of their caste, creed, gender or religious beliefs were equal before the law and their fundamental rights would be fully promoted by his government.

Mr Sharif said the government has taken a number of steps to strengthen the rule of law in the country, provide quick and inexpensive justice to the people, to protect life and property of the people of Pakistan and eliminate violence from society.

In recent years local and international human rights groups have often criticised Pakistan for undermining the fundamental rights of the religious minorities and women.

Although the government repeatedly denies such charges, the latest move seems to be an attempt to seriously look into the question of rights of the minorities and other under-privileged sections of the society.

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