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Saturday, 2 September, 2000, 16:18 GMT 17:18 UK
Boost for Pakistan's women
Women violence
The commission will tackle violence against women
By Susannah Price in Islamabad

Human rights activists in Pakistan have welcomed the creation of a national commission to protect women's rights and help raise their status.

General Pervez Musharraf
Gen Musharraf had pledged to set up the commission
At the commission's inauguration on Friday, the Minister for Women's Development, Attiya Inayatullah, said the commission would look at violence against women as one of its first tasks.

This has been pinpointed by many as a priority because, as one activist said, you cannot talk about development while women do not feel safe in their own homes.

Human rights groups also hope illiteracy will be among the first issues to be tackled.

Election hopes

The minister said the commission would set its own agenda, with education and reproductive health care being important priorities. She said no-one had the right to stop women voting, as happened in some areas.

Pakistan's military leader, General Pervez Musharraf, has been praised for fulfilling his promise to set up the commission. He has also announced that a third of the seats in the upcoming local elections will be reserved for women.

A founding member of the Women's Action Forum said the commission had been one of their long-standing demands and that they wanted a wide variety of issues, such literacy, violence, health and poverty to be addressed.

However, critics say the main need is for implementation of recommendations and they warn that unless the commission has the power to force through new legislation, it could become yet another toothless watchdog.

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See also:

14 Jun 00 | South Asia
South Asian women 'vulnerable'
21 Apr 00 | South Asia
Musharraf pledge on human rights
15 Mar 00 | South Asia
Pakistani rights abuse 'widespread'
22 Sep 99 | South Asia
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27 Aug 99 | South Asia
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