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UK report blasts Pakistan on human rights

London: Expressing "serious concerns" about human rights in Pakistan, Britain today said in a report that there were important questions about the country`s ability to run free, fair and credible elections scheduled for 2013.

The report titled `Human Rights and Democracy` for 2011 released by Foreign Secretary William Hague included a section on "Countries of Concern" on the issue of human rights, which lists 28 countries, including Pakistan. The list does not include India.

British aid worker Khalil Dale, 60, was kidnapped in Pakistan in January and his body was found in Quetta on Sunday. The report said: "Concerns persist about the primacy of parliament within the Pakistani system, especially the extent of civilian government control over the military and intelligence services, and the threat of the government being undermined through extra-constitutional means".

The report added: "With federal and provincial elections due by May 2013, important questions remain about Pakistan`s ability to run free, fair and credible elections".

The Foreign Office said despite some positive steps in 2011, there continued to be serious concerns about human rights in Pakistan, including the rule of law; investigation of allegations of torture; freedom of religion or belief; the death penalty; women`s rights; children`s rights; extrajudicial killings; access to water, healthcare and education.

Pakistan, it said, remains near the bottom on a range of crucial indicators, including the UN Human Development Index (at 145 out of 183, Pakistan is a low-development country), gender gap (133 out of 135) and corruption (134).

Noting that there were further incidents of discrimination against minorities in Pakistan, including against the Hindu and Hazara populations in 2011, the report said that Britain was in particular concerned about targeted attacks on the Hazara population in Balochistan in the second half of 2011 and the Ahmadi community in Pakistan.

On the assassination of two politicians – Salman Taseer (governor of Punjab province) and Shahbaz Bhatti (minister for minority affairs) – the report said that response justifying the events had caused widespread concern, both in Pakistan and the UK.

Pakistan`s media environment, the report said, continued to develop and, in many cases, flourish in 2011. Since opening up in 2008, the number and range of media outlets has proliferated, so that Pakistanis now have greater access than ever before to a range of broadcasting through print, television and online media.

But, the report noted, in 2011, Reporters Without Borders listed Pakistan as one of the ten most deadly places to be a journalist. "The proliferation of the media in Pakistan since 2008 has brought a massive increase in the number of journalists operating in Pakistan. It is vital that the right to freedom of expression is fully upheld by the government of Pakistan," it said.

There were also concerns regarding censorship in Pakistan during 2011. In November, cable operators stopped broadcasting BBC World in Pakistan following a documentary series critical of Pakistan`s role in the fight against terrorism, it said.

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