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A former Pakistani minister for religious affairs has been given a 16-year prison sentence for taking kickbacks in arranging the annual hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, state media report.

Hamid Saeed Kazmi was a minister in the government of the Pakistan People's Party that was in power from 2008 to 2013.

Reports said a special court convicted two other former officials from the Religious Affairs Ministry on June 3 and jailed them for 16 and 40 years for their involvement in the scam.

More than 100,000 Pakistanis perform the hajj each year. Many of them go on low-cost tours arranged by the Islamabad government, and complain of poor quality accommodation.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP

The situation in eastern Ukraine after two years of conflict "remains volatile and continues to have a severe impact on human rights," according to a new UN report.

The latest report on Ukraine by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was issued on June 3.

Its release follows a recent seven-day visit to the country by UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic, who warned the "crisis is far from over."

“The increase in heavy weaponry near the contact line, and the hostilities around Avdiyivka and Yasynutava, in the Donetsk region since early March, are all indicators that the crisis is far from over and should not fall off the radar of the international community,” said Simonovic.

The report focused on the plight of the 2.7 million people living in armed group-controlled areas, saying they facing severe curtailing of their freedoms of expression, assembly and association, as well as tough living conditions.

It also updated casualty figures for the conflict, saying some 9,371 people have been killed and 21,532 others injured since fighting began in April 2014.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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