Friday, June 17, 2005

How Musharraf is protecting the image of Pakistan
Daily Times - Site Edition
Saturday, June 18, 2005
I stopped Mai from going abroad: president

AUCKLAND: President General Pervez Musharraf said on Friday that he ordered a travel ban on Mukhtar Mai to protect Pakistan’s image abroad.Gen Musharraf said Mukhtar Mai, the victim of a punchayat-ordered gang rape, was being taken to the United States by foreign non-government organisations “to bad-mouth Pakistan” over the “terrible state” of the nation’s women. He said NGOs are “Westernised fringe elements” which “are as bad as the Islamic extremists”.He acknowledged that he placed the 36-year-old on the list of people banned from leaving Pakistan while responding to media questions during a three-day visit to New Zealand.“She was told not to go” to the United States to appear on media there to tell her story, Gen Musharraf told the Auckland Foreign Correspondents’ Club. The government lifted the travel ban on Wednesday after Mai appealed to Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. Musharraf said atrocities are perpetrated daily against women in developing nations round the world - “in Kashmir and many other places”.“I don’t want to project the bad image of Pakistan,” he told the journalists’ club.“I am a realist. Public relations is the most important thing in the world,” he said, adding that media misperceptions would discourage tourists from travelling to Pakistan.“Pakistan is the victim of poor perceptions. The reality is very different,” he said. He defended his regime’s treatment of women, saying it was working for their emancipation. Rape was not “a rampant malaise Pakistan suffers from every day,” he said. He said he was on the side of women and was trying to bring rapists to “justice in the strongest form”. His government was encouraging the emancipation of women through education and by reducing high death rates for women and children. Women’s right were also discussed during earlier talks with New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark. “This is a country with many women in powerful positions so we do take an interest. So I certainly have been satisfied today that President Musharraf shares that concern and would like to see his country move,” she said. As well as Clark, New Zealand’s top judge, parliamentary speaker and top business leader are all women.
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