Fri, Mar 30, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Kidnapped brothel owner freed after vow to reform

AFP AND AP , ISLAMABAD

Female students at an Islamic school in Islamabad freed an alleged brothel owner yesterday after the woman donned a burqa and promised to shun "immoral acts."

The students at the madrasah in Islamabad had kidnapped the woman, identified only as Shamim, along with her daughter and a daughter-in-law on Tuesday, sparking a standoff with the government.

Clad in an identical black burqa to the ones worn by the students, the woman was brought before the media at the Jamia Hafsa school and read out a confession.

"I seek forgiveness for the sins that I have committed and declare I will live like a true Muslim and preacher of religion," Shamim said in the signed statement.

"I do confess getting involved in certain acts, which are considered moral crimes, with my house being misused for the purpose," she said.

She denied that she had been forced to sign the statement, but said that there were "several men, who tied and tortured me before I arrived here. But the attitude of the female students was exemplary."

She also said she had ``threatened to become a Christian'' over her treatment by the students.

``I don't think Islam allows anyone to beat a woman and drag her through the streets like a dog,'' she said, shortly before she was driven home in a car along with her daughter, daughter-in-law and six-month old granddaughter.

The kidnap sparked tensions in Islamabad when police arrested two female teachers from the school on Wednesday. Baton-wielding students then abducted two passing policemen.

The police officers and the teachers were freed late on Wednesday.

But the three women kidnapped from the "vice den" were held overnight and were only freed after a marathon meeting of mullahs, said the vice principal of the seminary, Abdul Rashid Ghazi.

Earlier Ghazi had said that Shamim and her relatives would not be freed unless police charge them as criminals. The police said they could not lodge a case against the women without any evidence.

The case has raised questions about the Pakistani government's willingness to tackle the hardline school in the center of the capital, following a series of incidents.

Many of the school's female students are still occupying a nearby government-run children's library after launching a protest in January against plans to demolish a mosque in the capital.

But Deputy Information Minister Tariq Azeem denied the government had showed weakness in its handling of the school, saying it was in talks to remove the protesters from the library.

"No one will be allowed to take the law into their own hands in the name of Islam," he told Geo television.

Amir Omar, a police officer at the station station near the mosque, said police would move against those responsible for Shamim's kidnapping. He didn't elaborate.

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