Mon, Jul 30, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Ex-Pakistani minister fights extremism

AFP , PARIS

A former Pakistani government minister who resigned after Islamists issued a fatwa against her for posing in an "obscene manner" with French paraglider pilots, vowed on Saturday to fight religious extremism.

"My mission in life now is to face and fight extremism of any kind," former Pakistani minister of tourism Nilofar Bakhtiar said in a telephone interview.

The religious decree against Bakhtiar, who met with French Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Secretary Rama Yade in Paris on Saturday, came after she was photographed earlier this year in brightly colored paragliding gear taking part in a tandem glide during a trip to France and then hugging an instructor upon landing.

The jump had been organized to raise funds for children affected by the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, which killed more than 73,000 people.

In the fatwa, the first issued by the self-styled court at the pro-Taliban Red Mosque since mullahs announced its formation in April, the photographs of Bakhtiar were "obscene and objectionable."

The Islamists, who this month have been locked in deadly fighting with government troops at the Red Mosque, at the time urged the government to sack Bakhtiar.

On Saturday she said she had quit her post in May after being pushed out of the presidency of the women's group within President Pervez Musharraf's party, the Pakistan Muslim League.

"I was very angry and I thought that some support would come from the party leadership, the government. Nothing scame. They all just kept mum on this issue because the ... mosque episode was going on," she said.

After the religious ruling "I was worried about my children most importantly," she said, insisting however that she would not stop fighting extremism out of fear.

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