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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 September 2005, 13:06 GMT 14:06 UK
Musharraf concern at women image
President Pervez Musharraf
President Musharraf: Violence against women is a global issue
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has said his country should not be singled out for its treatment of women.

His comments came while addressing a conference on violence against women in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

But two of Pakistan's leading women's rights groups have declined to participate in the meeting.

The conference comes in the same week as two separate cases of women alleging that they were raped by police officers in Pakistan.

Representatives of the AGHS and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan say they see no point in being part of what they describe as "a farcical event".

Pakistan must not be demonised and singled out as being the only country having this problem
President Musharraf

The BBC's Aamer Ahmed Khan in Karachi says both groups have incurred the displeasure of the government for their role in helping bring attention to a series of recent rape cases.

President Musharraf lashed out at rights groups for their role in highlighting the cases outside the country.

"Do it in Pakistan and I am with you. But don't do it abroad; I am not with you," the Associated Press quoted him as saying.


Dozens of delegates from around the world are attending the two-day event aimed at addressing the treatment of women in Pakistan and also to bring together those who work with victims of violence.

"Pakistan must not be demonised and singled out as being the only country having this problem... that is not the reality," AFP quoted the president as saying.

Mukhtar Mai after her Supreme Court ruling
The Mukhtar Mai case made international headlines

Pakistan recently came under intense international criticism for preventing a high-profile rape victim from attending a conference in the United States.

Mukhtar Mai, 33, was raped in 2002, allegedly on the order of a village council, in a case that received worldwide publicity.

The men who were convicted of raping her were released this March, but then ordered back to jail while the Supreme Court hears her appeal against their release.

Another case which attracted widespread attention in Pakistan is that of a woman who alleged that a senior police officer ordered her rape.

The Pakistani government has announced an inquiry into her allegations, but she has said that until the media highlighted her case the authorities did nothing to help her.

In another case this week, a woman accused four policemen of gang-raping her in Rawalpindi. One officer has been arrested and the other three are missing.

Human rights groups say cases like these are just the tip of the iceberg.

They say most women never come forward to say they have been victims of rape or violence and those that do often do not even see their cases going to court.

Do you think that Pakistan has an image problem when it comes to its treatment of women? If so, do you think this is justified? Are you a woman facing challenges in this area?

It is true that the situation in Pakistan's interior regions is not good for women. In fact, it is very bad. But life in Karachi is not like this at all. The building in which I work has amost 40% women and most of them come alone every day using public transport.I think that Pakistan is being demonised as Musharraf said. Look at the rapes of those women who were taking shelter in the infamous "Dome" to protect themselves from Katrina. Greater civil liberties and social mingling has nothing to do with the amount of rape cases and sexual assaults otherwise U.S or U.K would have the lowest numbers.
Kashif, Karachi, Pakistan

Of course Pakistan is not the only country to have a poor record on women's rights and gender equality. To the credit of the country, however, it seems that it is one of the few South Asian Nations or Islamic States to be publicly confronting the subject, making it a focus of national debate and taking it seriously. This promotes a poor image to the world, but should be seen as a positive step because it shows the beginnings of progress and change in this area. Credit should be given to the brave women who are willing to go public and the journalists who report their plight, whether nationally or internationally, who have deservedly bought this issue high up the national agenda. President Musharraf's comments do not do justice to this positive aspect of his country and will not help to solve this thorny problem or raise Pakistan's already battered image abroad.
Toby Leslie, Peshawar, Pakistan

It is irrelevant whether or not Pakistan is the only country with this problem. The fact is that this is a major problem in Pakistan that needs to be dealth with rather than diverting the issue and making comparisons with other countries. Being a woman in Pakistan, I know that if I was ever in this sort of a situation, contacting the police (unless it was through contacts with very senior police or army officers) would not be an option. In several of these cases the woman is blamed for promiscuity and is not able to re-enter society like a normal person. It is a known fact around here that the police will not help you.
Sapna Malik, Islamabad, Pakistan

I moved to Islamabad from my village because it was the only safe place for women. At least they don't get raped in public here. I escaped rape narrowly two years ago. I never tried to make it public internationally and yet my complaints to the police just got me into more trouble. Musharraf survives on publicity and foreign relationships. His main worry is women exposing their sufferings to international media.
Kajol, Islamabad, Pakistan

I am a Pakistani woman living in the United States. As much as I love Pakistan, I am glad that I was not brought up there. Pakistan does have an image problem when it comes to women, and it is well-deserved. Mukhtar Mai's case is just the most prominent one - many women are languishing in Pakistani jails under the so-called "hudood" laws for committing "adultery" when all they've done is dared to marry for love or come forward to report a rape.
Maleeha, Ann Arbor, United States

This is not just a Pakistani problem. NGOs have used this opportunity to gain negative publicity for Pakistan while trying to get foreign donations and money for themselves. Abuse of women and rape has been going on for a long time and needs to be dealt with using severe punishments. As an independent woman in this country I haven't faced such problems. It feels like negative propaganda.
Zunaira, Karachi

It's not an image or perception but reality! The government's anger is because it cannot prevent these stories from getting out. When I visit my relatives in Pakistan I see first hand the lack of civility towards women and the cultural traditions that hold them back emotionally, financially, and socially. Very sad conditions for most women living there.
Farheen, Atlanta, USA

There is no denying that women are treated as second-class citizens in Pakistan. But then Musharraf is also right in saying that Pakistan is not the only country with this problem. He must demonstrate that he is taking steps to stop this nuisance.
Faisal Ali, London, UK

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