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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 June, 2005, 08:20 GMT 09:20 UK
Travel ban on rape victim lifted
Mukhtar Mai at Islamabad press conference in March 2005
Mukhtar Mai decided to go public about the rape
The Pakistan government has lifted a foreign travel ban on the victim of a high profile gang rape, Mukhtar Mai.

But Ms Mai has told the BBC that her passport has been confiscated so the move is meaningless.

The ban has prevented Ms Mai from taking up an invitation from human rights group Amnesty International to travel to the United States.

Officials had said she had to stay in Pakistan until court cases around the rape were resolved.

But critics said the move was a ploy intended to protect Pakistan's international image.

Brother's offence

The office of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz issued a brief statement on Wednesday announcing that Ms Mai had been taken off the Exit Control List that names people who are not allowed out of Pakistan.

Mai Multan protest
Pakistani rights groups say Ms Mai (left) has shown courage

On the same day Ms Mai spent two hours at the US consulate in Islamabad but did not obtain a visa.

US officials say that Ms Mai had withdrawn her request for the visa.

Women rights activists say that this is because she has come under unprecedented pressure from the government not to travel to the US.

Ms Mai subsequently told the BBC by mobile telephone from a secret location that the Pakistani authorities had confiscated her passport.

Ms Mai was raped by several men in 2002, allegedly on the orders of a self-styled village council of influential feudal leaders.

The punishment was allegedly ordered because of a sexual indiscretion allegedly committed by her younger brother.

The case continues to attract international attention. Twelve men are currently behind bars in connection with the case.

In March the Lahore High Court ordered acquitted five men sentenced to death for the rape and reduced the sentence of another to life imprisonment.

The court said there was insufficient evidence in the initial trial, which was conducted by an anti-terrorism court.

The government of the province of Punjab subsequently ordered the detention of 12 men originally implicated in the case. The Lahore High Court has now said they should be released.

'Pressure'

Ms Mai said earlier this week that she had been kept under "virtual house arrest" in her home village.

Officials said they were acting entirely in her interests by assigning several dozen police officers to guard her in her home village.

Non-government organisations and activists campaigning for women's rights say that the restrictions on Ms Mai's movements have reflected the pressure the government is putting on her.

They say the government has shot itself in the foot by introducing the measures, because her case is well known internationally.

The government is fighting an appeal in the Supreme Court against the Lahore High Court overturning the convictions of the men sentenced to death for the gang rape.



SEE ALSO:
Pakistan rape case releases delay
13 Jun 05 |  South Asia
Rape victim cannot travel abroad
12 Jun 05 |  South Asia
Releases ordered in rape case
10 Jun 05 |  South Asia
Pakistan rape-case men rearrested
18 Mar 05 |  South Asia
The rape victim who fought back
08 Mar 05 |  South Asia


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