Pakistan fatwa minister to stay
- Wednesday, 23 May 2007, 08:56 GMT 09:56 UKPakistan fatwa minister to stayPakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has rejected an offer to resign by the tourism minister, who has been under strong pressure from hard-line clerics.Mr Aziz said that the minister, Nilofar Bakhtiar, was needed in the cabinet and she should carry on with her duties.Last month, a fatwa was issued against her after she was pictured hugging a man following a paragliding flight.Clerics said Ms Bakhtiar's behaviour was obscene. She said the photo was misleading and she had done no wrong.
The women's wing of the Pakistan Muslim League party also said on Wednesday that Ms Bakhtiar's recent removal as president of the group was not connected with the hugging incident.
The party welcomed the prime minister's rejection of her resignation.
"Unfortunately some irresponsible elements in Pakistan presented this noble cause in a malicious manner"
Tourism Minister Nilofar Bakhtiar
The tourism minister made the jump in France in March to raise money for victims of the 2005 Kashmir earthquake.
Clerics described her behaviour as obscene, but she said that newspaper photographs showing her hugging her elderly instructor shortly afterwards were misleading.
Hard-line clerics at the radical Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) Islamabad issued a religious edict condemning her behaviour, saying it violated Islamic morality.
At the time she vowed not to be intimidated but officials on Tuesday confirmed reports that she had handed in her resignation.
"Despite my exceptional commitment to the cause of tourism in Pakistan, I have taken the decision due to unavoidable circumstances," she said in a letter faxed to newspapers.
"French media praised my daring attempt but unfortunately some irresponsible elements in Pakistan presented this noble cause in a malicious manner," she told the Dawn newspaper.
She was quoted as saying she had been hurt by the way the issue was sensationalised and that her parachute jump had been for a noble cause.
Earlier she had shrugged off the clerical criticism, saying she would do another jump for a good cause.
"We don't need to be intimidated by these people," she told Reuters Television in April. "I have no regrets... I would do it again happily if it helps the people of Pakistan."
The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad say the incident highlights a growing climate of extremism in Pakistan.
In February a female provincial minister was shot dead by a man who, police said, did not think women should be in politics.
The clerics who denounced the tourism minister have set up their own vigilante anti-vice squads in the capital.