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.
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
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. Ms Mai has
not yet responded to the new development and it is not clear if she
still plans to travel to the US. 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
Pakistani rights groups say Ms Mai (left) has shown courage
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
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.