Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Mukhtar Mai termed a powerful voice for Pakistan

By Our Correspondent

WASHINGTON, April 25: “Mukhtar Mai is a very important and powerful voice for Pakistan,” said Karen Hughes, the Bush administration’s chief image strategist. Ms Hughes, State Department’s Under-Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, was one of dozens of US officials and citizens who came to the Pakistan Embassy on Monday night to pay homage to the rape victim who overcame her ordeal to fight for other underprivileged women.

“I agree with her message of ending oppression with education and believe strongly in her mission of educating women, particularly young girls,” said Ms Hughes. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian affairs Richard Boucher wished her “all success in the kind of work she is doing and the kind of changes she is trying to bring about for the Pakistani society.” But no praise could have been sweater for Ms. Mukhtar than her presence at the Pakistan Embassy which had not only closed its doors on her but also had tried to prevent her first visit in October last year. “But much has changed since then,” noted T. Kumar, Amnesty International’s advocacy director for Asia-Pacific region.

The Sri Lankan human rights campaigner was one of 100 protesters who demonstrated outside the embassy last summer against Pakistan’s decision to prevent Ms. Mukhtar from visiting the US. “We are happy that the embassy is now welcoming her,” he said. Ms Mukhtar is now in Washington to receive an award from Senator Hillary Clinton at the prestigious Kennedy Centre on Thursday for her struggle to raise the status of women in rural Pakistan. Instituted by a group called Vital Voices, this would be the second award Mukhtar will receive in the US.

In October, she received a Woman of the Year award from Glamour magazine. Impressed by Ms. Mukhtar’s determination, Ms Hughes called her a “symbol of courage around the world” who had shown that she had “a great deal of courage” to share her experience in the hope that she might help others. Chairman Senate Ahmad Mian Soomro, Prime Minister’s economic adviser Dr. Salman Shah and economic adviser to the Finance Ministry, Asfhaq Hasan Khan also attended the reception.

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