Pakistan tourism minister Bakhtiar reportedly resigns


Islamabad : Pakistan's Tourism Minister Nilofar Bakhtiar, who angered the Islamic clergy for hugging her male coach during a paragliding show in France, was Saturday rumoured to have resigned.

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She is believed to be unhappy at being removed from the post of president of the youth and women's wing of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Qaid). Media reports had earlier said that her resignation from the party post had been accepted by PML(Q) chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.

Bakhtiar was not available for comment and there was no official confirmation. But Daily Times quoted an unnamed aide who insisted that she had resigned on being replaced in the party post by another woman minister Sumaira Malik.

In April, chief of Islamabad's Lal Masjid had issued a 'fatwa' (edict) asking that she be punished and fired from the government after newspapers printed photographs of her "hugging and kissing" a male colleague after landing from a parachute jump in France.

The clerics stated that this was "an illegitimate and forbidden act, and without any doubt, she has committed a great sin, and that Muslim women must stay at home and must not venture out uncovered".

Bahktiar described the hug as a congratulatory pat after her parachute jump.

"It was just a pat because he felt so proud of me, I did it for a good cause. I did not have any practice of parajumping. I thought it was brave on my part."

Photos in the Pakistani media showed Bakhtiar being helped by a male instructor during a charity parachute jump in France last month to raise money for victims of the devastating October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. Another picture showed a woman (apparently Bakhtiar) hugging the instructor.

On a subsequent visit to India, she had said that she was "not afraid" of such religious edicts and would "jump again" for a worthy cause.

Bakhtiar, 45, who studied business management in the US, comes from a well known Punjab family and has a record of community work.