Pakistan lifts travel ban on woman who was raped

Pakistan has lifted a travel ban on a rape victim, days after her name was placed on a list of people barred from leaving the country.

The decision came a day after Mukhtar Mai, 36, publicly appealed to Shaukat Aziz, the Prime Minister, to remove her name from the exit control list (ECL), a roster of people barred from going outside the country. Her case was highlighted in yesterday's Independent.

"Yes, I confirm the government has deleted Mukhtar Mai's name from the ECL," said Javed Akhtar, the Prime Minister's spokesman. The government has not said why she appeared on the list in the first place.

In the the National Assembly, lower house of parliament, yesterday, the Interior Minister, Aftab Khan Sherpao, told law-makers that the government had removed Ms Mai's name from the ECL, and that "she is freed to go anywhere". But he did not elaborate on why she she had been on the list.

Ms Mai welcomed the decision and said she received the news from Mr Aziz by telephone. "The Prime Minister has assured me of his full support," she said.

Ms Mai, 36, defied the shame that often surrounds rape victims in Pakistan by going public over her assault in June 2002.

The case attracted international attention. The rape was ordered by a council of villagers in Meerwala in eastern Punjab to punish her family for her brother's alleged affair with a woman.

In August that year, six of the suspects in her case were sentenced to death and the other eight acquitted. This March, another court in the province overturned convictions of five men, and reduced the death sentence of the sixth to life.

Thirteen of the accused were later rearrested, only to be freed last week, although officials say the men had not been freed because their lawyers didn't complete the paperwork.

Ms Mai had been planning to travel to America at the invitation of a human rights group.

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