Pak Minister Scolded Over Hug Photo

Pakistani Tourism Minister Nilofar Bakhtiar has triggered a storm of protests across the Asian Muslim country over controversial photos showing her hugging a French paraglider at a paragliding show in Paris last week.

Pak Minister Scolded Over Hug Photo
Pakistani Tourism Minister Nilofar Bakhtiar has triggered a storm of protests across the Asian Muslim country over controversial photos showing her hugging a French paraglider at a paragliding show in Paris last week.

"I haven't done anything against tenets of Islam. I am better Muslim than those criticizing me for hugging a 71-year old man, who is of my father's age," 48-year-old Bakhtiar told

The minister had participated in a "visit Pakistan" exhibition in Paris, which aimed at promoting tourism to the country.

Pakistan has declared 2007 as the year of tourism.

Pictures of Bakhtiar in brightly-colored paragliding gear taking part in a tandem glide were splashed by local newspapers.

Some of the pictures showed Nilofer, also a member of the upper house of parliament, sitting in the lap of her instructor in the aircraft before jumping and then hugging him upon landing.

The photos have sparked quite a fuss and drew strong reprimands from religious and political parties.

The self-styled Darul Afta of Red Mosque Islamabad issued a fatwa asking the government to "punish and sack" the minister for tarnishing the image of Islam by hugging a non-Muslim.

"The fatwa has been issued against her by our muftis when their attention was drawn towards some pictures in which she appeared to be hugging with a paraglider in Paris," Abdul Rasheed Ghazi told IOL.

"They have called on the government to punish and sack her from the cabinet," he added.

The fatwa was the first to be made by the body since Ghazi and his brother Abdul Rasheed, both local scholars, announced a campaign to enforce Shari`ah last week.

In 2004, the Red Mosque issued in fatwa declaring hat military personnel killed in operations in tribal areas "were not martyrs and they did not deserve religious funeral."


The picture has sparked quite a fuss and drew strong reprimands from religious and political parties. (IOL photo)

Minister Bakhtiar scuffed at a fatwa.

"I do not recognize any fatwa against me. The self-styled court did not bother to verify the facts and issued the so-called fatwa without any basis," she told IOL.

"Islam does not allow acts of vilification and aspersion. I took part in paragliding and jumped from the height of 6,000 meters to raise funds for the children affected by the October 2005 earthquake in Azad Kashmir," insisted the minister.

"I did what was right and patriotic and I fear no one but God," she insisted.

Bakhtiar said she would continue to pursue General Pervez Musharraf's agenda of enlighten moderation.

"I won't be cowed down by these self-styled fatwas. I will jump again with the paragliders if I have another chance."

Bakhtiar, a staunch supporter of Musharraf's enlighten moderation policy, has a checkered political record.

She had been a close aide of the exiled premier Nawaz Sharif till 1999 before changing loyalties soon after Musharraf ousted Sharif in a bloodless coup the same year.

Bakhtiar throw out her hair cover, which she used to wear under Nawaz, as soon as she joined Musharraf's regime.

She was convicted by the Supreme Court along with five other politicians in 1999 for attacking the apex court building.

All the convicts are currently working with Musharraf, who recently sacked Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry.


Federal Health Minister Shahnaz Shaikh flays the campaign against her colleague, dubbing it as an act of obscurants.

"This was her personal act, and she is responsible for that before Allah, and no one else," she told IOL.

"These self-styled courts have no right to issue fatwa against anyone. They are misinterpreting Islam."

Sherry Rehman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) agrees.

"These maulvis (scholars) do not voice against exploitation of women in the country. They never issue fatwa against women's exploitation," she said.

"Who have permitted them to set up courts and issue fatwa against women?"

This, Rehman insisted, was an act to set up parallel judicial system in the country, which her party fully opposes.

"A parallel judicial system is being set up in the country, which is unconstitutional and unlawful."

Pakistani scholars, politicians and lawyers were united in their opposition to the controversial campaign by two religious seminaries to enforce Shari`ah implementation.

In a series of interviews with IOL, they insisted that Islam does not allow individuals to take the law into their hands.

The PPP's Rehman accused the government of overlooking the extremist elements.

"Who has given them the right to choose what is wrong and what is right for us?. This is just because of the current government, which has been patronizing such elements for last seven years."

Chaudry Shujjat Hussein, the President of the ruling PML (Q), had initially condemned Bakhtiar and sacked her from the office of president PML (Q) women wing before reneging on his decision the very next day.

Sources close to him told IOL that Musharraf took serious notice of Shujjat's condemnation and asked him to "keep quite".


Religious and political parties joined the condemnation chorus.

"Bakhtiar and other government ministers are toeing the so-called agenda of enlighten moderation, which aims to tarnish the real face of Islam," charged MP Ayesha Munawwar, leader of the women's wing of the country's powerful religious
alliance, Muttehida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA).

"She has committed a highly unethical and un-Islamic act," she told IOL.

"The worst part of her act is that she is not ready to accept her mistake. Instead, she insists that she will the that again."

Munawwar refuted Bakhtiar's contention that she had been greeted by her 71-year old coach after the successful jump.

"She is talking about moderate Islam. I want to ask her which Islam - moderate or radical - allows her to sit in lap and hug a non-Muslim?"

Munawwar said MMA women MPs had submitted a motion against Bakhtiar with the speaker of the National Assembly.

Raja Zafar-ul-Haq, the chairman of Pakistan Muslim League (N), also accused the Musharraf regime of deliberately tarnishing the Islamic image of the country.

"She (Bakhtiar) should not have gone to that extent just to appease the west. Our religion and society do not permit us for that," he told IOL.

"When religious extremists launch a campaign to enforce Shari`ah, the rulers term it extremism, but on the other hand, they are doing the same in the name of liberalism," he contended.

"I don't know what kind of message, the present regime wants to convey to the world? Do they want to convey that Pakistan doesn't have its indigenous traditions and social values?"

Maulana Nazeer Ahmed Farooqi of Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI) believes that the minister's act has given a bad name to Pakistani women.

"It's a matter of shame for us. Is she so ignorant about Islamic values? Doesn't she know that Islam prohibits a Muslim women not to touch any other man, except her spouse?"

He joined calls for the government to sack the controversial minister.

"She must be sacked from her office, otherwise, Ulema will chalk out their further strategy in this regard," warned the scholar.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16