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Pak woman’s head shaved for adultery

Islamabad, Dec. 18 (Reuters): A Pakistani woman had her head shaved as a punishment for having an affair and her four-year-old daughter was made to marry the five-year-old son of her lover, police said today.

The punishments were handed down to Mumtaz Mai by a traditional village jury in the central province of Punjab on Monday, deputy superintendent of police Habib Ahmed Ghumman told Reuters.

Passing sentence on Mai’s affair with a married man, the council in the village of Jaddar Bhanda ruled that the couple’s children should be married and her head be shaved.

It also ruled that her lover, Ghulam Mustafa, should surrender his bullock cart to Mai’s husband. Deputy superintendent Ghumman said police had responded to the case by arresting the head of the village council and one of Mai’s brothers for initiating the trial, as well as Mai herself for violating an Islamic law forbidding adultery.

Another brother and the lover were still at large, he said.

Pakistani law forbids child weddings, even though this restriction is widely flouted.

Earlier this year, a woman was gangraped on the orders of a traditional village council in Punjab province because of an alleged indiscretion by her brother.

A court later sentenced six men to death for the rape in a trial which highlighted the abuse of women in rural areas.

Every year hundreds of Pakistani women become victims of so-called “honour killings” that can be triggered by anything from adultery to failing to bear a son or poor cooking.

A senior leader of Pakistan’s hardline Islamic coalition has defended steps to enforce Islamic laws in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) it controls, saying the public backed its actions. Fazal-ur-Rehman, general secretary of the Muttahida Majlis-e- Amal (MMA) bloc of six religious groups, said day moves to enforce elements of sharia ignored by the populace did not constitute a shift to extremism.

“Our constitution basically calls for an Islamic way of life and whatever we are doing here is not anything revolutionary,” Rehman said in Peshawar.

In general elections held in October, the religious Right swept to power in the NWFP and won a share of control over Baluchistan province, both bordering Afghanistan, in its best ever poll showing by far. The MMA alliance successfully tapped fierce opposition to the US military action in Afghanistan and to President Pervez Musharraf’s decision to back Washington’s self-styled “war on terror”.

It also vowed to impose Islamic laws in Pakistan more strictly, a move seen by many liberals as a step in the wrong direction in the already conservative NWFP.

“We are doing it democratically and our society demands it. There is no extremism in what we are doing,” Rehman said.

Since coming to power, the Islamic alliance has banned music played on public transport and ordered that buses stop and let passengers off to pray at the appointed times if they so wish.

It has also advised cinemas in Peshawar to stop showing films demed explicit and police have been removing posters featuring women from outside cinemas.

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