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Pakistan Orders Woman Attache Home

November 2, 2002

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ The first Pakistani woman sent overseas as a press attache says she has been suddenly ordered home by the Ministry of Information with no explanation.

Rizwan Khan, who has been the spokeswoman at Pakistan’s U.N. Mission since September 2000, said the only other female press officer posted overseas, Naila Maqsood, had also been ordered to return home from her post in Hong Kong.

Khan called the orders a setback for Pakistani women.

``I have not been given any reason for my recall except a fax saying that it was a directive from the chief executive’s office asking me to return immediately,″ Khan said in an interview Thursday.

Pakistan’s Information Ministry said the two women and one male press officer in Germany were being recalled because of ``poor performance,″ adding claims that the women lost their postings because of discrimination were unfounded.

In Hong Kong, Maqsood will be replaced by another female press officer, Nighat Shah, according to Akram Shaheedi, principle information officer in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.

Khan, whose U.N. posting had been expected to last until at least September 2003, is to leave New York on Sunday.

Pakistan’s U.N. Ambassador Munir Akram asked the Ministry of Information for Khan to be given time to wind up her affairs, ``but unfortunately that was not agreed to by the competent authorities.″ Shaheedi said Khan was given four weeks to wind up but requested three months.

``We can’t do that because there are others in line for the job,″ he said.

Shaheedi also called charges that the recall was indicative of a discriminating government unfair.

``This is very unfair. How can a government that has given so much female representation at the local, provincial and federal level be accused of discriminating against women?″ he said.

Pakistan reserved 60 seats for women at the federal level, the largest number in the country’s history. Seats are reserved for women because of the difficulty women in male-dominated Pakistan have getting elected on a general seat.

``It’s been a great setback to us because we were only two female officers posted overseas by the Information Ministry, and both of us were selected on merit by a big selection board. But I guess merit doesn’t count any more,″ Khan said. ``It’s a great setback for women officers who may not get any further positions,″ she said.

Khan said she wondered whether Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf, ``who was so broad-minded,″ knew about the orders.

``The way things are going on, I feel that we may just have to cover our heads and sit down, which is very unfortunate,″ Khan said.

A former journalist, Khan said she has worked for the Ministry of Information for 28 years.

``I was proud to be serving the government, proud to be a press counsellor. When something like this happens it’s really demoralizing,″ Khan said.

Update hourly