Pakistan: Women's Rights Activist Minister Killed by Known
: (Herald Sun)
Pakistani minister and women's activist has been shot dead by an Islamic
extremist for refusing to wear the full veil.
Zilla Huma Usman, the
Minister for Social Welfare in Punjab province and an ally of President Pervez
Musharraf, was shot in the head as she was about to deliver a political speech.
Ms Usman's killer was described as a fanatic, who believed she was
dressed inappropriately and women should not be involved in politics, the Times
She was wearing the shalwar kameez worn by many
professional women in Pakistan, but did not fully cover her head.
attack happened in Gujranwala, about 190km southeast of Islamabad, where the
minister's office was located. As Ms Usman, 35, stepped out of her car, where
she was greeted by her co-workers throwing rose petals, the attacker pulled out
a pistol and fired a single shot at close range, hitting her in the head. She
was flown to hospital in the provincial capital of Lahore but died soon after.
The gunman, Mohammad Sarwar, was overpowered by the minister's driver
and arrested. A stonemason in his mid-40s, he is not thought to belong to any
radical group but is known for his fanaticism, the [Australian] Times
reported. Sarwar was previously held in 2002 in connection with the killing and
mutilation of four prostitutes, but was never convicted due to lack of evidence.
He appeared relaxed and calm when he told a television channel he had
carried out God's order to kill women who sinned. "I have no regrets. I just
obeyed Allah's commandment," Sarwar said, adding that Islam did not allow women
to hold positions of leadership. "I will kill all those women who do not follow
the right path, if I am freed again."
Raja Basharat, Punjab Law
Minister, said: "He is basically a fanatic. He is against involvement of women
in politics and government affairs."
A police statement added: "He
considers it contrary to the teachings of Allah for a woman to become a minister
or a ruler. That's why he committed this action."
Officer Nazir Ahmad
said: "He killed her because she was not observing the Islamic code of dress.
She was also campaigning for emancipation of women."
Ms Usman, a married
mother of two sons, joined the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League after being
elected in 2002. She was a strong supporter of the President's policy of
enlightened moderation, designed to tackle extremism.