'Punish un-Islamic minister'

ISLAMABAD - The chief of a radical mosque in the Pakistani capital Islamabad has issued a decree calling on the government to sack a woman minister after a photograph was published showing her hugging a foreign man.

The demand, contained in a decree known as a fatwa, is the latest challenge from the pro-Taliban mosque to the government of president Pervez Musharraf.

Pakistani newspapers carried a photograph last week showing Tourism Minister Nilofar Bakhtiar hugging a man, apparently her para-jumping instructor, after completing a jump in France.

Newspapers said she did the para-jump to raise money for victims of an earthquake that killed 73000 people in Pakistan in 2005.

Abdul Aziz, chief cleric at Islamabad's Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, said yesterday she should be sacked.

"Her act was un-Islamic and against our social norms. She earned a bad name for Islam. She should be punished," Aziz said.

In February a Muslim zealot shot dead a woman minister because he thought women should not be in politics. The gunman was sentenced to death last month. - Reuters