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Musharraf urges Muslim world to empower women

Musharraf promotes a policy of enlightened moderation in Pakistan but has to contend with conservative forces that reject calls for greater rights for women.

india Updated: Nov 06, 2006 14:57 IST

Muslim countries have to empower their women -- both politically and economically -- as part of efforts to develop, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said on Monday.

Musharraf promotes a policy of "enlightened moderation" in Pakistan but has to contend with, and at times mollify, powerful conservative forces that reject calls for greater rights for women as Western interference.

"We need to mainstream and empower the women in the Muslim world," Musharraf told the opening of the World Islamic Economic Forum, a conference on development in Islamic countries.

"They constitute 50 per cent of the population, generally. We must empower them politically and economically, but it's easier said than done. We need to develop their capacity, first of all," Musharraf said.

Women are guaranteed reserved seats in national and local-level assemblies in Pakistan.

Many of the seats are filled by women from powerful political families.

Musharraf also called for efforts to correct a perception of militancy and extremism that dogged the Islamic world and stressed the need for a more effective media and better education.

He also called for better governance and economic modernisation -- which he said did not mean Westernisation.

"We need to liberalise, we need to deregulate and we need to privatise in a big way," he said.

The World Islamic Economic Forum emerged from an Organization of Islamic Conference business forum and is holding its second session in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and several former leaders are among hundreds of delegates, most of them business people and diplomats.

Musharraf, a major ally in the US-led war on terrorism, also called on the United States and Europe to help solve political disputes at the root of international turmoil and singled out the Palestinian problem.

"If we are trying to address Iraq and Lebanon and Afghanistan we are putting the cart before the horse.

"We must resolve the Palestinian dispute that is the core which has led to Iraq and Lebanon and Afghanistan and everything else," he said.