WASHINGTON, June 16: The United States has officially informed Pakistan that gang-rape victim Mukhtaran Mai has been invited to visit the country and has also urged the Pakistan Embassy in Washington to facilitate her visit.

“We have advised Pakistani officials that she was invited to the US by a Pakistani organization based in the US,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told a Wednesday afternoon briefing in Washington. “Ms Mai is welcome to travel to the United States at any time.”

Mr McCormack described Mai as “a courageous woman who is a victim of a horrendous crime” and said that Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca has discussed Mai’s planned visit to the United States with Ambassador Jehangir Karamat.

Meanwhile, the Asian-American Network against Abuse of Human Rights, the group which has invited Mai, said on Thursday that authorities in Pakistan have confiscated her passport along with the visa and has forced her to return to her village.

“This is not acceptable. Instead of stopping her, the government should facilitate her travel,” said a spokesman for the group.

Mai told BBC that the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Women Affairs, Ms Neelofar Bakhtiar, confiscated her passport when she returned from the US Embassy in Islamabad after receiving the visa.

Also on Thursday, the Pakistan Embassy in Washington issued another statement on the controversy saying that the government was fully sympathetic to the plight of Mukhtaran Mai and had assured her every possible support and protection.

“The government has taken a number of steps to bring the accused to justice, including lodging of an appeal in the Supreme Court of Pakistan against the decision of a lower court on behalf of Ms Mai,” the statement said.

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