Muhammad Sajid carried out an acid attack on Rabia Bibi in June after her parents broke off their engagement and gave her hand to someone else.

The judge in the anti-terrorism court in Bahawalpur, a town located in central Punjab province, ruled on Friday that the convict be given a matching punishment under the Islamic law of Qisas, or requital.

The law, enforced in Pakistan during the military rule of General Zia al-Haq in 1979, says a culprit should be handed a similar punishment to the crime committed unless pardoned by the victim or the victim's family.

Observers say the sentence is unlikely to be carried out because of a public outcry and as military ruler President Pervez Musharraf is determined to modernise the country.

Mutilated

"Acid drops will be thrown into his eyes in line with the Islamic laws," said Muhammad Shahid, a court official.

President Pervez Musharraf is
likely to oppose the sentence

Sajid confessed before the court that he had thrown the acid in the face of Bibi in revenge for her family not keeping its promise, the court official said. The attack blinded and badly mutilated the girl, he added.

Human rights activists criticised the ruling, which can be appealed against.

"It is a ruling, but not justice. It is not a punishment, but revenge," said Rashid Rahman of the private Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said.

Rural attacks
 
Acid attacks on women are relatively common in rural Pakistan, where harsh feudal and tribal laws are enforced.

Women have been victims of such attacks merely for failing to bear a son or for cooking badly.

Human rights activists say more than 70 incidents of acid attacks have been reported in Punjab since January.

Strict rulings based on Islamic justice handed out by lower courts in Pakistan are often overturned by higher courts.