The comments, published on Tuesday during Musharraf's ongoing visit to the United States, sparked outrage in Pakistan and elsewhere.

 

"Let me say with total sincerity that I never said that and it has been misquoted," Musharraf said while addressing a gathering of women in New York on Saturday.

 

"These are not my words and I would go to the extent of saying I am not so silly and stupid to make comments of this sort," he said in remarks to the forum recorded by private Pakistani television channel Geo.

 

In an interview with CNN in New York on Saturday, Musharraf said the remarks were made by someone else in his presence and not him.

 

"These are not my words and I would go to the extent of saying I am not so silly and stupid to make comments of this sort"

Pervez Musharraf,
Pakistani president

The Washington Post interview had quoted Musharraf as saying; "A lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped."

 

No one at the Washington Post was immediately available to comment on Musharraf's denial.

 

Women's groups outraged

 

The Post's report sparked outrage among women's groups and liberals in Pakistan as well as abroad, and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin raised the matter with Musharraf during a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

 

Musharraf told the forum of Pakistani-American women that he was committed to fighting violence against women.

 

"Let me commit here wholeheartedly that I stand totally on the side of women, in women's support, to struggle against violence and to struggle for gender equality," he said.

 

Rural rape

 

Rape is prevalent particularly in rural areas of Pakistan, but local media have become more active in following up stories since a notorious gang rape generated massive publicity at home and abroad when the victim spoke out about her ordeal.

 

Mukhtaran Mai (R) was gang-
raped three years ago in Pakistan

Mukhtaran Mai, now an icon for human rights in Pakistan, was gang-raped three years ago on the orders of a village council after her brother, then 12, was judged to have befriended a woman of a powerful clan.

 

Musharraf this year blocked Mai from travelling to the United States to attend a women's rights conference, saying he believed the conference would have tarnished Pakistan's image rather than improved the lot of women.

 

The ban was later lifted after international criticism, including from the US government.