11/23/2006, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Pakistani minorities protest against approval of "Taleban" law

by Qaiser Felix

The alliance for religious and social minorities in Pakistan is calling for the withdrawal of the Hasba Bill, a law that harks back to the decrees of the Taleban.

Peshawar (AsiaNews) – The All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) has protested about the approval of a law in North West Frontier Province (NWFP), which is inspired by Islam and allegedly harks back to Taleban decrees. The law just passed in the Pakistani province bordering Afghanistan has been described as a "cause for concern for all other faiths".

Alliance members include Christians, Hindus, and Sikh from different Churches and denominations as well as human rights organizations, and minority parties. Together they staged a peaceful march in front of Peshawar' press club on 19 November to call for the elimination of the Hasba Bill "that seeks to 'Talebanize' the province and further, the country."

In July 2005, the provincial Assembly, led by the MMA (Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal, a coalition of six Muslim parties) voted in favour of the bill of law, which establishes the position of muhtasib, a sort of Islamic watchdog that monitors observance of Islamic and Sharia values.

The following September, the Supreme Court annulled the draft law, describing it as "unconstitutional and discriminatory". On 13 November, the provincial Assembly approved amendments to the bill, adhering – according to the local government – to the directives of the court. But many think the risk of discrimination and abuse that would be permitted is still very high.

Shahbaz Bhatti, head of the alliance, told AsiaNews: "The bill is reminiscent of similar Islamic laws passed by former Taleban regime in Afghanistan, a sword hanging over religious and social minorities."

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