05/18/2009, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Pakistan: ulemas against the Taliban, “full support” to the government and army

by Qaiser Felix
Islamic leaders reject the “Taliban version of sharia” and invoke “unity” against the fundamentalist’s offensive. Catholic bishops welcome the ulema’s decision, describing it a “positive step”. Summit of 42 political leaders to draw up a common response to the crisis.

Lahore (AsiaNews) –Pakistan’s ulemas have rejected the methods used by the Taliban to apply Islamic law in Swat Valley and fully support the military offensive launched by the government.  The Catholic bishops judge the step to be “positive”, while on the ground the battle intensifies to uproot the last outposts of the Islamic extremists.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP), an organisation of experts on Islamic law, at the Convention Centre in Islamabad unanimously adopted a nine-point resolution, rejecting the “Taliban’s version of Sharia” and the beheading of innocent people in Malakand.  They also give their “full backing” to the ongoing military operation, which they describe as “a war for Pakistan’s integrity and sovereignty’” against forces which aim to create a “state within a state”. The Ulema also called on the Organisation of Islamic Countries to come forward to help the displaced people of Swat and to forge “unity” in their ranks against the Taliban.

Pakistan’s Catholic bishops “favourably welcome” the decision by the ulemas, defining it a “positive step”.  Msgr. Lawrence John Saldanha, Archbishop of Lahore and President of the Catholic Bishops Conference, applauds the military campaign against the “brutal forces” which attack the “nation’s constitution”.  The prelate also recalls to mind the drama of the one and a half million refugees who have fled the war, announcing a series of initiatives that the Church has launched to come to their aid.  Among these, the purchase – thanks to money collected in the Lenten campaign – of electric fans to alleviate the summer heat within the tents for people living in the camps.  The Archbishop further added that National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) has also called a meeting of all major churches (Catholic and Protestants) in Lahore on May 22 to “ponder the currant situation of the country” especially “the extremism and military operation”.

On the ground operations continue with army helicopters and fighter jets bombarding the extremist’s stronghold of Mingora.  In Islamabad, an All Party Conference on Swat, has begun, uniting the government and 42 principal political groups.  Premier Yousaf Raza Gilani has confirmed that the army will continue its operations to wipe-out the Taliban resistance restore peace and favour the re-integration of the displaced.  He has also recognised that the peace accord signed with the extremists - the introduction of Sharia in exchange for a ceasefire- has been a failure and adds that “the Pakistani nuclear arsenal is safe”.

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