12/16/2006, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Supreme court blocks “Taleban law” again

The court has ordered the governor of the North West Frontier Province not to sign the controversial Islam-inspired Hasba Bill, which even President Musharraf is against.

Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Pakistan's Supreme Court has blocked approval of the controversial Hasba Bill for the second time in North West Frontier Province (NWFP). In November, the provincial assembly approved the Islam-inspired law despite a chorus of protest by campaigners and religious minorities who saw it as a bid to “'Talebanise' the province and beyond that, the country”. The Court ordered the NWFP governor not to sign the bill into law until a definitive decision was taken about it. The Hasba Bill is opposed by President Pervez Musharraf who has often come under fire for not implementing the ideal of moderate Islam he promotes for his country.

In July 2005, the provincial Assembly, led by the MMA (Muttahida 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.

The Supreme Court said it will take up the case of the Hasba Bill again in the third week of January, when the NWFP government will be given a chance to defend the bill.

The ruling came after a petition from President Musharraf and Attorney General Makhdoom Ali Khan. The NWFP Information Minister accused Islambabad of being “undemocratic”.

Local analysts say the court ruling and protests by fundamentalists clearly highlight an ongoing struggle at Pakistani leadership levels between conservative and moderate forces.

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