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Pervez acts on Shariat belt

Islamabad, June 4 (Reuters): The Pakistani government today recalled the top bureaucrat and police chief of a province bordering Afghanistan that has adopted a series of radical Islamic reforms.

Critics say the reforms are modelled on policies of Afghanistan’s ousted Taliban rulers.

“The federal government has called back the chief secretary and inspector general of police from North West Frontier Province,” the official APP news agency quoted Daniyal Aziz, chairman of National Reconstruction Bureau, as saying.

Some newspapers, in predicting the move, said it could be a tactic by military President Pervez Musharraf to limit the effects of the reforms by putting trusted figures in key posts.

North West Frontier’s chief minister Akram Durrani said Islamabad should not have taken such a step without his agreement. Analysts said it would widen the differences between Islamists and pro-military government of Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali.

“It’s very unfortunate. They should have consulted me and they should consult me in future,” Durrani said.

The conservative North West Frontier region came under the control of hardline lawmakers from the six-party Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) alliance after October elections that critics say were manipulated by Musharraf to keep mainstream parties sidelined.

On Monday, it became the first province to pass a Bill to implement Shariat, or Islamic law, and plans a body to promote religious observance critics fear will resemble the notorious religious police of Afghanistan’s former Taliban regime.

The MMA, traditional allies in the past of military rulers, are now proving an embarrassment for Musharraf shortly before he visits Washington to meet President George W. Bush on June 24, when he is expected to discuss cooperation in the war against Taliban remnants and al Qaida in Afghanistan.

Some analysts say the MMA is deliberately forcing the pace on Islamisation, not only to keep it own supporters happy, but as part of its campaign to force Musharraf to reverse controversial constitutional changes enshrining a military role in politics. Already the standoff with the opposition has almost paralysed the National Assembly and it also threatens smooth presentation of next fiscal year’s budget on Saturday.

The budget Bill is expected to pass, given the small pro-military National Assembly majority, but the debate is expected to be noisy and uncomfortable for Musharraf and Jamali.

Analysts do not believe Musharraf’s position as President is threatened.

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