Multan, June 6 (Reuters): Islamic activists vandalised billboards featuring women in a Pakistani city today, in the latest assertion by hardline Islamic groups in a country that has been a key ally in the U.S-led war on terror.
About 200 members of Shabab-e-Milli, the youth faction of the right-wing Jamaat-e-Islami party, smeared billboards featuring women with black paint, as police watched without interfering in Multan, 420 km south of Islamabad, witnesses said.
The North West Frontier Province (NWFP) observed a public holiday today to mark the passage of the Islamic Shariat law earlier this week, a move that has been challenged in the country’s top court.
Critics say the Shariat law and other Islamisation steps already adopted or in the pipeline, are reminiscent of the policies of the hardline Taliban, overthrown in neighbouring Afghanistan in late 2001.
About 100 MMA supporters chanting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) and pro-Shariat slogans marched on the streets in Peshawar and distributed sweets. Hamid-ul-Haq, MMA lawmaker in the national parliament, said the group had fulfiled its promise of enforcing Shariat law.
“MMA had been given the mandate to implement Shariat,” he said. “The blood of (the Afghan) Taliban has borne fruit and Shariat has been implemented in NWFP.”
Senior provincial minister Siraj-ul-Haq said the government would not force people to go to the mosques. “We will not force anyone to grow a beard but hope people will voluntarily follow Islamic injunctions,” he added.
Witnesses in Multan said Shabab-e-Milli youth used tall ladders to reach the billboards advertising consumer products and smear the women featured on them with black paint.
“These multinational companies want to promote obscenity, lewdness and vulgarity by showing women in different poses,” Shahzada Babur, chief of Shabab-e-Milli, said in Multan. “We would not let them do so.”
Babur denied they were vandalising private property. “It is they who are acting contrary to Islamic law by promoting vulgarity,” he said.
The latest action follows similar acts against posters and signboards in the eastern city of Lahore, and Peshawar, capital of NWFP, last month.
No police action was taken in the earlier incidents.