The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pak bill blocked
Musharraf: Against hawks

Islamabad, Dec. 15 (Reuters): Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled today that Islamists ruling a province could not, for now, enact a bill that critics say would set up a Taliban-style religious police force.

The supreme court issued a stay following a petition from President Pervez Musharraf against the bill adopted last month by the Assembly in North West Frontier Province, attorney general Makhdoom Ali Khan said.

Last year, the supreme court blocked an attempt by the provincial government to set up a Hisba, or accountability, department to stop what it considered un-Islamic practices such as gambling and “obscenity”. The court said several clauses of a bill to set up the department were unconstitutional. The provincial Assembly adopted a watered-down version of the bill on November 13.

Musharraf, who promotes a vision of “enlightened moderation” for his country and has called on voters to reject Islamist parties, filed a petition against the bill yesterday, Khan said. “The supreme court has issued a stay that the Hisba Bill 2006 shall not be enacted or deemed to be enacted,” Khan said.

Controversy over the bill reflects a long struggle between religious conservatives and liberals over the direction of society in Pakistan.

Liberal critics say the proposed accountability body is modelled on the Taliban’s department of the prevention of vice and promotion of virtue in Afghanistan.

Provincial information minister Asif Iqbal Daudzai, a member of the ruling Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal alliance, said the court’s decision showed that the government was undemocratic. “We are really surprised. We drafted the bill in light of the supreme court’s directives,” he said.

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