Peshawar, June 3(Reuters): Islamic fundamentalists ruling a Pakistani province today said that they would segregate universities and urge men to grow beards after imposing the traditional Shariat law, acts which are reminiscent of the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
The government of North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) plans a slew of new legislation to promote Islamisation after becoming the first Pakistan region in years to adopt the Shariat, provincial law minister Zafar Azam said.
“The Shariat will be the supreme law,” he said. “We will preach to people to adopt good things and give up bad things.”
Azam said the provincial government would urge men to grow beards. “We will also make laws to persuade youngsters to obey their parents,” he said.
Another plan was to set up separate universities for women, he said.
After voting to adopt the Shariat yesterday, the provincial assembly had been expected to vote today on setting up a version of the Department for Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue, a notorious body run by the Taliban’s religious police when it ruled Afghanistan.
However, Azam said a vote on the “accountability department” would now come later. He gave no reasons for the delay.
The NWFP came under the control of the six-party Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) Islamic alliance after the October elections which critics say were manipulated by military President Pervez Musharraf to keep mainstream parties sidelined.
The MMA includes two openly pro-Taliban parties and has taken a series of steps reminiscent of the Afghan group’s Islamic fundamentalism.
On Saturday, the MMA ordered civil servants to pray five times a day and urged businesses to close at prayer times.
This followed curbs on the sale of music and videos, the destruction of posters featuring women and advertising western products, and the imposition of a complete ban on alcohol.
The MMA has also banned music on public transport, medical examinations of women by male doctors, male coaches for women athletes and male journalists from covering women’s sports.
Provincial officials said the Shariat would have to be respected by the police and the judiciary, but under Pakistan’s federal system justice is dispensed centrally.
Observers say the MMA’s latest moves could widen its differences with Musharraf's government. Federal information minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said yesterday that the pro-military Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali was expected to announce “administrative” measures for NWFP today, but gave no details.
The MMA’s rise to power in NWFP and neighbouring Baluchistan has raised concerns that it could undermine the US-led “war on terror” in Afghanistan.
A US-led coalition ousted the Taliban in late 2001, but the months since the MMA came to power have seen a surge in attacks in Afghanistan blamed on Taliban remnants, which Afghan officials say have been orchestrated from Pakistani borderlands.