NWFP opposition rejects Islamisation bill

Opposition parties on Wednesday dismissed as a smokescreen a bill seeking to enforce Islamic laws in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

    MMA chief Qazi Hussein:
    Pushing for sharia law

    Vice president of the Awami National Party, Haji Mohammad Adeel, dismissed the bill as a "waste of time." All these things are included in the constitution, he said, adding that the ruling alliance should introduce interest-free economy, abolish taxes on private vehicles, and personal property.


    Female councillor Safia Naz said the MMA was wrong to believe it could resolve the problems overnight. "They should focus on promoting education, science and

    technology rather than Talibanisation," she said.


    Senior lawyer Bacha Khan said there was nothing new in the document, and the MMA move was in line with attempts by successive governments "to exploit people in the name of religion."


    He said the people wanted a solution to their economic woes and the bill did not offer any.


    Introducing the bill on Tuesday, senior provincial Minister Siraj ul-Haq termed it the first step towards Islamisation of NWFP society.


    He called the sharia bill a "historic and unprecedented" step that would usher in a silent revolution in the province.

    It would establish a department to promote virtues and suppress vices.


    Islamic justice


    The right-wing Islamic alliance of the six-party Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) tabled the bill in the NWFP provincial legislature. It aims to eradicate obscenity and promote Islamic justice.


    The bill binds civil courts to operate under sharia law, but shelved decisions on key issues of interest-free banking, inheritance and divorce laws.


    Law Minister Malik Zafar Azam, who introduced the bill, said the NWFP government would set up commissions on education and judicial reforms.


    The bill exempts non-Muslims from sharia law. They would be free to practise their religion, customs and traditions.


    The NWFP government would also ensure that sharia laws do not contradict the federal constitution.


    Riding on anti-US sentiments after the ouster of the Taliban in Afghanistan in late 2001, the MMA came to power by promising Islamisation of the province.


    Since then, MMA parties have been waging an anti-obscenity drive in NWFP, vandalising music stores and tearing down billboard advertisements featuring women and western products.


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