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 Tuesday, 24 December, 2002, 16:01 GMT
Culture crackdown in Pakistan
MMA leader Qazi Hussain Ahmed
Islamic parties made sweeping gains in October

The new Islamic government in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province has started a crackdown on cinemas and video shops.

The Islamists have decided to concentrate on symbolic social issues to please their supporters

It wants to ban films perceived by Islamists as vulgar and obscene.

The alliance of religious parties, the MMA, won elections in the province and made big gains nationwide by capitalising on growing anti-US sentiment following US-led military operations in Afghanistan.

Twenty-three cinema owners were detained in the first round following a direct instruction given by the new provincial chief minister, Akram Durrani.

Billboards

Special police squads raided cinema houses in the city of Peshawar and brought down posters showing actresses in what the Islamists say are vulguar postures.

Jamat-e-Islami party supporter offers prayers for Taliban fighters
The Islamists want a stricter code
Raids were also carried out at dozens of video shops in the city and hundreds of films were confiscated.

The policy is now being extended to the whole of North-West Frontier Province and cinema owners have been warned of stringent punishments if they show movies that are perceived as vulgar or obscene.

Cinema owners are simply shocked and say they only show movies that have already been cleared by the country's conservative board of censors.

Music ban

But the new provincial government has decided to adopt a more strict Islamic code.

Among its first orders were to ban the playing of music in public transport and for buses to stop midway at the time of prayers.

And some of its members want a complete ban on core education.

The religous party's success in recent elections was mainly because of their effective campaign against the growing American involvement in the region and their promise to stop the security operation against the Taleban and al-Qaeda in the country.

But with the pro-US administration at Pakistan's centre, they know it will not be possible to influence foreign policy.

So the Islamists have decided to concentrate on symbolic social issues to please their supporters - something many human rights groups say may push society towards extreme conservatism.

Musharraf's Pakistan

Democracy challenge

Militant threat

Background

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

BBC WORLD SERVICE
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18 Dec 02 | South Asia
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