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Last Updated: Monday, 31 October 2005, 12:23 GMT
Pakistan 'Taleban bill' revived
By Haroon Rashid
BBC News, Peshawar

NWFP Finance Minister Siraj-ul Haq, right, and Law Minister Malik Zafar Azam arrive for the hearing
Law minister Malik Zafar Azam (L) defended the timing of the bill
A bill critics say will bring in a Taleban-style moral code has been revived in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province.

The bill replaces an earlier document the Supreme Court said contained clauses that were unconstitutional.

The new law would appoint a watchdog to observe Islamic values in public places but its powers have now been diluted.

Opposition politicians said the bill should not be tabled at a time of devastation from the 8 October quake.

However, the speaker of the provincial legislature admitted the bill for later discussion amid angry opposition shouts.

'God's wrath'

The bill was presented by the six-party religious alliance that governs in the province, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA).

The earlier bill calling for the creation of the watchdog called Hisba (accountability) had been passed by a majority vote in July.

Pro-Sharia law activists in North-West Frontier Province
The law is aimed at moral policing, critics say

But the Supreme Court, after intervention by President Pervez Musharraf, declared some clauses in contravention of the constitution.

Under the revised bill, several of the controversial powers of the ombudsman have been deleted.

Provincial law minister, Malik Zafar Azam, said the earlier bill was "dead" because the governor did not sign it.

He said the new draft has been prepared bearing in mind the court judgement.

The minister defended the presentation of the bill at this time, saying the earthquake was the result of God's wrath at man's misdeeds.

He said the need for such a legislation was more keenly felt now given the need to save moral values by introducing God's rules.

However, the opposition benches described the tabling as an attempt to divide political parties.

Opposition leader, Shahzada Gustasip, said the nation needed unity at this time of hardship.


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