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Tuesday, 18 July, 2000, 19:10 GMT 20:10 UK
A Taleban cut too far
afghan scene
Moral crimes are numerous in the eyes of the Taleban
By Kate Clarke in Kabul

A Taleban official has condemned the religious police who arrested 12 Pakistani footballers for wearing shorts and shaved their heads.

Under the Taleban's strict dress code, wearing shorts is banned.

But the head of the Taleban sports authority said the religious police in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar had used excessive force when they stopped the match, and detained the players.

Abdul-Shakoor Mutma'in said the Pakistani footballers had been guests and, even though they had broken the law, they had not deserved their treatment.

Irresponsible

He said that the arrests had been made by irresponsible people.

These are tough words indeed to describe the powerful Taleban religious police - even if Mr Mutma'in insisted the arrests had not been authorised by senior officials.

But, according to the Pakistani consul in Kandahar, the Taleban authorities generally are unhappy with the incident and have sacked the officer in charge.

The consul said the Taleban had wanted to treat the players to special hospitality and play the game again. But, after a night in jail, the players had just wanted to go home.

Virtue and vice

The religious police are charged with promoting virtue and preventing vice.

It is they who deal with the moral crimes numerous under the Taleban's interpretation of Islam.

Playing music or watching television are serious offences, along with trimming your beard if you are a man, and not covering your face, or travelling without a male relative in a taxi if you are a woman.

People say the religious police are unpredictable, and that is one reason why they are feared much more than the regular police force.

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See also:

11 Jan 00 | South Asia
Afghanistan: Women under Taleban rule
03 Aug 98 | South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
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