Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back
HVK Archives: Conservative days ahead with new President

Conservative days ahead with new President - The Asian Age

Kathy Gannon ()
January 4, 1998

Title: Conservative days ahead with new President
Author: Kathy Gannon
Publication: The Asian Age
Date: January 4, 1998

The election of Pakistan's most conservative President in a
decade is the latest sign of the strengthening influence of
religious fundamentalism in the country.

In a mosque in Lahore, a young boy says his big ambition in life
is to kill non-believers. His friend says he wants to fight a
Jihad, or holy war. In the nearby village of Raiwind, hundreds
of bearded men carrying bed rolls arrive at a religious school to
learn more about their Islamic faith before heading off to preach
in Pakistan and abroad. In Punjab, where 60 per cent of
Pakistan's, 140 million people live, segregation of the sexes is
gaining momentum.

Television advertisements of pretty young women using facial soap
have been pulled, not for what they show, but for what they
don't. As one government censor put it: "People may imagine that
she is not wearing anything." Mohammed Rafiq Tarar, who was
elected by legislators on Wednesday, is taking office as the
country's most religiously orthodox President since military
dictator Mohammed Zia-Ul Haq died in 1988. Mr Zia resurrected
public hangings, stoning to death and public beatings, all in
keeping with Islamic dictates. Mr Tarar, a retired judge of the
Lahore high court, is a member of Pakistan's orthodox Muslim
Tableeqi Movement, which is committed to spreading Islam

Although Pakistan's presidency is largely a ceremonial post, it
is seen as a powerful institution able to delay legislation. The
President is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces,
considered the strongest institution in Pakistan.

Religious leaders welcomed Mr Tarar's election. Liberals and
human-rights activists expressed worries. "It's natural for
anybody to be frightened," said Asma Jehangir, a lawyer who is
Pakistan's leading human rights activist. "It will be more
difficult to fight human rights. Already I am receiving threats
and being told I am not a Muslim because I criticised Mr Tarar's
nomination as President."

She fears the growing influence of conservatives will translate
into greater intimidation of human rights activists, particularly
by students of religions schools.

Interior minister Shujaat Hussein said the government will not
let that happen and it trying to curb militancy at the schools.

Mr Tarar said in a telephone interview that Pakistan's liberals
have nothing to fear from him and described himself as a "liberal
Muslim." His critics question that description. Mr Tarar opposes
family law legislation that gives women the right to divorce and
to fight for custody of their children. The three-judge court he
led upheld amputation of limbs as punishment for theft, although
Pakistani physicians have refused to carry out such sentences.


Back                          Top

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements