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  Pakistan: The Mullahs and the Military

Islamabad/Brussels, 20 March 2003: In a new report, Pakistan: The Mullahs and the Military, the International Crisis Group (ICG), warns that an alliance of major religious parties threatens to undermine civil liberties, freedom of expression, legal reforms and religious tolerance in Pakistan. The situation of women and minorities is of particular concern.

The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) was elected to government in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Baluchistan in October 2002. Its leaders vow to Islamise state and society, counter to President Musharraf's pledges to end religious extremism. However, MMA's zeal is not being confronted by the President or the military, while the President's recent constitutional amendments have undermined the domestic standing of moderate secular parties -- to the benefit of the religious lobby.

ICG's South Asia Project Director Samina Ahmed said:
"Since the military takeover in 1999, the government has demonstrated neither the will nor intent to pursue domestic policies opposed by the mullahs such as madrasa regulation or changes in discriminatory Islamic laws. The perpetual threat of war with India over Kashmir also brings the mullahs and the military close together".

While moderate sections of Pakistani society are being marginalised, religious parties and their causes are flourishing. The religious right, jihad and Islamisation are again acceptable currencies in political life. ICG urges donors to channel funding through the federal government to women and minorities in NWFP and Baluchistan and to link funding to the state of fundamental freedoms in MMA governments.

ICG Asia Program Director Robert Templer said: "The federal government will have to restrain MMA provincial governments from inciting jihadi sentiments and encouraging a gun culture in the name of local traditions. More pressure from key donors might expedite the disarmament of jihadi groups and ending their activities".

The dangers of inaction are evident. The MMA leaders have deferred to the military in setting foreign and security policy but may in the end be unable to curb the anti-American sentiments of their followers. Pakistan could then find itself isolated regionally and a target, as opposed to a partner, in the U.S.-led war against terrorism.

Katy Cronin (London) +44-(0)20 7981 0330
email: [email protected]

Francesca Lawe-Davies (Brussels) +32-(0)2-536 00 65
Jennifer Leonard (Washington) +1-202-785 1601
*Read the full ICG report on our website: www.crisisweb.org


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