Accessibility links

Islamists Protest Pakistani Government Decision on Passports


Thousands of activists of Islamic parties in Pakistan have demonstrated in Islamabad against government policies, condemning them as pro-American and anti-Islam.

An alliance of six major Islamic parties known as Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal is leading a campaign for the reinstatement of a column for religion in new Pakistani passports.

On Wednesday, thousands of activists belonging to these Islamic groups gathered in Islamabad to demand removal of President Pervez Musharraf, accusing him of secularizing the country under pressure from the United States.

The protesters chanted "Down with Musharraf" and "God is great" as they marched through the Pakistani capital.

Addressing the rally, a prominent Islamic leader, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, accused President Musharraf of damaging the Islamic identity of the mostly Muslim Pakistan.

Mr. Ahmed says Mr. Musharraf has changed the identity of Pakistan and is now deliberately attempting to remove Islamic subjects from the education system. He says the column of religion was removed from the passports only to appease the United States.

Government officials deny these allegations. They say the changes in the national passport are in line with international standards because no other country requires its citizens to specify their religion in travel documents.

A high-level cabinet committee is looking into the demands of the religious parties to restore the religion column in the passport but its report is still awaited. Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed is the federal information minister.

"The cabinet has assigned this [task] to a committee of six senior ministers,” he said. “So this report, the day it will come [before] the cabinet they will take a decision."

Islamic groups hope to use the passport issue to strengthen an anti-Musharraf campaign, which has so far failed to pose any major challenge to the military ruler, a close U.S ally in the war against terrorism and religious extremism.

XS
SM
MD
LG