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Pakistan President Warns Against Moves by Hardline Islamists

Pakistan's president is warning against efforts by Islamic hardliners to impose a Taleban-style religious code on the country.

President Pervez Musharraf says the people and government of Pakistan must guard against the "Talebanization" of the country.

In a speech to a lawyers' association in Lahore, President Musharraf called for Pakistanis to act against attempts to impose Sharia law. Such laws include mandating conservative Islamic dress for women and prohibiting some forms of entertainment.

While President Musharraf said Pakistan should keep its Islamic identity, he stressed that it should also be moderate and democratic. The Pakistani leader says that no one in government should be allowed to decide "who is a good Muslim and who is not."

Last week an alliance of religious parties in control of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province approved legislation to introduce Islamic law.

The religious alliance has banned male doctors in the province from treating female patients and has launched a campaign to stamp out secular singing, dancing and pornography. The group is also considering a law to require women to cover themselves from head to toe, just as Afghanistan's now-ousted Taleban regime had done.

A private petition challenging the law is scheduled to be heard by a court later this week.

The passage of Sharia law in the Northwest Frontier Province is one of several serious challenges faced by the government, which is facing a political crisis over the powers of the president.

Since taking control of the country almost four years ago, Mr. Musharraf has amended the constitution to increase his powers, a move that has polarized parliament into a legislative standstill.