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Pakistan Court Blocks Taleban-Style Bill


Pakistan's Supreme Court has blocked a bill that critics say would set up a Taleban-style religious police force in a province bordering Afghanistan.

The court issued a stay Friday following a petition from President Pervez Musharraf against the bill.

Legislators in North West Frontier Province voted November 13 to establish a moral policing system involving a cleric who would oversee adherence to Muslim values in public life.

Last year, the Supreme Court blocked a similar attempt by the province's government to set up a Hisba, or accountability, department to stop what it considered un-Islamic practices.

The court said several clauses of the bill were unconstitutional.

Liberal critics say the proposed accountability body is modeled on the Taleban's Department of the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue in Afghanistan. The department ran a religious police force before the Taleban's ouster in 2001.

An alliance of conservative Islamic parties won power in the province in 2002 elections. President Musharraf, who promotes a vision of "enlightened moderation" for his country, has called on voters to reject conservative Islamic parties and choose moderate candidates in a general election expected late next year or in early 2008.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.