Pakistan: MMA to ban women's photography, dance and music

Islam Interfaith
MMA governs the most important province of Pakistan i.e. North West Frontier Province (NWFP) that borders Afghanistan. Its parliamentarians have presented a bill that seeks to ban dance, music and women's photography.
MMA enjoys tremendous majority in the parliament and the strong likelihood is the bills will become part of NWFP legislation.
The opposition has termed the bill a step forward in 'Talibanisation' of the country' province and vowed not let the bill become a law.

'MMA government is leading the province towards Talibanisation and destroying the Pushtun culture and traditions. We oppose and will oppose its move inside and outside the assembly,' says the opposition leader Bashir Ahmad Bilour who comes from Awami National Party (ANP).

'There is no such ban in Pakistan, then why such a ban in the NWFP? Is NWFP outside Pakistan? Why they (MMA clerics) are trying to impose ban on women photographs? If taking pictures is un-Islamic, why the MMA has displayed photos in their offices and why have they allowed women in the assemblies? By taking such illegal and unconstitutional steps, MMA is destroying the province,' says Asfanyar Wali Khan, ANP's Secretary General.

'The multinational companies would never invest in Pakistan where the women are not allowed to appear on TV and in advertisements. Will MMA clerics replace the women appearing in the advertisements on the print and electronic media with their long beards? The MMA is keeping the entire population of NWFP hostage on such non-issues instead of taking practical steps for solution of people's problems,' says Wali.

The bill, if enacted, will consider dancing and music at a public place or an educational institution an offence. It shall be an offence punishable with imprisonment which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to Rs 5000. Where any person convicted of an offence again commits the same offense, he shall be punished for every such subsequent offence with imprisonment, which may extend to 10 years and with fine, which may extend to Rs 10,000. The Bill adds: 'If a police officer not below the rank of an Inspector has reason to believe that any offence under this act has been, is being or is about to be committed, he may enter any public place or an educational institution and arrest any person who in his opinion, has committed, is committing or is about to commit such offence, including the person who abets the commission of such an offence. The offence under section 3 shall be cognisable and non-bail able.' The dancing and music at public places, especially in educational institutions promotes obscenity and free sex. It perverts the society. This should be stopped. Therefore, we have presented this bill, says the MMA cleric Mian Nadir Shah.

MMA after coming into power in 2002 imposed an 'unofficial' ban on dance and music that forces hundreds of female dancers to prostitution. MMA clerics set on fire the cinema houses, exhibition centers and smashed billboards that displayed females' images. In early 2003, MMA banned female sports, ultrasonography of female by male technicians and music in the public transport. In the mid-2004, MMA forced the government officials to pray or be ready to be sacked. In the same year, MMA issued an order that forces shopkeepers to close down their shops during prayer times.

Analysts say that MMA has failed to live up to its promises that it made with its voters and now trying to hide its inefficiency with the cover of Islam. In 2003, MMA compiled all the above weird laws and passed them under Hisba Act that was not assented by the Governor. MMA has made another attempt to improve its so-called image.

According to some analysts, splits and cracks have started appearing in MMA. The two major parties in the coalition Jamat-e-Islami and Jamiat-e-Ulmai-Islam (Fazlur Rehman) are at loggerheads. Another coalition partner Jamiat-e-Ulmai-Islam (Sami ul Haq) has already started criticizing the MMA policies publicly. The new bill has been tabled in a bid to salvage the sinking ship of MMA.

by Mohammad Shehzad, Lahore