- The Washington Times - Friday, June 6, 2003

PAKISTAN

Shariah law challenged in province

ISLAMABAD — A legal challenge has been filed in the country’s highest court against a decision to impose traditional Islamic Shariah law in North West Frontier Province, which is controlled by Muslim fundamentalists.

A petition calling the move by the assembly of North West Frontier Province unconstitutional will be heard in the Supreme Court next Thursday, an official of the court told Reuters. Critics say the Shariah law, passed Monday by the assembly, and other Islamization steps there, are reminiscent of the policies of the Taliban overthrown in nearby Afghanistan in 2001.

The petition from lawyer Aslam Khaki argues that the provincial assembly does not have the authority to introduce Islamic legislation.

TURKMENISTAN

President disseminates poetry with a punch

ASHKHABAD — A new poetry collection by President Saparmurat Niyazov preaching the evils of indiscipline, arrogance and wayward thinking is hitting bookshops and media outlets of this isolated ex-Soviet republic.

Supplementing his earlier works — already a staple of television, radio and newspapers — the latest collection is called “The Three Evils Threatening Our Homeland.” Mr. Niyazov read the first verses from his new work Monday on television, moments after firing the commander of the armed forces general staff.

“The meaning of these verses concerns you,” Interfax quoted Mr. Niyazov as telling the hapless general as he fired him. The president, who prefers to be called Turkmenbashi (father of all Turkmen), argues that his writings are essential for asserting the nationhood of this impoverished but natural gas-rich Central Asian state.

Critics have voiced alarm at Turkmenistan’s lack of contact with the outside world, intensified by the curbing of foreign travel, closure of Internet cafes, movie theaters and opera and ballet theaters.

Weekly notes …

Chinese President Hu Jintao told Mongolian lawmakers Thursday that a stronger China is not a threat to the rest of Asia as he proposed closer economic cooperation between the two nations. Mr. Hu made the comments in a speech to the Mongolian parliament shortly before returning to China after a lengthy overseas trip, his first since becoming president in March. China is the largest investor in Mongolia and its top trade partner, accounting for 40 percent of its foreign trade. … Frederick W. Schieck, the No. 2 official at the U.S. Agency for International Development, visited Sri Lanka’s embattled Jaffna peninsula Thursday ahead of an aid-pledging conference in Japan next Monday and Tuesday. Mr. Schieck went to Jaffna to open a water project and was also to visit a site there being de-mined by the U.S. State Department’s Quick Reaction De-mining Force.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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