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Pakistan Christians Nervous about Sharia Law Enforcement

ICC Note: This story highlights the danger that Christians face with a Taliban-run valley in Pakistan.

By Ethan Cole
02/28/09 Pakistan ( – Christians in Pakistan voiced serious concerns about government allowing Islamic laws to be enforced in certain terrorist prone areas, noting that while not many Christians directly live in the affected areas there are thousands that live nearby.

“We are very much concerned about these developments. It does not augur well for us,” said Victor Azariah, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Pakistan, according to Ecumenical News International.

Sharia law, or Islamic law, will be enacted in Malakand region in the North West Frontier Province. Azariah notes that hundreds of thousands of Christians live in the North West Frontier Province and they now feel threatened by the government’s agreement with Islamic leaders to allow Sharia law to dominate in the terrorist hotbed.

Last week, the chief minister of the North West Frontier Province had agreed with local Muslim leaders that have intimate ties to terrorist organizations such as the Taliban and Al Qaeda to allow Sharia law to be enacted in the Malakand region in exchange for a ceasefire on the part of extremist fighters.

There has been a marked increase in extremist activity and acts in the Northwest Frontier Province in recent months.

But human rights groups, including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, are criticizing the enforcement of Sharia laws “with the absence of any guarantees against transgression of the constitution and the people’s basic rights.” The group says such an agreement would pose a grave threat to basic law and fundamental rights, according to a statement.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has also denounced Pakistan’s plan to enact a Sharia system in the NWFP.

“This deal is being brokered with Taliban-associated extremists who consistently demonstrate utter disregard for human life and the essential freedoms sanctioned by international human rights mechanisms,” said Commission Chair Felice D. Gaer, in a statement Wednesday.

“Granting power to these individuals’ interpretations of sharia could easily result in further human rights abuses and religious freedom restrictions,” she added. “The Commission calls on the U.S. State Department to communicate that the protection of human rights in Swat Valley and throughout Pakistan is a top priority of the United States,”

Following the spike in violence in the Swat Valley (located in Malakand region) in 2003, Taliban-linked groups imposed rules restricting movement, education, and local customs that follow their interpretation of Islam, according to USCIRF… [Go To Full Story]