Pakistan's religious right: Fingerprint Americans
Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 at 12:58 a.m.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan's religious right, in a reflection of growing outrage against the United States, called Tuesday for the fingerprinting of Americans, a boycott of U.S. products and compulsory AIDS testing of U.S. visitors.
A coalition of Islamic parties, which gained considerable political clout in October general elections, presented its demands in a list to the government and threatened nationwide demonstrations to push for them.
While a boycott would be up to consumers, the government said fingerprinting or mandatory HIV tests - which the government would control - were out of the question.
"Such demands cannot be accepted," Interior Ministry spokesman Iftikar Ahmad said, without elaborating. He accused the religious right of trying to make trouble for President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and the pro-military government that is a staunch ally of the U.S. war on terror.
"Religious leaders keep making such absurd demands. . . . Such statements serve no cause except to create problems for the government," Ahmad said.
The demand for fingerprinting reflects Pakistani anger over new U.S. requirements that require citizens of Pakistan and other countries living in the United States to be fingerprinted and photographed by immigration agents.
Pakistan has complained about the new immigration regulations.
A coalition of six radical Islamic parties known as the United Action Forum won unprecedented support in October 2002 elections on a strong anti-American platform. They came in third nationwide and won control of two important Pakistani provinces bordering Afghanistan.
The parties that make up the coalition sympathize with the Taliban, support their hardline interpretation of Islam and believe, as the Taliban did, that it is against Islamic tenets to betray a fellow Muslim.
"We will protest throughout the country to rally support" for the demands, said Liaqat Baluch, a member of the coalition party Jamaat-e-Islami.
Baluch said the coalition also wants the government to expel FBI agents and put an end to their role in searches and arrests of Pakistanis. FBI officials have apparently been involved in the arrest of at least two doctors in the eastern city Lahore. The physicians were detained because of alleged links to al-Qaida. One doctor, Ahmad Javed Khawaja, a naturalized American, is still in custody.
"It is the integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan that is at stake here," said Ameer ul-Azeem, a spokesman for the religious coalition.
"Would the United States allow Pakistani security agency men to search homes in America? We also have Pakistanis who are wanted here and hiding in the United States, but our law enforcement agencies can't go there and arrest them," he said.
The religious right also wants Musharraf to close Pakistani bases to the U.S. military. Currently, the United States occupies five bases in Pakistan where it provides logistic support to its 8,000 soldiers in Afghanistan.
Musharraf has vowed continued support for the war on terror.
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