Reuters blog archive
Tajikistan has taken the first step toward banning children and adolescents from worshipping in mosques and churches, drawing criticism from Muslim leaders who oppose the Central Asian state's crackdown on religious freedom. The lower house of parliament in the impoverished ex-Soviet republic this week passed a "parental responsibility" bill that would make it illegal to allow children to be part of a religious institution not officially sanctioned by the state.
Authorities say the measures are necessary to prevent the spread of religious fundamentalism in the volatile republic, the poorest of the 15 former Soviet republics, where government troops have been fighting insurgents in the mountainous east. Muslim leaders said the law, the brainchild of long-serving President Imomali Rakhmon, would only increase discontent among the majority Muslim population of a nation that fought a civil war in the 1990s in which tens of thousands were killed.
"It's a black day for Muslims. Even in Soviet times, such punitive measures and religious persecution did not exist," said prominent Muslim theologist Akbar Turadzhonzoda. "If the state doesn't want to, the people will defend their faith themselves."
The president of mostly Muslim Tajikistan has urged parents to withdraw their children from religious schools abroad, an appeal reflecting fears of radical Islam gaining ground in the Central Asian nation. President Imomali Rakhmon, in televised remarks to textile factory workers in a town near the border with Afghanistan, said he was concerned Tajik children attending such schools could return home as "terrorists". (Photo: Koran students in Pakistani madrasa in Peshawar, September 11, 2006/Ali Imam)
"All parents who have sent their children to be educated at religious schools abroad -- I would like to ask and urge you to bring them back to their homeland, because most of these schools are not religious," Rakhmon said on Tuesday. "Your children will become extremists, terrorists, and will turn into enemies and traitors of the Tajik nation."
from Afghan Journal:
If you have been reading news reports and blogs in recent weeks on Pakistan's Afghanistan strategy, you would think Islamabad has emerged at the top of the heap, holding all the cards to a possible endgame. Its close ties to the Afghan Taliban put Islamabad in a unique position for a negotiated settlement to the eight-year-war, with little place for arch rival India which has been trying to muscle into its sphere of influence.
But Pakistan must not be taken in by all the hype; it has neither delivered a strategic coup nor has it fully secured its interests, argue two experts in separate pieces that seem to cut through all the noise.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
U.S. efforts to improve supplies for its troops in Afghanistan just had a double setback after militants in northwest Pakistan severed the main supply route for western forces and Kyrgyzstan's president said the United States must close its military base there.
Militants blew up a bridge on the Khyber Pass, cutting the supply route to western forces in Afghanistan and underscoring the need for the United States to seek alternative supply lines. The U.S. military sends 75 percent of supplies for the Afghan war through Pakistan but has been looking at using other transit routes through Central Asia. Although Washington has been sketchy on the details of its plans, its Manas military airbase near the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek has so far provided important logistical support for its operations in Afghanistan. During a visit to Moscow, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced the closure of the base, opened after the 9/11 attacks. Bakiyev made the announcement after securing a $2 billion loan and a further $150 million in aid from Russia.