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Wednesday, June 18 1997

Taliban religious force cracks down on Islamic code offenders

ASSOCIATED PRESS

KABUL, June 17: The Taliban religious police launched a fearsome crackdown in the Afghan capital, punishing 48 people for defying their strict Islamic codes, a police official said on Tuesday.

In the last 24 hours, police units patrolling the streets of this war-weary city beat 14 women, who were out on the street and apparently not fully covered in line with the Taliban's Islamic dress code.

The Taliban require women to wear burkhas, thus remaining covered from head-to-toe.

A religious police official said his forces also beat four taxi drivers and seven shopkeepers who had served women unaccompanied by men a crime according to the Taliban, who forbid interaction between unrelated men and women.

The religious police also arrested 23 men who had trimmed their beards contrary to a Taliban edict that requires men to grow full beards like the one the Muslim prophet Mohammed wore.

The men were sent to jail for 48 hours, or until their beards grew, the police official said.

The radically Islamic Taliban has banned most forms of entertainment in the roughly two-thirds of Afghanistan it controls.

The Islamic militia is locked in fierce battles with a northern coalition of forces which espouse a more liberal view of Islam.

It was not immediately clear why the crackdown took place.

The religious police routinely police the streets, but their zeal has increased in the past 24 hours, according to residents.

Pak, Iran to mediate

Pakistan and Iran have decided to work together to promote intra-Afghan dialogue and influence rival groups to restore peace in Afghanistan, reports quoting Pakistani officials said today.

The agreement was reached during hour-long talks between Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who flew into Tehran from Turkey yesterday, Pakistani foreign secretary Shahmshad Ahmed said.

Rafsanjani told Sharif that ``Nothing can have any adverse impact on Pakistan-Iran relations,'' the official associated press of Pakistan quoted Ahmed as telling Pakistani reporters after the meeting in Tehran.

Despite the differences in their foreign policies in dealing with Afghanistan, Sharif told Rafsanjani that Islamabad's policy towards Afghanistan was ``even-handed, totally neutral, and based on non interference,'' the foreign secretary said.

Copyright © 1997 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

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