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Religious Cleric Leaves Government After Linked To Sex Scandal

November 14, 1991

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ The leader of an ultra-right religious party has resigned from Pakistan’s Islamic government amid allegations that a host of prominent men frequented a local brothel, reports said today.

While denying any involvement, Maulana Sami ul-Haq resigned Wednesday as vice president of the Islamic Democratic Alliance government, the English- language Dawn and other newspapers said.

He is the only leader to resign as a result of the scandal, which has put the country’s religious parties on the defensive during a campaign to make Pakistan more strictly Islamic.

Some have even alleged that the scandal was set up to quiet Haq, who has been fiercely criticical of what he has called government foot-dragging in pushing through more religious laws.

″I have been placed in a highly embarrassing position. ... The (country’s) religious forces consider me their soldier who is fighting for the supremacy of the Shariat,″ or Islamic law, Haq told the Senate or Upper House of Parliament on Tuesday.

He spoke shortly after police leaked the confession of a local brothel owner who was arrested recently and charged with possession of illegal weapons and liquor, which is banned in this predominantly Muslim country.

Angry that her powerful clients failed to prevent her arrest, the brothel owner, a 35-year-old former dancer named Madame Tahira, identified prominent lawmakers and religious leaders who she said regularly patronized her business.

Among them, she said, were a Cabinet minister, a judge on the federal Shariat court and lawmakers who led nationwide protests in 1989 against British author Salman Rushdie for defaming Islam.

She didn’t mention Haq in her tape-recorded statement, but referred to a patron who belonged to Pakistan’s Senate and was renowned for his support of Islamic law. Some newspapers published her list of clients.

Haq has been one of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s biggest critics, accusing him of failing to follow through on a promise to turn Pakistan into an Islamic society governed exclusively by the Koran, a Muslim’s holy book.

No charges have been filed against any of Tahira’s alleged clients, police said. Under Islamic law, the penalty for adultery is stoning to death.

Islamic law went into effect earlier this year, making all crimes judged according to the Koran. But ultra-orthodox religious parties said it didn’t go far enough.

They want legislation that would revise the nation’s economy in line with the tenets of Islam, revamp the education system and force women to be veiled and segregated from men.

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