This year has been one of tumult and challenge for the administration of President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan. Last year, he had tried to deal with the twin threats of "legitimate" Islamists and terrorists who were threatening to undermine the nation. Within the National Assembly's 342 seats, there are 63 seats that belong to members of a coalition of six Islamist parties known as the MMA (Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal or United Action Front). The MMA members of parliament forced a compromise when Musharraf tried to water down the so-called Hudood Ordinances. These religious laws were introduced by the dictator Zia ul-Haq in 1979 with the full blessing of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, which is now the main member of the MMA coalition. The Hudood laws meant that any woman who complained of being raped could be found guilty of adultery if she could not provide four (male and Muslim) witnesses.
The actions of the MMA and other Islamist groups have brought Pakistan close to becoming an archetypal "failed state". Pakistan's Constitution is meaningless: Part 2, Chapter 1, section 20 claims that "every citizen shall have the right to profess, practise and propagate his religion." Despite this, the Blasphemy Laws, introduced by Zia ul-Haq in 1986, stipulate that members of the Ahmidiyyah sect can be given three year jail sentences for preaching (article 298-B of the Penal Code). Anyone who insults Mohammed, the founder of Islam, could be given a death sentence (article 375-C of the Penal Code). Since 1990, the death sentence has become mandatory for this "offense". A person accused of any blasphemy is automatically jailed until trial. Attempts by Musharraf to repeal any of the Blasphemy Laws have been challenged by the MMA.
In May this year, the National Assembly approved the first draft of a bill introduced by the MMA. This bill, called The Apostasy Act 2006, will mean that any Muslim man who leaves his religion (or is claimed by two Muslims to have left Islam) will receive the death penalty. A woman apostate will be given a jail sentence for life, unless she returns to Islam. Section 8 of the draft bill ensures that all of an apostate's properties are removed and given to Muslim relatives, and Section 9 ensures that an apostate loses all rights of custody over his or her children.
The MMA has consistently called for attacks against American interests, and during the February 2006 "cartoon protests", leaders called for Islamist revolution and the murder of the President. Four days before the earthquake of October 8, 2005, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, president of the Jamaat-e-Islami and the MMA, swore that his party would lead an Islamic revolution against Musharraf. This individual has openly claimed his support for the Taliban and for Al Qaeda. His party has urged its membership to shield Al Qaeda operatives fleeing from Afghanistan, while Qazi has praised Osama bin Laden, whom he met in Sudan in 1998. Qazi has called for "martyrdom operations" in Israel, Kashmir and Chechnya, and has supported close ties with terror group Hamas. As both his Jamaat-e-Islami party and Hamas have historical Muslim Brotherhood links, this is not surprising. Qazi Hussain Ahmad runs a madrassa in Pa