.- The Press Office of the Holy See has announced that John Paul II will meet with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf at the Vatican on September 30. Musharraf, a moderate Muslim considered an ally of the West and a critical person in the possible capture of Osama Bin Laden. He is the third Pakistani leader to meet with the Pontiff.
The first Pakistani leader received in audience by John Paul II was the feared dictator Ziaul Haq in 1982, who allowed the country to channel resources for the expulsion of the Soviet army from neighboring Afghanistan, followed in 1998 by then Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif.
Although Pakistan is politically tight with the West, persecution and even the killing of Christians is a constant and serious issue in the country. It is very possible, therefore, that the Pope will mention the issue of religious freedom to Musharraf, who has not shown sufficient political will to control the Muslim areas of the country, where there are efforts to replace civil law with “Sharia” or Islamic law.
President Musharraf will arrive in Italy next Tuesday in order to hold diplomatic and commerce discussions with Italian leaders.