by Zia Ur Rehman
March 11, 2015
As part of the new anti-terrorism policy, the law enforcement agencies have started scrutinising madrassas in Sindh, sealed hundreds of them and arrested many teachers and students.
In response, religious parties have threatened to launch a movement against the provincial government.
“The law enforcement agencies have been inspecting religious seminaries’ connections with banned militant groups and their sources of funding, especially from abroad, and sealed many of them,” a home department official told The News requesting anonymity.
“They have also been examining the assets of seminaries and the foreign students and teachers there, especially those from Afghanistan,” he added.
“Besides, the affiliation of teachers and students with religious parties and jihadist groups and their activities are also being monitored.”
On March 6, Hyderabad DIG Sanaullah Abbasi told reporters that around 500 unregistered seminaries had been shut down only in the division alone.
Religious leaders and administrators of seminaries corroborated the ongoing crackdown.
Qari Muhammad Usman, the provincial vice-president of the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Fazl, said after the passage of the 21st amendment, the government had started a crackdown against madrassas and mosques in different parts of the province.
Religious parties and the Ittehad-e- Tanzeemat-e-Madaris-e-Deenia, a coalition of all five wifaqs (federations) of seminaries, have vowed to resist the crackdown.
In a meeting on March 9, the leaders of five major religious parties, including the JUI-F, the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Jamiat-e-Ulema-Pakistan (Noorani), the Shia Ulema Council and the Jamiat Ahl Hadith , threatened to launch a movement to stop the sealing of seminaries and the harassing of clerics under the Loudspeaker Act and other laws
“If the Sindh government did not stop this crackdown, the religious parties would be compelled to announce a large-scale protest drive starting from March 18 and could also besiege the Chief Minister’s House,” Usman told The News.
“If the government has proof of the involvement of eight to 10 percent seminaries in terrorism, why are they not sharing it with the public?” he asked.
It is not for the first time that the religious parties have voiced their opposition to government attempts to regulate seminaries.
When former military ruler Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf tried to regulate seminaries in 2004 and introduced a model madrassa board in 2004, the five major wifaqs formed an alliance to oppose the move.
Civil society’s concerns
Security analysts and civil society organisations are unsatisfied with the government’s action.
Asad Iqbal Butt, the provincial vice-chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said it was the prime responsibility of the government to curtail the mushroom growth of seminaries in the province, especially in Karachi.
“The government is unable to stand up to the pressure exerted by the religious parties and that is why it has not taken bold measures to bring seminaries under its control,” he added.
Tariq Pervez, the former chairman of the National Counter-Terrorism Authority, believes that the government should adopt a two-dimensional policy for tackling the issue of the ties between seminaries and militancy to remove the misconceptions among the public.
“First is the regulation of seminaries, in which registration, financing and curricula are included. Second is to prove the seminaries links to terrorism with strong evidence such as sharing the interrogation of the arrested militants with the public,” Pervez said.