by Zia Ur Rehman
June 26, 2015
After a gap of several years, the Federal Ministry for Religious Affairs and the new management of the Pakistan Madrassa Education Board (PMEB) have again started making efforts to affiliate madrassas with the board.
In advertisements published in Wednesday’s newspapers, the PMEB has asked all independent madrassas to voluntarily apply for affiliation with the board.
Insiders in the PMEB say it is part of the National Action Plan to regulate seminaries, and, as the first step, the authorities are only aiming to get madrassas not associated with any board to register voluntarily.
The PMEB is a state-run body and works under the Federal Ministry for Religious Affairs. It was formed in September 2003 by then president Pervez Musharraf.
Its objective was to establish model madrassas across the country. However, the PMEB remained dysfunctional for several years since its inception and could set up only three model madrassas in the country — Karachi, Sukkar and Islamabad.
After a gap of 11 years, a meeting of the PMEB was held in Islamabad in March this year, which was presided over by Federal Minister for Religious Affair Sardar Muhammad Yousaf. The meeting suggested that the PMEB’s name should be changed to Islamic Education Commission.
Dr Amir Tauseen, chairman of the PMEB, says the board is seeking applications from independent madrassas for affiliation. “There are about 8,000 to 10,000 independent seminaries that are not linked with any board. The PMEB plans to get these seminaries affiliated with the state-run board, helping them to use the government syllabus, take their examinations and offer vocational training,” Tauseen tells The News. “In the March meeting of the PMEB, it was decided to affiliate 500 madrassas. We are also offering these madrassas to take their examinations and issue their graduates with government certificates.”
There are five boards (wifaqs) of madrassas of different schools of thoughts — Deobandi, Barelvi, Ahle-Hadith, Shia and Jamaat-e-Islami. An organisation, called the Ittehad-e-Tanzimat Madaris-e-Deeniya (ITMD), is a collation of all five wifaqs of madrassas.
However, boards’ leaders opposing the government’s moves say that they would not tolerate unnecessary interference in the affairs of madrassas.
Mufti Muhammad Naeem, principal of Jamia Binoria International, one of the biggest madrassas in the city, says the government is not taking the madrassa boards’ bodies into confidence before announcing the affiliation of the madrassas with the board.
“The government claims to bring the madrassas into the mainstream, but, in fact, bureaucrats have intentionally been foiling the efforts as they do not want to see a madrassa graduate in top public positions, such as judges and commissioners,” Naeem, who is also an executive committee member of Wifaqul Madaris Al-Arabia, a board of Deobandi madrassas, tells The News. It is not the first time that the madrassa boards have voiced opposition to such attempts of the governments, analysts say.