Pakistan manages to harness madrassas 18 years after 9/11 attacks 

In this file photo, Islamic religious students take mid-term exams at Jamia Binoria, a seminary in Karachi, on Jan. 26, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 11 September 2019
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Pakistan manages to harness madrassas 18 years after 9/11 attacks 

  • In 2001, the 9/11 commission report had linked madrassas to militancy and pressured Pakistan to crack down against seminaries
  • Seminaries never opposed reforms, only asked for easy registration, says Sajid Mir

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s landmark move to mainstream madrassas (religious seminaries), meeting a highly pressing demand arising post 9/11 attacks, is being viewed as the “step in the right direction” by all sides. 
Pakistan government announced last week to bring 30,000 religious schools under the ministry of education with modernized curriculums after reaching a formal agreement with the leaders of major madrassa systems.
The mainstreaming of thousands of madrassas (religious seminaries) has for years been a delicate subject in the Muslim majority country of 208 million people, where religious schools have often been blamed for the radicalization of youngsters. Repeated attempts to modernize seminaries in the past were stayed due to fears of a religious backlash.
“This agreement is just a step, but a step in the right direction,” said Arshad Mirza, federal secretary at the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, who was closely involved in negotiating the agreement. 
“We are introducing technical education for madrassa students including modern IT-based skills and other technology courses,” Mirza told Arab News. 
Pakistan’s government has been facing increased global pressure to act against militant groups, with the Paris-based terror financing watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force, scrutinizing the country’s compliance with an internationally agreed action plan, and a timeline until October to improve its counter-terror financing operations or risk being sanctioned.
With some seminaries considered as breeding grounds for militancy, and as pretexts for militant financing, the government revealed in April this year that it planned to bring 30,000 seminaries under the Ministry of Information.
These reforms were on the cards for a long time. In the aftermath of the Al-Qaeda led Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the US, where almost 3,000 people died in three American cities, the 9/11 Commission Report linked madrassas to militancy. Under US pressure, the then government of President Pervez Musharraf attempted to modernize seminaries but did not have much success against a strong religious lobby.
Now, Mirza said, the government would introduce a single curriculum that applied to seminary classrooms as well, the National Common Curriculum.
“We will introduce common curriculum for the students of class one to five in March 2020 and then take it to the highest level subsequently,” he said.
Eventually, the government wants madrassa students to study under the common curriculum up to class eight.
“These students will study the same syllabus as other children, whether he is a son of a bureaucrat, a businessman or a minister. It is a big challenge but it is a step toward the right direction to unify the nation,” he said.
Professor Sajid Mir, President Wafaq-ul-Madaris Salfia, who is also a signatory in the madrassa agreement with the government, told Arab News that he was optimistic about the move and happy to deal directly with the country’s education ministry.
“It was our long-standing demand that the ministry of education should deal with madrassas (seminaries) as previously, either they put us under Interior Ministry, or others, who had no direct link with us.”
Mir said seminaries had never opposed madrassa reforms and registration, but simply demanded a more convenient process to register themselves.
“We always asked for an easy process, as institutions (involved in registration) demanded a lot of documents and the process was very complicated. I hope now, things will move forward smoothly,” he said.


PM Khan ‘will try to raise conscience of the world,’ at UN — spokesperson

Updated 17 September 2019
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PM Khan ‘will try to raise conscience of the world,’ at UN — spokesperson

  • There will be a planned protest outside UN offices after PM Khan speech at UNGA, says spokesman
  • President of Azad Kashmir, political leaders expect Khan will stress human rights violations in Kashmir

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesperson, Dr. Muhammad Faisal, told Arab News that Prime Minister Imran Khan would make efforts to ‘raise the conscience’ of world leaders against a continuing curfew in Indian-administered Kashmir, at his speech at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session on September 27 in New York.
On Aug. 5, India flooded the Kashmir valley with troops, imposed a communications lockdown and abrogated a historic clause in its constitution that gave partial autonomy to the Muslim-majority region. Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, which both own in part but claim in full. 
In response to India’s abrogation, Pakistan has downgraded diplomatic ties, suspended bilateral trade and made appeals to the UN and international community to condemn the move as a violation of international law.
“We are not expecting that India will lift the clampdown after this speech, but we will try to raise the conscience of world leaders” the spokesperson said and added that the UNGA was not a decision-making forum, but that there would be a large protest outside UN offices.
“On the sidelines, the PM will also meet contact group on Jammu and Kashmir on September 25,” he said.
Referring to “multiple reports” by human rights organizations, Dr. Faisal said the Prime Minister would demand that major global players take note of human rights abuses in Indian-administered Kashmir.
“PM Khan...will demand from international community to take notice of grave human rights violations there which are mentioned in multiple reports by different human rights organizations including UNHRC,” Dr. Faisal told Arab News.
In a letter to the UN Security Council dated Aug. 13, Pakistan had asked for an urgent meeting on Jammu and Kashmir, and it had taken the matter up during its meeting on Aug. 16.
President of Azad Kashmir, Sardar Masood Khan, told Arab News that even though the Prime Minister had raised the Kashmir issue at the UN before, the “aggressive” actions of India had made even graver human rights violations to address, as well as the potential of a bigger conflict erupting in the region.
“When Pakistani PM will speak, he will challenge the international community to act and avert this war started by India, which could turn into a bigger conflict that can be disastrous for the whole region,” Khan said.
A senior leader of the opposition and a parliamentarian from PML-N, Ahsan Iqbal, told Arab News that India’s abrogation and curfew in Kashmir was a “human rights catastrophe,” which should be powerfully highlighted by Imran Khan during his UNGA address.
“He should also ask world community to play active role to compel India to lift the curfew immediately,” he said. 
The UN Security Council adopted several resolutions in 1948 and in the 1950s on the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, including one which says a plebiscite should be held to determine the future of Muslim Kashmir.
A former foreign secretary who has also served as Pakistani High Commissioner to India, Salman Bashir, said that many world leaders and multilateral forums had raised serious concerns about the worsening human rights situation in Kashmir, which Prime Minister Khan could use to his advantage to put pressure on the Indian government.
“He should also highlight Pakistan’s efforts for peace and stability in the region, especially Afghanistan,” Bashir told Arab News.
India upholds that the abrogation of the constitutional clause that rescinded the autonomy of Kashmir is New Delhi’s internal matter.