Karachi: Police in Karachi on Monday night raided a basement in a seminary and freed 66 boys and men, most of whom were bound in shackles and chains.
The students were living in the basement of the seminary in sub-human conditions, the police said yesterday. The Islamic Madarsa Zikrya was being run by a cleric who fled but his aide was arrested.
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The police raided the seminary after a local news channel reported about the inhumane conditions the students were living in the seminary
"We were just instructed by the higher authorities to conduct a raid on the religious school after a TV channel reported about the goings on in the seminary and we found 53 young men and 13 boys, some as young as six years," Malek Altaf, the senior officer told Gulf News.
The local media had reported that the seminary was used to train suicide bombers for the Taliban, but it was found that it was an unauthorised rehabilitation centre for drug addicts.
"I gave my children to the seminary willingly because he was unruly and an addict and I wanted him to be disciplined," Mohammad Khan, who came to take his son from the police station told the media.
The recovery of the children and men sparked an intense social debate as to what was happening in the name of education.
Provincial Minister for Human Rights Nadia Gabol said a full-fledged inquiry would be constituted to unearth the facts behind the tragic discovery
"There was no Islamic preaching there. It was a rehab centre in the name of Islam," Gabol told media outside the police station where she visited to see the freed children.
She said regardless of whether it was a seminary or a rehabilitation centre, it seemed that they were dealing with human beings in a brutal, savage and a very uncivilised way.
"No one could approve such brutality and savagery in the name of rehabilitation," Gabol said.
Qari Usman, one of the clerics, who was arrested by the police, told the media that he was only an employee and that Mufti Dawood, the owner of the seminary, ran away. He justified the chaining of the students saying it was the part of their treatment.
"Their parents volunteered to bring them here. The lad who would take drug, heroin, and liquor, we treat them in our spiritual way," Usman said.
In Pakistan, multiple types of education is imparted to the youth. Many boys go to religious schools or seminaries as their parents cannot afford to send them to secular schools because of higher fees.
The government spends a fraction of national budget on social sector and education sector gets even a smaller share of that financial allocation.