Islamabad: The Supreme Court of Pakistan’s recent observation, during its hearing of the 2007 Lal Masjid operation case, has once again highlighted the severe challenges authorities are facing in dealing with hardliners produced by some religious seminaries in the country.
The apex court questioned on Tuesday how the government back in 1970s allotted land to a religious seminary — Jamia Hafsa — which later challenged the writ of the state.
A large-scale military operation had to be launched by then military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf to rid the Lal Masjid of extremists.
In the wake of Pulwama attack in Indian-administered Kashmir last month, Pakistani authorities took into custody members of a number of such religious seminaries, including in Bahwalpur, Muridke and Lahore which according to reports were serving as nurseries for hardliners.
The religious seminaries follow their own interpretation of Sharia as well as systems of governance, analysts say, creating problems for the government functionaries in maintaining peace and order in the country.
The seminaries continue to flourish and are enjoying significant powers and authority.
In the capital Islamabad, according to a survey conducted in 2017, the federal government has not opened a new conventional school since 2013, while religious seminaries or madrasas keep mushrooming in the region.
There are roughly 425 madrasas operating in the federal capital and a majority of them are unregistered, the data shows.
In the recently established residential sectors of G-13, G-14 and H-13 and H-14 of Islamabad one cannot find any new conventional school or college set up by the government, however, a number of religious seminaries have been established there with quite a considerable numbers of students enrolled.
These seminaries belonging to four schools of thought — Deobandis, Barelivis, Ahl-i-Hadis and Shias — are operating and the Capital Development Authority (CDA) has no powers to ask them under which authority or law they have set up their operations.
The survey conducted by the Islamabad Capital Territory Administration (ICTA) further highlighted that the government has neither any influence over half of these seminaries nor they care to follow the directions or curriculum of the Wafaqi Darul Madaris, an authority that is entrusted with the task to regulate them provides them to teach their students.
These religious seminaries have outnumbered the capital’s 348 educational institutions (191 primary, 60 middle and 97 high schools).
While talking to Gulf News, a senior official of the ICTA said the CDA itself had been doling out land to seminaries in the past and Jamia Hafsa, an offshoot of the Lal Masjid, was granted a hectare of land in the past by the Authority.
The CDA chief informed the court that in 1970, CDA had allotted thousands of square metres of land, including to the Jamia Hafsa, adjacent to Lal Masjid, which was operating under the Auqaf Department, and Maulana Abdullah was appointed the prayer leader who was succeeded by his son, Maulana Abdul Aziz.
Chairman of the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) Col (R) Dr Amirullah Marwat is of the view that streamlining the religious seminaries in formal school system is the biggest challenge for the government.
In Pakistan, the number of registered madrasas is around 34,000.
But the number of those not registered with authorities is much higher, he said.
The NCHD is making efforts to bring the students of religious seminaries at par with the children of government and private-run schools, he said.
NCHD is introducing contemporary education there and subjects like Science, English and General Knowledge so that a student who has passed out of a religious seminary is not left out in the race and get equal opportunities with those passing from the conventional schools and educational institutions.
For this purpose, NCHD has established feeder schools in 40 madrasa. Besides, feeder teachers will be provided to the rest of them, he said.