Islamabad: Government is ready to implement the policy for audit of the accounts of all seminaries (Madrasas) to contain the vicious cycle of extremism and violence in the country.
In a brief chat with News Lens Pakistan, Minister for Religious Affairs Sardar Muhammad Yousuf said all the Madarasas would bind to present report of their audit and other expenditures. However, he didn’t share details as to how the government would conduct the audit.
It is a common perception in the country that most of the miscreants carried out attacks elsewhere in the country have somehow links to seminaries.
The minister has said that the government is planning to workout modalities and other parameters to carry out audit of seminaries in a bid to streamline their sources of income amid warnings by religious leaders to “offer stout resistance to the move.”
Muslims’ children study theology in a Madrasa or a Muslim religious school to become clerics or religious teachers but most of the Madrasas students leave their education half way.
But Maulvi Abbas Shah 48, a teacher at a religious seminary in Rawalpindi, feared that “a large number of students from underprivileged background would affect by the move.”
He also feared the government move to streamline audit of Madrasas could lead to closure of some of the seminaries.
Most of the seminaries are under spotlight for feigning extremism and violence in the country. “The APS onslaught built maximum pressure on the government to bring the country’s thousands of Madrasas under its control,” Shah remarked.
“We have four teachers at the Madrasa with two of them get Rs. 15,000 per month. Two of the teachers are well versed in Islamic jurisprudence while the rests are only graduates in Islamic studies,” he added.
The Madrasa, he said has 150 students with 100 of them are day scholars while the rests are living in the Madrasa, he added. “The management of the Madrasa offers two time food to 50 students,” he said.
He said that management of the Madrasa collect money from people during Friday prayers, which “is a visible source of income.” No Madrasa is directly involved of helping miscreants then why the government wants to interfere, he questioned.
When contacted Maulana Tahir Ashraf, Chairman Pakistan Ualama Council— a body of religious leaders— told News Lens Pakistan: “We will not create hurdles in the way of seminaries’ registration or their auditing.”
“…..Our only concern is that sanctity of Madrasas be preserved,” Ashrafi said without elaborating sanctity of Madrasas.
However, some independent analysts predict that implementation of this decision would invite strong reaction from people associated with religious schools.
Dr. Hasan Askari Rizvi, an independent defence and political analyst, said there would be a sort of reaction from religious leaders because they deem audit and accountability of Madrasas as interference.
“I don’t think Madrasas have direct role in feigning extremism but religious institutions are creating mindset, which have a lot of sympathy for extremists,” Rizvi added.
He said the government should get Madrasas registered to know who are studying or who their teachers are and what their source of income is.
But the government is afraid as to whether other political parties would support to regulate Madrasas, he added. “Madrasas have their sympathizers within the government. The registration and mainstreaming of seminaries will definitely improve the environment,” he remarked.
The minister, however, didn’t give any timeframe as to when the government is planning to implement the decision.
But in an interview, Dr. Maulvi Taj Muhammad who runs the biggest Madrasa Jamia Dar-ul-Uloom Waziristan in Fata says: “I personally favor accountability. Madrasas should not resist audit and make itself clear at every angle.”
A total of 1,750 students are enrolled in Jamia Dar-ul-Uloom Waziristan with 1,200 of them female students, Dr. Muhammad said, adding there are separate hostels for male and female students.
Maximum salary of a teacher, he said is Rs. 15,000 while minimum salary for a less educated teacher is allocated Rs. 3,000 only.
Monthly expenditure of the Madrasa is around Rs. 15,000,00 which is being run through Zakat (money paid by well-off Muslims) and people who have vast vegetables and fruit orchards.
“Our only source of income is Zakat money and donation in cash by those who have vast orchards in Wana City, the headquarters of South Waziristan. The Madrasa offers two time meal to students and teachers,” Dr. Muhammad added.
A survey to identify the number of registered and unregistered seminaries conducted jointly by the Islamabad administration and police shows a total of 401 Madrasas are functioning only in the capital territory Islamabad.
It says as many as 160 seminaries and another 72 Quranic day scholar centers have no registration with the government.
An official at the Ministry of Interior wishing to go unnamed because he wasn’t authorized to speak to media told News Lens Pakistan that “we ordered the Islamabad administration and police to carry out a survey to know about the strength of Madrasas in the federal capital soon after the APS onslaught.”
Record of the federal directorate of education reveals the total strength of government-run schools is 422 in the federal capital.
The survey says that the total strength of the students in these seminaries are around 31,796 students with 17,419 from the twin city of Rawalpindi and Islamabad while rests of 14,377 students belong to Fata, Azad Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
As per established rules, the official said establishment of a seminary needs two-tier process. A Madrasa should be registered as an NGO with the Islamabad administration and then with Pakistan Madrasa Board— a body works under the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Noor Muhammad 15, a student at a seminary in Rawalpindi, said that he is getting free education and food and he couldn’t afford to get admission in a private or government-run school. “If the Madrasa shuts down I’m not sure where will I go and what will I do then?” he wondered.
Bilal Khan 38, father of Noor Muhammad, said he had to enroll his son in a seminary because he could afford heavy fee of private schools. “Life is really difficult. I’ve five kids and I hardly manage to feed them. How can I afford to educate them well,” he questioned.
Back in March 2014, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan presented the maiden National Internal Security Policy to parliament aimed at bringing the country’s 22,000 seminaries under government control.