Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience



Your Name:

Recipient Email:

Lahore police stand alert at a checkpoint in the provincial capital. — Photo by AP/File

RAWALPINDI, Jan 22: In the aftermath of 9/11, the number of foreign students studying in the madressahs of Punjab had dropped sharply but about 450 are still on their rolls and causing a bit of worry to the province's police.

A recent field survey of the madressahs by the Special Branch of the provincial police revealed that 289 of them are, technically, staying illegally in the country.

An overwhelming majority of them, 275, were found lodged in the madressahs in Lahore.

Many of the foreign students have been continuing their stay in the residential madressahs without fulfilling legal formalities, the field report said.

It suggested the Punjab government to direct local authorities to ensure the registration of foreigners at district police level to keep a watch on them on regular basis. Those found violating Pakistan's immigration laws “should be sent back” to their home country.

The report partly blamed the administration of madressahs for not paying attention to the legal status of the foreign students on their rolls.

In the face of West's ‘war on terror'— and description of the madressah system as “the breeding ground of Islamic extremists” — the former president Pervez Musharraf ordered, in 2005, that the foreign madressah students staying in Pakistan illegally must leave the country and the legal ones register themselves with the authorities.

Seven years later, the secret police has counted 444 resident foreign students in the madressahs all over Punjab. Interestingly the highest number, 135, came from Indonesia, the next highest were the 99 students from Thailand.

Other foreign nationalities studying in the Punjab madressahs are Kazakhstan (44), China (30), Philippines (28), Kyrgystan (21), Malaysia (20) and Myanmar (9), according to the survey report.

It suggested the provincial government seek action by the federal ministries of interior and foreign affairs against the 289 foreign students found not holding valid documents.

But it advised that before taking action the Wafaq-ul-Madaris, a body that manages the madressah network in Pakistan, be taken into confidence and approach the students’ diplomatic missions to provide security clearance for them. Asked for comments, the chief of the Wafaq-ul-Madaris Qari Mohammad Hanif Jalandhari told Dawn that when the visa of a foreign students expires, his madressah applies for an extension to the ministry of interior and that “normally the request is granted”.

“Terrorist attacks, security reason and wrong policies of the government are the main reasons for the local madressahs losing their attraction to foreign students, which was a source of building people-to-people contacts,” he said.

Today 444 foreign students are on the rolls of the madressahs in Punjab — 390 of them in Lahore alone. Only 115 students in Lahore madressahs hold valid visas, according to the special branch's report.

When the City Police Officer Rawalpindi Azhar Hameed Khokhar was contacted and asked about the status of foreign students in local madressahs, he said: “No foreign student has been studying in the Rawalpindi district as they had stopped coming to Pakistan due to security situation.”

But the special branch's field survey of the madressahs in Rawalpindi discovered four foreign resident students - one of them without a visa.

Likewise, of the 11 foreign students studying in the madressahs in Chakwal, five held no visa.

In contrast, all the 17 foreign madressahs students found in Gujrat were legal residents, as were the two studying in Khanewal madressahs.

In Attock, the survey found 12 foreign madressah students, with four continuing their studies without having valid visa, while the madressahs in Faisalabad had three foreign students with one found staying illegally.

Visas of three of the five foreigners studying in Rahim Yar Khan madressahs were found with expired visas.

DAWN_VIDEO - /1029551/DAWN-RM-1x1

LARGE_RECTANGLE_BOTTOM - /1029551/Dawn_ASA_Unit_670x280

Comments (14) Closed

Nauman khan
Jan 23, 2013 09:59am
Ship them back now...before they give us yet a few more black-eyes.......deport them now!
Goga Nalaik
Jan 23, 2013 02:18pm
I agree with you Nauman Ship them back NOW
Jan 23, 2013 03:09pm
Never.... they are on a mission of Islam. No one can have a prejudice about them.
Jan 23, 2013 05:04pm
Protect them. This is our duty as a host country. Teach them the old Pakistani moral value when we respected every one, regardless of their origin or religion. The presence of the police with a machine gun makes me sick. Look at their faces, looks that they are about to kill someone. Shame on us. Pervez Musharraf and Zia bought this curse on Pakistan.
Shahzad Kazi
Jan 23, 2013 05:53pm
That is not a solution. We cannot assume that all the students are criminals. However, maddresahs should be regulated by the education department and illegal students should either be provided with the correct student visas or if not eligible should be sent home.
Gerry D'Cunha
Jan 24, 2013 11:48am
Nauman: you really gave me a hearty laugh by saying.... before they give us yet a few more black-eyes
Jan 23, 2013 10:02pm
The foreign students should be welcome to study in Pakistan provided they are not involved in any illegal/militant activity against the state of Pakistan.They should stick to their studies only and all madressah should be monitored by the government and their syllabus checked periodically. All students who are not registered or their visa have expired should regularize their documents or be deported ASAP, this is the law that prevails in every country.
Jan 24, 2013 12:42am
I agree absolutely.
Jan 24, 2013 12:23pm
I do not think Pakistan is serious about getting rid of them.
Jan 24, 2013 03:51am
Hold on! Deporting is not the solution. For those without a visa, interview them, contact their embassies for background check, and then let them renew their visas.
Syed Shahid
Jan 24, 2013 02:33pm
This is so shameful that Pakistan is following western agenda of maligning Islam and Muslims. I feel sick reading this article. Madrasahs are place of education. Foreign students should be welcome and should be given good treatment. If there is any particular madrasah or student under any suspicion then just follow up under the law, but leave all others alone and provide them good environment. Don't treat them all as suspects.
Jan 24, 2013 04:29pm
Huh? Pakistan hopes to curb terrorism by deporting foreigners? Wouldn't it work better if it stopped Pakistanis from leaving the country??
Jan 24, 2013 05:15pm
Shut down all madrasahs.
Jan 24, 2013 06:03pm
Wait. They want to learn Islam from us? Are they out of their minds?