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Non-serious approach

Updated February 01, 2015



WHILE religiously inspired terrorism continues to take a bloody toll on Pakistan, there is little evidence that the state is taking intelligent steps to root out militancy.

If anything, the government tends to announce half-baked measures that, on the surface, appear to make it look serious, but in reality mean little where neutralising militant infrastructure is concerned.

Take for example the disclosures made in the Senate by Minister of State for Interior Baleeghur Rahman on Friday. The minister told the house that “only” 23 madressahs in Pakistan were receiving foreign funding. What was particularly incomprehensible was Mr Rahman’s claim that no seminary in Punjab received foreign funds.

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Assuming that his figures are correct, the fact remains that it is not the seminaries where sources of funding — foreign or local — are known that are the problem; it is the madressahs that are unregistered and unregulated that pose the biggest security threat.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar recently said that 90pc of madressahs had no link to terrorism. Even if we accept that, what about the remaining 10pc? One estimate suggests there are 20,000 registered and 40,000 unregistered seminaries in Pakistan.

Once we do the math it emerges that there are — at a minimum — hundreds of madressahs with thousands of pupils on their rolls that may have some connection with militancy.

Hence to say that only a handful of seminaries receive foreign funding and leave it at that smacks of denial; the problem is much more complex and also involves support for madressahs from local sources whose credentials must be checked.

One part of the problem is identifying and taking action against those seminaries that are actively promoting militancy and sectarianism. But looking at the bigger picture, there are countless madressahs that — while not having overtly violent agendas — provide the groundwork for militancy to thrive.

When young minds are taught to distrust and disassociate from members of other sects and religions, the seeds of militancy are planted. If such brainwashing intensifies, there is only a short distance from disassociating from the ‘other’ and physically eliminating him.

The only solution is for the state to register and regulate all institutions imparting religious education and keep an eye on the curriculum to ensure no hate material is being taught. The clerical establishment has and will continue to resist all official efforts at regulation, but the state must act if it is serious about achieving its counterterrorism and de-radicalisation goals.

Published in Dawn February 1st, 2015

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