ISLAMABAD: Defence Minister Khawaja Asif defended Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed’s earlier statements calling religious seminaries "centres of ignorance and illiteracy" in the National Assembly on Tuesday.
He said Rasheed had referred only to a few seminaries against whom there is evidence of involvement in terrorism.
The defence minister asserted that out of the approximately more than 20,000 seminaries in Pakistan, only about three to four per cent assist miscreants or directly facilitate terrorism.
He went on to say that putting up banners or announcing fatwas against Rasheed is not a service to Islam.
He added that the information minister had already apologised and offered a clarification on his remarks in Senate, so the matter should be let go.
Pervaiz Rasheed faced heavy criticism from religious elements, mainly belonging to the Deobandi school of thought, following an address to a conference in Karachi on May 3 where, speaking about madrassas, he said "These universities of ignorance, to whom we give donations and hides, are giving an ideology of hatred and conservativeness to the society.”
Seminaries have come under greater surveillance following the December 2014 attacks on Peshawar's Army Public School.
Reports released by the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provincial governments investigating seminaries revealed 147 foreign-funded seminaries in Punjab, and 145 'highly-sensitive' seminaries in KP.
— An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Federal Defence Minister Khawaja Asif issued the statement outside the National Assembly and was flanked by JI chief Sirajul Haq. The error is regretted.