ISLAMABAD: Despite strong concerns from religious quarters, the clean-up operation against madressahs not only continues in Punjab, but has even been expanded into the federal capital.

Senior Islamabad police officials told Dawn that since August 17, joint law enforcement teams had raided five seminaries in the federal capital – in collaboration with intelligence agencies — while police and intelligence officials had verified around 30 seminaries in the city.

This time around, intelligences agencies and the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) are also playing a key role in the fresh wave of checks, searches and raids that were launched after the assassination of Punjab home minister, retired Col Shuja Khanzada, in Attock on Aug 16.

Such action came into the spotlight after a late night raid at Jamia Haqqania, located along Eighth Avenue, near Faisal Mosque, last Thursday.

Capital police being kept out of the loop to ensure secrecy; seminary board claims only Deobandi madressahs being targeted in latest wave of raids

“We cannot disclose details, but apart from Jamia Haqqania, raids have also been conducted in Sabzi Mandi, Bani Gala and Koral police precincts,” a senior Islamabad police official said, on condition of anonymity.

But in contrast with earlier trends, where law enforcement agencies would only check or screen seminaries that had close links with the Lal Masjid, the Jamia Haqqania is affiliated with Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s faction of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F).

“This is strange, because we have never been involved in anti-state or terrorist activities; the raid at Jamia Haqqania was part of a conspiracy to defame us,” Mufti Abdullah, the secretary general of the JUI-F’s Islamabad chapter, said.

Meanwhile, Maulana Abdul Qudus Mohammadi, a spokesman for Wafaqul Madaris al Arabia — the board that manages the affairs of seminaries belonging to the Deobandi school of thought – claimed that this latest wave of checks and raids has only targeted their madressahs.

“We held a meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif just one day before the raid at Jamia Haqqania, where we informed him of our concerns, but he didn’t seem serious,” Maulana Abdul Qudus said.

However, he hastened to add that madressah administrations were cooperating with the government during the search operations.

“The Margalla SHO came to Jamia Haqqania on Thursday afternoon – he had lunch there and looked at the registers etc. So the raid at midnight was unwarranted,” he added.

Apart from the Wafaqul Madaris al-Arabia, only Shia clerics have expressed concerns over the government’s move against seminaries.

“There have not been any raids on our seminaries in Islamabad, but several raids have been conducted in Punjab,” said Nusrat Ali of the Wafaq al Madaris al-Shia.

“What we deplore is not the raids, but the fact that this action is only eyewash, a number’s game. If they catch a terrorist from a banned group affiliated with another sect, then one of our seminaries is also raided. This is done to show that the operation is fair across the board,” Mr Ali said.

However, he acknowledged that most of the Shia seminaries that were raided were affiliated with Allama Sajid Naqvi’s Shia Ulema Council (SUC). Officials claim that the SUC is a reincarnation of the Tehreek-e-Jaferia Pakistan (TJP), which was banned in 2002.

Officials of the Tanzeemul Madaris Ahle Sunnat Pakistan – the board that looks after seminaries from the Barelvi school of thought – and the Wafaqul Madaris al-Salfia, the board for Ahle Hadis seminaries, said that none of their seminaries had been searched or raided in Islamabad and Punjab.

Authorities said that they plan to continue the raids over the coming days.

“The decision has been taken at a very high level and the raids are conducted only if the information we have is credible,” an Islamabad-based intelligence officer told Dawn, on condition of anonymity.

“In all these raids, Islamabad police have been kept in the dark to ensure secrecy.”

An official from the Islamabad administration told Dawn that clerics had been using various pretexts, including religious diatribes, in order to weaken the government’s resolve.

“These seminaries still don’t understand that they can no longer flout the writ of the government as they did in the past,” he said, adding that the best option for madressahs would be to streamline their systems in accordance with the law and register themselves.

“Several decisions were taken unanimously after the Army Public School attack, but thus far, only the madressahs seem to be resisting the requirements of the National Action Plan,” the official said, referring to the refusal by the five madressah boards to cooperate with the government on reforms.

The last meeting between the senior officer-bearers of the five boards – representing seminaries belonging to the Barelvi, Shia, Deobandi and Ahle Hadis sects, as well as the Jamaat-i-Islami – and the government was held in February 2015, after which the seminaries suspended the talks.

However, since NAP was put into motion, the records of only a dozen seminaries have been checked by Islamabad police.

“The only key activity carried out was the inspection of Jamia Fareedia in E-7, just ahead of the March 23 parade, by paramilitary units,” an intelligence official said, adding that, “We have responses from the Islamabad police saying that the interior ministry has not been giving them permission to even check seminaries’ records.”

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2015

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