ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan wants to rid the capital city of illegal madressahs and their students. But for that, he needs across-the-board political support which he sought on the floor of the National Assembly on Friday.
Sharing the concerns of some of his fellow lawmakers about madressahs which have been unlawfully constructed on government land, the minister said, “The problem is not as simple as it looks from outside because there are 25,000 madressah students in the city.” He said it wasn’t the present government which allowed the extensive use of greenbelts for the construction of seminaries.
Chaudhry Nisar said it was not possible for the government to confront all the illegal madressahs through the police. “We have already seen the result of the use of force in the case of Lal Masjid where 100 students lost their lives in a military operation in 2007. Yes, there is a problem which needs to be tackled in a peaceful manner.”
The minister said there were certain issues regarding these seminaries which he could not talk about publicly and would suggest an in-camera discussion. However, he added, “Whatever this house will suggest, the government will follow that course of action.”
Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan seeks political support to tackle issue in a peaceful manner
But the minister also clarified that a majority of madressahs were not involved in anti-state activities. “There have been cases when university students were found involved in terrorist acts, that doesn’t warrant the closing down of their educational institutions.”
Without naming the former Lal Masjid prayer leader Maulana Abdul Aziz, who was accused by members of the house of violating the rules on hate speech and challenging the writ of the state, the minister had reasons to defend his apparent inaction.
“Maulana Saheb was removed from the mosque after the military operation but was brought back. Can somebody explain why he was removed in the first place and who brought him back.”
Secondly, he added, the Supreme Court had taken notice of the incident and the present government had nothing to do with it. “As of today, no case is pending against him and I assure this house that in case (Maulana Aziz) violates the law in the future, action will be taken.”
About registration of madressahs across the country, the minister said an agreement had been reached with representatives of different schools of thought who were now willing to get seminaries registered.
Soon, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will invite the chief ministers and formally unveil the new registration form, which the government and Ittehad Tanzimat Madaris have finally agreed upon, the minister told the house.
Chaudhry Nisar said it was a great achievement because over the past 30 years successive governments had tried to mainstream seminaries without any success.
“Now they (religious scholars) have not only expressed their willingness to get registered but the government will also work with them for the development of their new syllabi, which would include modern subjects.”
The minister said the government had also been able to bring scholars of all sects on board for a counter-narrative against militancy and extremism.
“Initially, the task was with the information ministry but I took it upon myself and have been able to convince the scholars to do the job.”
Published in Dawn, December 19th, 2015