ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Wednesday passed a bill making the teaching of the Holy Quran compulsory in educational institutions owned and controlled by the federal government.

The Compulsory Teaching of the Holy Quran Bill 2017 was laid before the house after the Standing Committee on Federal Education and Professional Training recommended its approval. After brief discussion in the house, the bill was passed unanimously.

“This is a big initiative, we are happy about this. After clearing the Senate, this bill will become law,” State Minister for Federal Education Baleeghur Rehman told Dawn.

MNAs flay interior ministry for failure to deal with capital’s water crisis

He said the law would be applicable on all federal government-run educational institutions and private educational institutions regulated by the federal government.

“The schools of army, railways and all others educational institutions regulated by the federal government will be subject to this law,” the minister said, adding that only Muslim students would be taught the Holy Quran, while non-Muslim students would be given a choice of alternate subjects.

Earlier, Mr Rehman told the National Assembly that under the new law, students would read the Holy Quran from grades one to five, and those in grades six to twelve would be taught a simple translation.

He also pointed out that the law fulfilled a long-standing constitutional requirement, enshrined in Article 31(2)(a): “The state shall endeavour, as respects the Muslims of Pakistan... to make the teaching of the Holy Quran and Islamiyat compulsory, to encourage and facilitate the learning of Arabic language and to secure correct and exact printing and publishing of the Holy Quran.”

Citing his interactions with religious scholars, the minister said he had come to know that a vast majority of those who learned the Holy Quran by heart did not understand its meaning. “When read with translation, be it in any language... its message has a positive effect on the individual,” Mr Rehman said, explaining the rationale behind the law.

“Islam envisions a harmonious existence among all of humanity, not just between Muslims. It teaches us how to co-exist with flora, fauna and respect everything on planet Earth,” he said.

PML-N’s Tariq Christopher Qaiser pointed out that there was no alternative proposed for non-Muslim students, who he feared would be forced to study the Holy Quran, just as they were made to take Islamic Studies as a compulsory subject.

But Mr Rehman assured the MNA that the law explicitly related to Muslim students only.

“Today, I requested a minority MNA to come up with recommendations so that we could improve the curriculum of subjects such as Civics and Ethics,” the minister told Dawn.

Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Mohammad Yousaf congratulated the assembly on the passage of the bill, which he termed essential for the inculcation of Islamic teachings among the Muslim youth. Members of nearly all parliamentary parties also felicitated the minister on the bill’s passage.

Water crisis

On a calling-attention notice regarding the water shortage in Islamabad, Parliamentary Secretary for Interior Dr Mohammad Afzal Khan Dhandla invoked the ire of lawmakers as well as deputy speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi for not presenting any concrete solutions to the capital’s water crisis.

Admitting that there was a dire water shortage in Islamabad, Mr Dhandla said that people were only getting around half the water that they would normally need, referring to the situation as “rationing”, which would persist until July-end. Of a total of 192 tubewells in the federal capital, around 58 were inoperative, he said.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2017