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PESHAWAR: Despite the much vaunted talk of mainstreaming madressahs by allocating millions of funds to selected institutions, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government seems to be oblivious to thousands of seminaries operating in the province with more than a million students on their rolls.

Details collected by Dawn from the Auqaf and industries departments show that about 3,000 seminaries are registered with the government in the province. However, the government has no data of the students enrolled in the registered and unregistered seminaries. It has also no information about the curricula or faculty of such seminaries.

The data obtained from the federal boards of the five religious schools of thought show that the number of seminaries operating in the province is more than twice of those registered with the government departments.

Auqaf dept has only two religious schools on its record

The provincial government has allocated Rs557 million to Jamia Haqqania during the last and current fiscal while Rs200 million has been allocated to another seminary in Azakhel area of Nowshera district. Ironically, both the seminaries fall in the chief minister’s district.

Talking to Dawn, the representatives of the five religious schools of thought wondered whether seminaries were only in Nowshera to whom the PTI government allocated such a hefty amount and ignored rest of the seminaries in the province.

Officials said that three departments were looking after the affairs of seminaries including industries, Auqaf and social welfare departments.

However, during Dawn investigation into the matter it was found that only industries and Auqaf departments registered seminaries while the social welfare department was yet to register a seminary.

A senior official in industries department told Dawn that 3,000 seminaries registered with the department while Auqaf department had only two seminaries on its record.

The data provided by provincial heads of each religious school of thought shows that actually 6,733 seminaries are functioning in the province with 1.022 million enrolled students.

When records of the enrolled students were sought from industries department, the officials expressed their ignorance about the students getting education in the seminaries. “We only register the seminaries and have no record of the students or any check on the curricula and teachers,” an official said.

He said that about a month ago, the responsibility of seminaries’ registration was given to elementary and secondary education department.

Only the record of the Deobandi school of thought is well documented. It has major share in the seminaries functioning in the province that are registered with its federal board called Wifaqul Madaris Al Arabia Pakistan. Its record shows that 5,542 seminaries are imparting religious education to 772,260 students in the province.

The Barelvi school of thought operates 850 seminaries with 212,500 students, Jamaat-i-Islami has 250 seminaries with 30,000 students, Salafi school of thought has 66 seminaries with 5,625 students and Shias have 25 seminaries with 2,000 students in the province.

“Only Auqaf department is responsible to release grants to the seminaries,” said a senior official. To a question, he said that there was no criterion in place for distribution of funds among the seminaries.

However, he said that 70 per cent of the funds earmarked for the seminaries were released on the directives of the Auqaf minister and 30 per cent on the directives of chief minister.

“Auqaf department cannot release more than Rs1 million to a single seminary. The PTI government has given most of the seminaries funds to the religious schools located in Nowshera,” he added.

Fazlur Rehman Madani, who represents Salafi school of thought in the province, said that their seminaries were not given a single penny by the incumbent government. He said that government was doing injustice with other seminaries by releasing funds on political basis.

“We also have a seminary in Nowshera, why it was not given fund when the provincial government released a hefty amount to a select seminary on political basis,” he questioned.

A scholar of Deobandi school of thought told Dawn seminaries were helping in increasing literacy rate but successive governments did not pay any attention to them.

“The qualified students of seminaries are appointed on different posts of teachers in government and private schools and colleges,” he said. He added that thousands of prayer leaders were graduates of seminaries.

“Unfortunately the government has yet to own the students of seminaries because they belong to poor families,” he said.

Minister for Elementary and Secondary Education Mohammad Atif Khan, when contacted, said that the responsibility of registration of seminaries was shifted to his department recently. “The mechanism for registration of seminaries has not been chalked out rather it is under discussion in the education department,” he said. He added that nothing was yet final regarding registration.

“We are delicately handling the affairs of seminaries as it is very sensitive issue,” said the minister. He added that some elements in seminaries considered their registration a positive step while others looked at it with suspicion.

Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2018