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Punjab govt takes 'administrative control' of Bahawalpur seminary

Updated February 22, 2019

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Punjab police is currently providing security and protection to the campus, said the interior ministry spokesperson. — AFP/File
Punjab police is currently providing security and protection to the campus, said the interior ministry spokesperson. — AFP/File

The interior ministry on Friday announced that the Punjab government has taken administrative control of a mosque-and-seminary complex in Bahawalpur, which India alleged was the headquarters of the banned Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).

The campus has a 70-strong faculty and more than 650 students enrolled.

According to a spokesperson from the ministry: "The Government of Punjab has taken over the control of a campus comprising Madressatul Sabir and Jama-e-Masjid Subhanallah in Bahawalpur, reportedly the headquarters of Jaish-e-Mohammad, and appointed an administrator to manage its affairs."

Punjab police has taken over security of the campus, the spokesperson added.

A subsequent statement issued by the interior ministry's spokesperson explained that although Indian media outlets are linking the Bahawalpur complex to a JeM training centre, the facility is "purely a madressah and Jamia Masjid (central mosque) where scores of orphans and students from underprivileged families are receiving religious and worldly education".

It revealed that Bahawalpur Deputy Commissioner Shozaib Saeed and Bahawalpur SP Saleem Niazi had paid a "surprise visit" to the campus, and surveyed all of its buildings and the facilities provided in them.

According to the statement, the complex provides worldly education until grade 6, and following their secondary and intermediate schooling, students are provided bachelors- and masters-level education leading to Dars-e-Nizami (madressah degree).

A large number of Bahawalpur residents bear the expenses of the madressah through alms and charity, and provide its pupils with rice and grain at no cost.

"The Special Branch [of police], Counter-Terrorism Department and other departments carry out a formal scrutiny of this and other madressahs on a monthly basis," the ministry's handout stated.

It said starting today, the Punjab government has taken over the management of the Bahawalpur institution as a "preventative measure".

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, via a video message, also said there was no truth in Indian media's allegations that the madressah was JeM's headquarters.