ISLAMABAD, Sept 23: The Ittehad Tanzeemat Madaris-i-Deeniya (ITMD) on Friday agreed to register around 9,000 seminaries with the government following an assurance that certain changes would be made to the Registration of Societies Act, 1860.

The agreement on the issue of the registration of seminaries was reached at an hour-long meeting between the ITMD’s leadership and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

Sources said the government also assured the ITMD, an alliance of five organizations overseeing some 13,000 seminaries across the country, that it would take a ‘lenient view’ on the issue of foreign students studying in these institutions.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Prime Minister Aziz said the government would extend full support to seminaries for their modernization and bringing them into the mainstream education system.

He, however, warned that the government would not tolerate it if any seminary violated the law and indulged in activities other than imparting education.

The prime minister said the ITMD had agreed to start registration of seminaries immediately under the amended act and hoped that the process would be completed by Dec 31, the date fixed by the government for the purpose.

He said the government wanted madressahs to play their role as seminaries of other religions had been playing while imparting religious education for reforming society. However, he stressed, the government also wished that madressahs included worldly subjects in their syllabi so that their graduates became more useful to society.

Mr Aziz warned that sectarianism and training youths for terrorism was against Islamic teachings which could not be allowed at any cost.

“We want to offer the world to visit these seminaries to see how useful services they are rendering and how they are engaged in ridding the country of scourge of terrorism and sectarianism,” he emphasized.

ITMD spokesman Mufti Munibur Rehman said the alliance had agreed to join the registration process and added that the issue had been resolved upon the government’s assurances that the ITMD’s reservations would be removed.

“We see hope at the end of the tunnel and feel that the solution of the issue is in the best interest of the country,” he said.

Mufti Munib said there were other problems being faced by religious schools which needed immediate attention and resolution. Describing the meeting as satisfactory, he hoped that these issues would be resolved within a timeframe.

“This is not a success or defeat of anyone. It is the success of Pakistan (and) religion and a step forward towards amicable settlement of issues without any confrontation.”

About foreign students, the ITMD delegation said they were ready to provide to the government any guarantee on behalf of those students with the request that doors of religious education should not be shut on them.

The ulema who met the premier were ITMD president Maulana Salimullah Khan, Mufti Munib, president of Tanzeemat Madaris Ahl-i-Sunnat; Maulana Abdul Malik, president of Rabitatul Madaris Deeniya; Qari Hanif Jallendhri, secretary-general of Wafaqul Madaris Arabia.

Religious Affairs Minister Ijazul Haq also attended the meeting.

Official sources said the government had agreed to further amend the Registration of Societies Act to the effect that the comparison between religions and sects would not be treated as spreading of hatred material. The government also agreed to introduce ‘some other minor changes’ to the act.

“No major change will be effected to the act, except for certain explanations,” said Religious Affairs Secretary Vakil Ahmed Khan. Seminaries would be allowed to provide education on the subject of ‘comparison between religions and different sects’, he added.

APP adds: The prime minister said the ITMD had displayed ‘a very mature, responsible and constructive attitude.’

He said ulema had expressed commitment to peace, interfaith harmony, moderation, respect for others’ rights and had assured not to propagate use of violence to solve any issue.

He said other matters and problems being faced by seminaries would be discussed through the ministry of religious affairs and tackled in an atmosphere of trust and understanding.

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