PESHAWAR, March 18: The federal government has prepared an ordinance that provides for the registration and tighter control over deeni madaris and circulated it among the four provinces for review. The ordinance is likely to be promulgated on March 23, a senior government official said.

The ‘Deeni Madaris (Registration and Control) Ordinance, 2002, to be promulgated by the president in pursuance of the Proclamation of Emergency of October 14, 1999 and the Provisional Constitutional Order 1999, will be extended to the whole of country and come into force at once.

President Gen Pervez Musharraf in his televised speech to the nation on Jan 12 had announced measures for the registration and control of deeni madaris and said that an ordinance governing religious seminaries would be promulgated by March 23. The official said that the provinces had been asked to review the draft ordinance and submit their views to the federal government latest by March 20. The draft ordinance came under extensive discussion at the NWFP cabinet meeting on Monday. The official said that the provincial government had recommended certain amendments to the draft ordinance to make it more effective.

The draft ordinance provides for three tiers of deeni madaris that include a Jamiah — a religious institution where the number of students is more than 1,000 and is equivalent to a university, a madressah, equivalent to a high school with total number of students less than 200 and a Maktab — a mosque or a centre of informal religious education with less than 50 students.

According to the draft ordinance, Jamiahs that existed at the promulgation of the ordinance would be registered with the registration authority designated by and in the manner laid down by the Pakistan Madressah Education Board established under the Pakistan Madressah Education Board Ordinance, 2001. The NWFP government has proposed that specifying the strength of students at each level of the religious institutions would confuse matters and any escalation in the number of students would require frequent changes in the status of these institutions.

All Darul Ulooms and madressahs would be registered with by the registration authority of the Provincial Boards of Religious Institutions established under the proposed ordinance in departments of Auqaf of the respective provincial governments. The NWFP government that granted No Objection Certificates (NOC) at the district level by a committee comprising the district Nazim and representatives from the Auqaf and education departments.

The draft ordinance has further proposed that all Maktabs operating in a mosque or otherwise would inform the tehsil administration of their existence, activities, programmes, number of regular and boarding students. All Jamiahs, Darul Ulooms and Madressahs would be registered within the period specified by the respective registration authorities but that period would not be more than a year from the commencement of the ordinance. No madressah, Darul Uloom and Jamiah would be established or continued without registration.

Under the draft ordinance, the provincial and district governments would establish their own boards of religious institutions. The religious institutions would be required to give out the number of registered students, particulars of their teachers, description of their courses, training whether physical or technical and main sponsors and sources of income of the institution.

Madrassahs, Darul Ulooms and Jamiahs would be required to get an NOC from the district Nazim subject to the formation of a governing body with proper rules and regulations that would run these institutions and that these institutions would not be owned by an individual, family or a group of near relatives instead the land on which these would be established would be transferred to the governing body of the institution.

The religious institutions would be required to ensure teaching curricula prescribed by the Pakistan Madressah Education Board, declare expected sources of income, donations and foreign funding and not allow admission to any foreign student without NOC from the Government of Pakistan and without a valid study visa.

Officials said that there were about 10,000 foreign students studying at more than 400 madressahs in the NWFP alone last year, mostly Afghans. No foreign students were admitted in madressahs when the new academic year began early this year in anticipation of the anticipated tough government measures, the officials said.

The office-bearers of the governing body, association or the organization undertaking to establish Madressah, Darul Uloom and Jamiah would also be required to furnish an affidavit that the institution or any other person associated with it would not indulge in any act of terrorism, militancy or sectarian hatred and will promote Islamic education, Islamic values and Islamic brotherhood.

The district administration on its part would ensure that the establishment of the Madrassah/Darul Uloom/Jamiah would not cause any sectarian feelings or inconvenience in the locality.

The religious institutions would also be required to maintain proper audited accounts and publish the same for general information, discourage an atmosphere of religious confrontation, sectarianism and hatred against any class of society, not indulge in militancy or para military training, not allow children to beg for alms and not receive any financial aid from any foreign country except through the government.

The draft ordinance provides that in case of failure or non-compliance, the registration authority would have the powers to suspend a governing body and appoint an administrator or a caretaker body and the order of suspension would be placed before a board to be established by the provincial government.

It further provides for penalties for violation of the provisions of the ordinance that include imprisonment extending to two months or with fine that may extend to Rs1000 or with both. The NWFP cabinet however, has proposed to enhance the punishment to a term extending to six months and fine of Rs10,000.

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