ISLAMABAD, June 19: The federal cabinet here on Wednesday approved the promulgation of “Madrassah Registration Ordinance 2002” to regulate religious schools by bringing them under normal educational system of the country.

According to the ordinance, Madaris will seek registration with “Pakistan Madrassah Education Board” and the respective Provincial Madrassah Education Boards. They have been prohibited from receiving Zakat, or financial assistance, grant, donation or other benefit from the federal government or provincial governments unless registered under the ordinance.

Minister for Information and Media Development Nisar Memon told reporters at a briefing that the ordinance would come into force immediately. “One of the objectives of introducing this regulatory mechanism is to control those religious schools which had been subjected to militancy,” he added.

According to the ordinance, any one who wilfully contravenes any of the provisions of the ordinance will attract closure of the Madrassah or a fine, or both. “The details of fine are being currently worked out,” Memon said.

Madaris refusing to register themselves with education boards to be set up by the government would not be allowed to operate, the minister said.

The cabinet meeting, which was presided over by President Gen Pervez Musharraf, also decided that religious schools would also facilitate teaching of science, mathematics, English and Urdu, providing an opportunity to the students to enrol in the professional educational institutions if they so wished.

Every registered Madrassah, according to the ordinance, will maintain accounts and submit annual report to the respective education board. A registered Madrassah will not receive any grant, donation or aid from any foreign sources or allow admission to foreign students or make appointment of teachers without valid visa and No Objection Certificate from the Interior Ministry.

The minister said that all the four governors who also attended the meeting, were asked to complete the process of registration in six months time.

The minister said he did not think that the government had chosen a path of confrontation with religious parties by seeking registration of religious schools. “In the first place, it is a hypothetical question whether there will be any confrontation, as the purpose is to bring religious schools in the mainstream,” the minister said.

Responding to a question, Nisar Memon said he could not say about the exact number of Madaris. “But it seems that they run in thousands,” he said, adding that it would take some time to know about the exact number of religious schools.

Asked whether these schools would be subject to certain audit and taxation, Nisar Memon said he had no idea about it, and that he would reply this question at some other time after getting details from the officials concerned.

In reply to a question, he said curriculum of religious schools would be like that of other educational institutions of the country.

CORPORATE FARMING: The cabinet also approved a package for corporate agriculture farming which would be governed by the Company Law. Only such local and foreign companies will be entitled to Corporate Agriculture Farming (CAF) that are locally incorporated under the Companies Ordinance, 1984.

According to the ordinance, there will be no upper ceiling on land holding for CAF which may be left to be determined by the prospective investor. The ordinance further stipulated that zero-rated duty would be charged on import of agriculture machinery and equipment.

The cabinet also approved an Ordinance for the National Commission for Human Development which will be an autonomous body of the Cabinet Division. The President of Pakistan will be its patron-in-chief. The commission will formulate, approve, manage, promote, enhance, implement, execute, monitor and organize its support programmes and projects for assistance of the ministries, departments and agencies concerned.

The commission will also keep informed the federal government and the respective provincial government for its programmes and projects being carried out by it in performance of its functions including global resource mobilization.

NCC DISBANDED: A decision was also taken by the cabinet to disband the National Cadet Corps (NCC) and Women Guards because it was felt that the scheme did not serve any useful purposes for which it was created.

The cabinet accorded its approval to promulgate the Safeguarding Ordinance, 2002, necessitated by gradual dismantling of trade barriers under the WTO regime to promote free trade and thereby increase the volume of global trade.

ACCORDS APPROVED: The cabinet also approved an agreement between Pakistan and Vietnam for establishment of Pakistan-Vietnam Joint Ministerial Commission, agreement between Pakistan and Uzbekistan on mutual assistance for the avoidance of double taxation and prevention of fiscal evasion including a convention with legal cooperation in civil and commercial matter to be signed between Tunisia and Pakistan. Treaty between the Russian Federation and Pakistan for mutual legal assistance and execution of letters of request and recognition and enforcement of judgments was also approved. The cabinet also ratified the consular agreement between Pakistan and Uzbekistan.