Rehman Malik
Just after taking over, the PPP government had asked Interior Minister Rehman Malik to monitor progress of the project, but nothing concrete has been done except holding a few meetings of a special committee. – Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD: The project of madressah reforms is turning out to be an elusive dream for the present government too.

As per statistics available on the website of the federal education ministry, only 507 madressahs have been registered since former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf started madressah reforms in 2002.

Just after taking over, the PPP government had asked Interior Minister Rehman Malik to monitor progress of the project, but nothing concrete has been done except holding a few meetings of a special committee.

Talking to Dawn, Qari Mohammad Haneef Jalandhari, who is a member of the committee, said: “The government has no time for the project because it is preoccupied with its survival. We hear political parties leaving the government and then joining it.

Then there is the issue of an increase in the prices of petroleum products. Now there is a movement going on for protection of the blasphemy law.”

Qari Haneef, who is also a spokesperson for the Ittihad-i-Tanzeemati Madaris Pakistan, said the ITMP had a similar experience with General Musharraf. “He kept us busy in negotiations for many years, but nothing happened.”

In reply to a question, he said the PPP government had given the ITMP a working paper for discussion on how best madressahs could be reformed. “We will give our suggestions when the government has time.”

Sources told Dawn no significant development could be expected because the project was not on the list of government’s priorities.

“You can see the level of preoccupation of the interior minister who, besides taking care of the interior division, is all the time busy in pacifying the government’s coalition partners,” said an official.

He said Mr Malik could be seen making statements only for public consumption in the media about the government’s seriousness to bring madressahs at par with other educational institutions.

The sources said the government and ITMP, a representative body of five madressah boards which have over 20,000 seminaries, had yet to agree whether there should be a collective madressah regulatory authority and how could madressahs could be upgraded to the level of regular education system.

The official blamed both the government and ITMP for lack of seriousness. “The ITMP wants acceptance of its Wafaqs on the lines of public sector examination boards with no government interference at all. They are happy with the status quo.”

According to latest statistics, Wafaqul Madaris Al-Arabia, which belongs to the Deobandi school of thought, has over 12,000 religious schools with an enrolment of around three million students.

Tanzeemul Madaris, which follows the Barelvi school of thought, has over 6,000 seminaries with over 130,000 students.Rabata-ul-Madaris Al-Islamia, which is run by the Jamaat-i-Islami, has about 700 madressahs and nearly 100,000 students.

Wafaqul Madaris Ashia, which belongs to the Shia community, has over 500 madressahs and around 10,000 students.

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