Spiritually healed or derailed?

December 14, 2011

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Over 50 adolescents and men ranging between the ages of 15 to 40 were rescued by the local law enforcing agencies, from a seminary which was running as a “detoxification/rehabilitation” center for the underprivileged people, located in the outskirts of Karachi. Reports suggest that the victims were brought in by their own families for the treatment and were being detoxified. Many of the prisoners were tortured and chained to the chairs and other furniture items so that they do not escape from the seminary.

Rehabilitation and helping the addicts is positive but torturing and abusing them is absolutely uncalled for. This seminary was an open violation of human rights specifically rights pertaining to the psychological growth of the individuals held inside. The question is whether this treatment will help them get rid of the addictions and start a normal life or will this “therapy” assist them in becoming further disturbed?

This cleansing of body and soul is extremely common in Pakistan and thousands of addicts are forced to flock toward seminaries to take part in the “cleansing ritual.” Poor addicts are directed to dilapidated and redundant institutions where they are chained, sexually abused and brutally tortured, many of them being young children. Children living in such traumatic environments, involving physical, emotional and sexual abuses, are disregarded and grow on to become social outcasts.

‘Privileged addicts’ are however, given the best of facilities which include a diet and exercise regime to assist them in staying sober and straight. There are various not-for-profit organisations operating in Pakistan specialising in the causes to eradicate addictions from our society, however how many of those are actually working to constructively assist the underprivileged and needy addicts remain ambiguous.

One question that boggles my mind is why these seminaries are prevalent in our society. One of the fundamental reasons which is clearly evident is the lack of education in our country. Appropriate prognosis and therapy to keep addicts away from drugs are absolutely unfathomable by many people living in Pakistan. Addiction is just one issue which is dealt with in this hideous way. For ages patients suffering from Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other psychological ailments have been sent to seminaries and referred to various religious clerics, as they are considered possessed by some supernatural power or creature, to say the least.

Another factor which influences people’s behavior is the lack of available resources and means to make ends meet. Countless students are enrolled in seminaries as parents do not have the funds to educate, accommodate and feed them. Poverty stricken guardians are in no position to afford the best available facilities for their children, hence the enrollments in local seminaries where food, shelter and clothes are at least ensured. When the will to survive supersedes education and shelter, the role of diabolic Medressahs comes into play.

The biggest dilemma of our society remains that children have always been an approachable and easy target. Children face the brunt of overpopulation, when parents give birth to more offspring than they can provide for, by being sent off to obscure seminaries. Moreover, government’s inability to construct health and educational facilities also results in “shooing” children away to face the brutalities and obscenities of these so-called seminaries. Children are to be given refuge and protection however, in our society, they have known to be “facing the music” through no fault of their own.

This problem gives rise to yet another very integral issue which has plagued innumerable Pakistani generations. These Medressahs are flourishing and mushrooming as the uneducated masses want them to continue “serving” them. Whether it is the lack of awareness or will to whitewash the crimes of innocent children, such ‘seminaries’ continue to tarnish and jeopardise our well being.

Moreover, the pictures issued by many news agencies clearly show children under the age of 10 visibly harassed by the situation and atmosphere of the seminary, so naturally the reports suggesting that the seminary specialised in “detoxification” sounds extremely incoherent. Such young children could not have been admitted in the seminary because they abused any substance whatsoever. Their presence in the seminary only attracts more speculation and mystery to the actual operations of the seminary.

The debate entailing whether these Medressahs are helping the underprivileged or taking advantage of their poverty and ignorance is a moot point. However, the will to change and challenge the current situation by questioning the governance of our religious clerics and many such seminaries should top the government’s agenda.

The writer is a Reporter at Dawn.com