The urgency to monitor madrassas | Pakistan Today

The urgency to monitor madrassas

The fight for survival


Foreign funding has changed the orientation of the prayer leaders and those running the seminaries. Until the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, the mosques as well as seminaries were entirely funded by the local community to which they were answerable. This inculcated a sense of responsibility among the clerics. Preaching sectarian hatred was extremely rare. Foreign funding, however, gave rise to seminaries and mosques of a new brand where leaders owed allegiance to countries which had launched a proxy war in Pakistan. As the rivalries in the Gulf sharpened, sectarian provocations increased from the pulpit. With the arrival of Al-Qaeda, which had strong support groups among the well-to-do sections of the Gulf population, a certain section of the clerics and seminary leaders started promoting extremism and militancy.

There can be no peace in the country as long as the nexus between the seminaries and Gulf charities remains unbroken. Of immediate need is for the government to monitor the funding of the madrassas. As the seminary leaders have access to huge funds, they are unwilling to allow the government to exercise oversight into their financial dealings. They are instead threatening to politicise the issue. Their task is made easy as a number of religious parties also run a section of the seminaries and depend on seminary students as party activists. The latest meeting of the seminary alliances was held at the central office of a religious party in Lahore where the speakers condemned the arrest of clerics involved in hate speech and the restrictions put on the use of loudspeakers for preaching violence.

The Punjab IGP, who had initially denied any knowledge of seminaries in the province receiving funds from abroad, has now informed the Senate that there are 147 foreign-funded madrassas. Many believe the number runs into four digits. It is highly important to implement the National Action Policy in letter and spirit. Any compromise on the anti-extremism and anti-terrorism policy will adversely affect the nation’s ongoing fight for survival.

One Comment;

  1. S.R.H. Hashmi said:

    Al-Qaeda had not only strong support among the well-to-do section of the Gulf population but also with US state officials and among Pakistanis. The obvious cause of their popularity in the United States of al-Qaeda was that it was providing them an opportunity to avenge their humiliation in Vietnam. And they were pleased with the fact that their conspiracy was working: By starting suspicious activities in Afghanistan, the Americans had created an impression that they were planning to set up their bases over there, right at the door of Russians and thus successfully lured the USSR troops into Afghanistan. This way, the Americans dismembered Soviet Union without incurring substantial costs in men and money.

    As for popularity of al-Qaeda in Gulf and Pakistan, it was based on the misconception that rather than fighting an American war with Russians, al-Qaeda and their associated Jihadis were engaged in freeing a Muslim country, Afghanistan, from the clutches of occupiers.

    However, with Russians departure from Afghanistan, the Jihad factor was no longer there but the Americans and their allies subsequently moved in there in large numbers to implement their map-change agenda for the region This attracted the wrath of Jihadis who were already there in large numbers and had now found another enemy. But with Americans near-evacuation from Afghanistan, even this factor does not weigh heavily now.

    Apart from producing Jihadis, the large chains of Madrassas established and run with the Middle-Eastern funding, came handy to the financiers also because the product of most of these Madrassas helped them in fighting their Sectarian wars in Pakistan as well as spreading their beliefs here. This sectarian, Sunni-Shia war is also being fought all over the Middle East with the funding of respective sponsors.

    And very many of the Maulanas in Pakistan were impressed with the great transformation from having modest means to someone virtually rolling in money, plus a large number of Madrassa students available as a fighting force for them. Obviously, having tasted this wealth and power, they are unlikely to part with it willingly and have already started digging in their heels.

    Therefore, as rightly pointed out by you, in order to get out of the mess that we are in, this nexus between seminaries and Gulf charities must be broken. And going a step further, the funding made by the Gulf rulers to seminaries and those behind them in order to continue their sectarian wars on our our soil must also be stopped forthwith.

    Also, the major role in this war has to be played by our civilian government which unfortunately seems to be headed by weaklings whose main agenda is to greatly enhance their own fortunes, plus those of relatives and friends. As such, playing safe and taking the line of least resistance, they are hardly likely to take tough action against the seminaries, their organizers and other related groups, as well as their sponsors and financiers, which the situation demands, and may restrict their contribution to paying lip service to the National Action Plan.

    As it is, the military is doing more than its fair share in fighting militancy, extremism and terrorism in Pakistan which seems natural because of resources at its disposal plus the fact that the problem is basically the creation of one of their former chiefs, Gen. Ziaul Haq. And they have to do still more, like 'persuading' the civilian government to play its due role instead of just making strong statements, unmatched by action on the ground.


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