- PM Sharif says NAP most important agenda of Pakistan, urges clergy to support madrassa reforms
- Govt, clerics reach agreement over madrassa registration, curriculum reform
- Nisar says clerics will present their audit reports and govt will devise mechanism for foreign funding
- Mufti Muneeb appreciates COAS’s role in meeting as clerics ask for intimation before raiding madrassas
Assuming a stern position against hate speeches against other sects and religions, the government on Monday took seminaries’ representatives on board regarding the implementation of National Action Plan (NAP) vis-à-vis scrutiny of madrassas over their funding, registration, curriculum and propaganda.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday presided over a session attended by religious scholars from different school of thoughts and representatives of seminary boards ‘Ittehad-e-Tanzeemul Madaris’.
Highlighting the importance of NAP as “most important agenda of Pakistan”, the premier made it clear in the meeting – also attended by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lieutenant-General Rizwan Akhtar – that religious seminaries were a valuable source of religious education but spreading hate against other sects and religions shall not be allowed.
PM Sharif told the madrassa representatives that it was necessary to consult them to meaningfully execute NAP and the meeting’s purpose was to take them on board to take the plan further. He also cited COAS’s presence in the meeting for ‘consultation’.
The government was gradually implementing in all 20 areas agreed through a consensus among the national leadership, he maintained.
Sharif also expressed resolve to pursue NAP free from politics and in the larger national interest. He invited the clerics to express their views and at the end of the meeting added that all participants are on the same page and want harmony in the country.
He further said that all stakeholders against terrorism should cooperate with each other and the government on its part will extend full cooperation to ‘Ittehad-e-Tanzeemul Madaris’.
Stressing upon the need for voluntary reforms in the curriculum of madrassas— both for imparting better education and countering extremism, the premier assured the clerics that government is ready to help them for introducing reforms in their education system.
The prime minister said that the government understands the importance of madrassas and their positive role in the society and would like them to do better by fulfilling their obligations to the society. He said madrassas should discourage sectarianism and terrorism and a campaign to eliminate such tendencies should be launched by developing a counter narrative.
Religious scholars belonging from different sects including Mufti Muneebur Rehman, Maulana Muhammad Taqi Usmani, Muhammad Hanif Jalandari, Sajid Mir, Syed Muhammad Najfi and Maulana Ataur Rehman attended the session and assured unconditional support to NAP and full cooperation with the government in the reforms process.
Interior Minister Chaudary Nisar Ali Khan, Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Muhammad Yousuf, State Interior Minister Balighur Rehman and senior government officials were also present on the occasion.
NISAR SEALS CONSENSUS:
Briefing the media after the government’s talks with representatives from Tanzeemul Madaris, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Monday said the state will now take action against those calling others kafir (non-Muslim), adding that the government had already tackled hate speech and glorification of terrorists in the first phase.
The minister said both sides had agreed to take madrassa reforms’ process further, adding there was consensus on major issues. He said clerics had condemned terrorism and vowed to eliminate the menace from the country in coordination with the government. He said it was agreed in the meeting that any individual or organization involved in terror will be dealt with per law.
Moreover, Nisar said there was no conflict on the registration of madrassas, with the clerics agreeing it was essential. “But the process should be made easier and a committee will be formed by the Interior Ministry to prepare a registration form for seminaries so that all ends can be achieved.”
Nisar said the clerics had also agreed to present audit reports of their funds. He said the government will also devise a mechanism in connection with the foreign funding of madrassas in consultation with State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and Finance Ministry. In addition, madrassas will be facilitated to open bank accounts so that all the transactions are transparent.
“Lawmaking on seminaries should be done after taking into confidence the Tanzeemul Madaris and there was a consensus on this.”
Nisar said a committee representing all sections of society will be formed by the Interior Ministry to review madrassa curriculum and present recommendations.
He said both sides agreed that force alone was not enough to eliminate terrorism, with efforts on an equally important intellectual level.
MUFTI MUNEEB IS HOPEFUL:
Talking to Pakistan Today, Mufti Muneeb ur Rehman said that in principle the government and ulema had decided to resolve all issues amicably through mutual accommodation.
“Yes, the issue of foreign funding has been resolved and it has been decided that we would hold a follow up meeting with SBP governor to resolve this issue. We want to follow all laws so there would be no issues,” he said, adding that a mechanism would be agreed upon during the meeting to get accounts of all madrassas registered.
Asked about the issues pertaining to the military leadership, Muneeb said that the army chief was very positive during the meeting and it seemed as if the military understood the problems and wanted to resolve them with an open heart.
“The army chief sought cooperation from the religious leadership in a positive manner. The ISI DG also proposed that rather than using the name of madrassa reforms, the new term of education reforms should be used so as no negative message could be drawn,” he said.
Muneeb added that it was also agreed that the seminaries issues would soon be transferred to Education Ministry’s domain from Religious Affairs Ministry as from no onwards, the madrassas would be considered as educational institutions.
He said for the purpose of registration of around 10,000 unregistered madarassas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), a mechanism would be framed between the Wifaq and the Religious Affairs Ministry.
“We have proposed that the registration issue mechanism should also include a timeframe so the matter is resolved once and for all. We don’t want to drag this matter,” he added. He said it was also agreed that the registration form would be simplified so as all the seminaries could be registered soon.
Moreover, a source in the meeting told Pakistan Today that the ulema’s delegation expressed their concerns over the crackdown over seminaries and asked the military leadership to “stop harassing the students”.
“Whenever a raid is conducted on a madrassa, it sends very negative signals. If the law enforcing agencies have any information about a suspect, they should contact the ulema so that students are not harassed and the suspect is handed over to the security forces,” the source added.
The source added that the ulema also demanded the government to give the examination system of madrassas the status of a board so as there is no discrimination between normal education and religious education.