Plan to bring 30,000 madrasas under state control: Pak army - GulfToday

Plan to bring 30,000 madrasas under state control: Pak army

Asif-Ghafoor

Major General Asif Ghafoor addressing a press conference in Islamabad.

Tariq Butt / Reuters

Pakistan plans to take control of a network of over 30,000 madrasas as part of a drive to “mainstream” the Islamic schools by bringing them under state control, the military’s spokesman said on Monday.

“The government of Pakistan ... has decided that these madrasas will be mainstreamed,” Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor told reporters at military headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

“An Islamic education will continue to be provided but there will be no hate speech,” Ghafoor added, saying that religious schools will come under the purview of the ministry of educations and incorporate other subjects into their syllabus.

Ghafoor said Pakistan would pay for the madrasas by diverting cash to education from the cost of anti-terrorism security operations, which are less necessary because militant attacks have sharply declined in recent years.

Last month, the government announced it had taken control of 182 religious schools and detained more than 100 people as part of its biggest push against banned groups.

“The benefit will be that when children grow and leave these institutions they will have the same career opportunities that those coming from a private school have,” Ghafoor said.

“We want to end violent extremism in Pakistan and that will only happen when our children have the same education and opportunities.”

He added that madrasa legislation would be presented in parliament in another month and that would be followed by a finalised syllabus, appointment of teachers and allocation of finances.

The military spokesman also said that army wanted to make every effort to resolve the issues faced by the Pashtuns in tribal areas, but warned that the “manner” adopted by the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) to voice such grievances would no longer be tolerated.

The (PTM) has received funding from the intelligence agencies of India and Afghanistan,  Ghafoor said.

He said he had personally met the PTM, but questioned the political movement regarding the source of their funding. “What revenge are you seeking from the army? No one can fight with the state. We were told to deal gently with PTM since day one. Why does Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) speak in favour of PTM? Why is your narrative similar? Problems and demands are genuine and we want to help the people. But the time is up for the people who are using the problems for their benefit.”

He talked about the grievances put forth by the PTM. “When we took action against the TLP, people say that why is action not taken against PTM as they speak up too much as well. The first person to engage with the PTM was me. I was told to engage with them by the army chief and I was given one order by the army chief: ‘Do not use a harsh hand with them.’ I met PTM leader Mohsin Dawar, and they had three demands: They said that mines and unexploded bombs still exist (in tribal areas). Their demand was genuine, we created 48 teams and 45 per cent of these areas were cleared.  “The PTM’s next demand was about clearing away checkposts. Pak army has lost thousands of soldiers at these checkposts.”

Ghafoor said that the issue of missing persons was their third demand and they created a list of those missing persons. “The list has shortened to 2,500 cases and the missing persons commission is working day and night to resolve those cases.  These demands were not even the PTM’s demands, the demands are of the people that live there. On the PTM website, they have got a number that states the amount of funds they have collected from Pashtuns around the world. But tell us how much money did you get from the NDS (Afghan National Directorate of Security) to run your campaign? How much money did RAW (India’s Research and Analysis Wing) give you for the first dharna in Islamabad?”

He said he would like to ask the PTM to provide him another list, besides the one of the missing persons, of all the strength of the TTP that exists in Afghanistan, so that I could tally the two to see if any of the missing persons are actually sitting there.

Ghafoor then delivered a message in Pushto to Pushto-speaking people, urging them to not be deceived by the people functioning against Pakistan’s interests.