In a Statement against Extremism, Pakistan Brings 30,000 Madrasas under State Control
Pakistan recently announced its decision to bring 30,000 madrasas, or religious schools, under state control, demonstrating its mounting efforts to “mainstream” Islamic schools and curb religious extremism.
As stated by Major General Asif Ghafoor to reporters at the military headquarters of Rawalpindi: “An Islamic education will continue to be provided but there will be no hate speech.” Pakistan’s Ministry of Education will be tasked with crafting a new syllabus that teaches “contemporary subjects” and “respect for different sects.”
According to Ghafoor, Pakistan will fund the madrasas by utilizing money originally designated for the costs of anti-terrorism security operations, under the justification that militant attacks within Pakistan have decreased in recent years.
There are currently over 30,000 madrasas in Pakistan, which are religious schools that have often been blamed for radicalizing Muslim youth and furthering religious extremism in the conservative Muslim nation. Critics of madrasas as an educational institution claim that the schools do not prepare students for the real world, as they spend the majority of their class time memorizing the Quran rather than learning skills required to compete in the contemporary job market.
However, the issue of madrasas is rendered more complicated by the fact that in many poor areas of Pakistan, the only access to education that many students have is that offered by these religious institutions. Furthermore, according to Ghafoor, only 100 of the 30,000 madrasas in the country are actually involved in “propagating terrorism.”
Last month, Pakistan made a definitive statement against the proliferation of extremism at madrasas by seizing control of 182 religious schools and detaining over 100 people. This action represented Pakistan’s most explicit move against illegal Islamist organizations. An Indian official anonymously expressed skepticism at the legitimacy of the crackdown, questioning whether Pakistan’s actions were “cosmetic or credible” in nature.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has been tasked by the international community with the responsibility of curbing militant activities and religious extremism within Pakistan. His latest efforts to bring madrasas under governmental administration reflects his concern with demonstrating that Pakistan’s ties with militant groups are broken.
“Everyone now knows that what is happening in Pakistan has never happened (before),” claimed Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to international journalists earlier in April after outlining his plan to bring Pakistan’s 30,000 madrasas under state control. “We have decided, this country has decided, for the future of the country - forget outside pressure - we will not allow armed militias to operate,” furthered Khan.