Madrassas under pressure after operation
ISLAMABAD, July 12: The bloodshed at Lal Masjid has again turned the
spotlight on the madrassas, which are accused of links to attacks at home, in
neighbouring Afghanistan and as far away as London.
from Jamia Hafsa initiated the confrontation with the government earlier this
year with their freelance anti-vice campaign. Several male students linked to
the mosque were believed to be among more than 53 rebels who were killed when
commandos stormed the mosque on Tuesday, security officials say.
organisation that oversees the country's 13,000 registered madrassas, the
Wafaqul Madaris, denies the students are involved in extremist
"Like no human being can survive without water and air, no
Muslim society can survive without madrassas," Mufti Mohammad Zareen Khan, a
senior official from the organisation, said. "Madrassas are not involved in
extremism. If teaching the concept of jihad in Islam is viewed as an act of
extremism by the West, we do not accept it." He said the schools cater to the
"poorest of the poorest", providing children with free education, board and
lodging – plus tutoring in the tenets of the religion.
Yet, only two
years ago, President Pervez Musharraf promised a massive crackdown on madrassas
after it emerged that some of the suicide bombers who struck the London
transport network on July 7, 2005 had attended them. At the time he ordered all
foreign students to leave Pakistan.
Plans to register them all have
however moved slowly amid resistance by the groups that run the schools. Some
6,000 have not done so.
Radical madrassas, particularly in the violent
tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, have more recently been accused of training
fighters for the Taliban insurgency there.
Multinational forces with
around 50,000 troops in Afghanistan, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, have
repeatedly urged Musharraf to tackle the problem of militancy in
Many of them were set up, often with US and Saudi funding, as
indoctrination and military training sites during the 1979-1989 US-backed
guerrilla war against the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan.
hardline schools, particularly near the Afghan border, went on to produce
thousands of young recruits for the Taliban, both when they ruled Afghanistan
from 1996 to 2001 and then after the regime was ousted by a US-led
Muttahir Ahmed, professor of international relations at
Karachi University, said that while Musharraf may have tackled one of the most
radical madrassas, the Jamia Hafsa girls' school, others would still cause
"Jamia Binoria in Karachi and Jamia Hafsa in Islamabad are
mother institutions for the Taliban. The madrassas will not let him do it again
and can come back more strongly," Ahmed said.
And Musharraf could even
face opposition from the more moderate schools.
"Muslims should stop
paying tax to the government after what they did to the Lal Masjid and its
madrassa," said Qari Sher Afzal, a senior member of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal.
"The attack is a death warrant for all madrassas and Muslims should not allow
such attacks," he said. afp