Parents concerned over Hafsa operation threat

PESHAWAR, July 2(Dawn): Parents of girls studying at the Jamia Hafsa have expressed concern over President Gen Pervez Musharraf's warning about launching an operation against the Lal Masjid brigade and appealed to him to provide protection to their daughters instead. Parents of three girl students hailing from Upper Dir district said that they had sent their daughters to the madressah to receive religious education, and demanded their safe return.

"It is President Musharraf's responsibility to provide protection to our daughters," a mother of an eight-year-old child enrolled at the madressah claimed.

A majority of the female students hail from various districts of the NWFP and adjoining tribal areas. More than ten girls from Upper Dir were sent to Jamia Hafsa for religious education, their parents informed.

When the Lal Masjid crisis began a few months back, students between the ages of eight and nine years were sent back home by the Jamia Hafsa administration, they said.

"We used to stay inside the building all day fearing attacks from security forces. Many young girls used to cry at night, so we were sent back home," said a former eight-year old Jamia Hafsa student who returned after spending only two months there. She was now studying at a seminary near her home.

"Only older students wielding sticks were allowed to go to the roof top," said another former student.

"Parents prefer admitting their daughters at Jamia Hafsa due to the nominal fee charges that ranges between Rs200-Rs500 for which they receive religious education till higher level," said Mohammad Islam, a father of an 18 year old girl studying at the madressah for the last three years.

Mr Islam claimed that he had tried to bring back her daughter.

"Some two months back when a crackdown on the seminary was feared, I went to Islamabad to bring her home but she refused and decided to stay there," Mr Islam said while talking on the phone from Dir.

"Musharraf will do himself great harm if he decides to launch an operation against the madressah and harms our girls," a mother of a student warned.

She threatened that if their daughter were harmed then they would send more of their daughters to wage 'jihad' against the government.

"In case an operation is launched, then for each daughter sacrificed in that incident we will sacrifice three more in the jihad against the Musharraf government," she warned.

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