More than 24 seminary students reunited with families: 152 released from Adiala Jail

ISLAMABAD, July 9: More than two dozen students from the Lal Masjid and Jamia Faridya seminaries, who had been picked up by the security forces, were handed over to their families but some of them were still under the spell of the madressah, as interviews with them revealed.

"I'm happy that I am going home. But I want to continue memorising the Holy Quran," said 12-year-old Junaid after he reunited with his father.

His old and poor father, Hadayat Ali, from Charsadda, said that he was overwhelmed to see his son safe and they would now return to their village. He had been waiting outside the Adiala Jail for the last four days.

But at the same time he was sad that Junaid "could not finish his education at the madressah. His final exams were less than two weeks away," he said.

"When we return to our village I will look for a reputable madressah where he can complete his education," Mr Ali said.

All the children initially hesitated to talk to media persons, who were covering the handing over the ceremony at the Sports Complex on Sunday evening. But when one of them broke his silence, the rest joined in answering journalist's questions.

Zafar Ali, 18, from Swabi, said he escaped the day after the Lal Masjid standoff began. Ali said, "I don't know if what the government is doing is right or if those holed up in Lal Masjid are wrong."

"I have been in Jamia Faridiya only for education and I want to continue my education in a madressah when I go back to my village," he said.

Another escapee from the Lal Masjid said he saw only four men with Kalashnikovs inside. "They were surrounding Ghazi sahib. I saw a man firing from behind a bunker, set up in one corner of the Lal Masjid compound. But I did not see any foreign fighters."

Doctors on duty, present on the occasion said that the children were not frightened or unstable. "They are not in shock and they are not in any mental stress," said a lady doctor from Pims adding, that the children told the medical team that they wanted to enrol in madressahs again when they returned home.

As many as 152 children, between the ages 12 and 18, had been brought from the Adiala Jail to the Sports Complex to be reunited with their families.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, who handed over the children to the parents or relatives said, "Most of the children were Jamia Faridiya students. Children less than 18 years of age had returned home, while some were still here.

Those over 18 years of age are still in custody. They are being debriefed and after other formalities are completed they too will be sent home." dawn

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