Most Pakistani madrassas serving useful purpose
WASHINGTON, June 14(Daily Times): The US should refrain
from getting involved in Pakistan's broader madrassa reform efforts and accept
that many of the traditional madrassas serve a useful purpose in educating
Islamic intellectuals and providing shelter and food for impoverished youth,
according to Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation.
Testifying before a
subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform,
Subcommittee, she said that while a few Pakistani madrassas represent an
international terrorist threat and deserve American scrutiny and condemnation,
most madrassas should be left alone. "US efforts to encourage education reform
and development in Pakistan should be consistent, sustained, and multi-pronged.
Ensuring transparency and efficiency in the education bureaucracy is equally
important to encouraging local community involvement and accountability in the
day-to-day functioning of individual schools, especially in poor, rural areas," she said.
According to her, "The development of a strong and effective
education system in Pakistan is central to promoting moderation, tolerance, and
economic development. Convincing the Pakistani government to take firm action
against the handful of madrassas supporting violent extremism also is necessary,
not only for the future stability of Pakistan, but also to prevent future
She told the subcommittee that a strong and
effective education system in Pakistan will help to ensure that the country
steers toward a path of stability, moderation, and prosperity in the years to
come, and should therefore be a top priority for Washington in its relations
with Islamabad. Lack of adequate education opportunities in Pakistan has
contributed to the development of extremist ideologies that have fuelled
terrorism and sectarian tensions as well as stifled economic growth. Fostering
development and reform of the public education system will not only contribute
to Pakistani economic prosperity and social tolerance, it will help improve the
image of the United States by demonstrating American interest in the human
development of average Pakistani citizens.
Curtis said one of the major
problems with Pakistan's public education sector has been the endemic corruption
within the system, which has led to the phenomenon of "ghost schools". The US
can help by supporting teacher training programmes and encouraging greater
accountability through community involvement, but the Pakistani government will
have to do its part to limit corruption and inefficiency within the system. She
told the legislators that many madrassas connected to violent militancy are
located in Karachi as well as in Punjab. These madrassas and associated militant
groups have an interdependent relationship in which the militant groups provide
armed backing for the madrassas, and the madrassas in turn provide motivated
recruits for the militant organisations. She noted that the Musharraf government
has had little success with its attempts to assert greater government authority
over the madrassas. She pointed out that the Minister for Religious Affairs
Ejazul Haq is the son of Gen Ziaul Haq whose Islamisation policies in the 1980s
resulted in an expansion of the madrassa network.
"Ejazul Haq has so far
been reluctant to confront the prominent religious parties that have ties to
foreign-funded madrassas and are resisting government reform," she added.
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