By Zia Ur Rehman

Feb 7 , 2018

Since the National Action Plan was put in place in 2015, the progress on one of its objectives — the registration and regulation of madrasas —seems to have been far from satisfactory in Sindh, where this year again madrasas are at odds with the provincial government over the mechanism for its recent drive to collect information about them.

Last week, Special Branch personnel of the Sindh police visited madrasas in Karachi to distribute printed forms to collect information, but the religious seminaries refused to cooperate while acting on instructions from the Ittehad-e-Tanzeemat-e-Madaris Pakistan, a board of all the five boards of madrasas.

In the data forms, seen by The News, the madrasas have been asked to provide basic information, such as address, category of seminary, sect, registration number, affiliation with the madrasa board, the seminary’s registered and unregistered branches and details about the land on which the madrasa has been built.

They are also being asked to provide information about the classrooms, residential rooms for students boarding at the seminary, library and Darul Fatuah (a body that issues religious edicts or fatwas).

The Special Branch has also asked the religious seminaries to provide information about CNICs, contact details and other particulars of their students, teachers, and non-teaching and administration staff.

The form has sought details of passports, visas and addresses of foreign students and instructors, besides details about sources of funding and bank details. In a separate one-page form, information about the mosque’s prayer leader has also been sought.

Madrasas’ reservations

The madrasas’ bodies, commenting on the distribution of forms for collecting information, said the religious schools were not against providing information to the government and law enforcement bodies, but they had reservations over the method.

Muhammad Ibrahim Sakkargahi, an ITMP representative in Sindh, said the central body of all madrasa boards was in agreement with the federal government, especially with National Security Adviser Lieutenant General (retd) Nasir Janua, over the registration of the madrasas.

“We are waiting for the federal government to make proper legislation in this regard.

“But the Sindh government has been spoiling all these efforts by sending law enforcement personnel to madrasas to collect information without taking the madrasa boards into confidence,” he told The News.

He said that it seemed the provincial government was not serious about addressing the issue. “After a gap of few months, personnel of a law enforcement agency or an intelligence body started visiting madrasas and asked them to provide information. The Sindh government should either follow the federal government’s instructions or sit with the ITMP in Sindh to devise a strategy for it,” said Sakkargahi, who is also the Sindh coordinator for the Wifaq ul Madaris al-Araibia, a board of Deobandi madrasas.

According to the Wifaq ul Madaris al-Arabia, its secretary general, Qari Muhammad Hanif Jalandhari, had telephoned Additional IG Dr Waliullah Dal of the Special Branch and discussed the apprehensions of the madrasas’ managements because of the data collection campaign.

“Dal has assured us that he will stop the ongoing data collection drive and resume it after consultations with leaders of the ITMP.” The News was unable to reach Dal for his comments, but an official at the Special Branch confirmed that the madrasas across the city had refused to share information.

An unfinished task

The Sindh government has completed the geo-tagging (collection of details of the location and size of seminaries) of all madrasas in the province, including Karachi, to help the law enforcement agencies to see the exact location of and maintain a strict watch on them. But for registration and regulation, the government has not taken any concrete steps on the ground, The News has learnt.

In early 2017, the government prepared a bill for registering religious seminaries and monitoring their funding after consulting the representatives of the five boards of madrasas.

Dr Abdul Qayoom Soomro, the then special assistant to the chief minister for religious affairs, had also formed and headed an eleven-member committee, consisting of representatives from the Wifaqul Madaris Al-Arabia Pakistan, the Tanzeemul Madaris, the Wifaqul Madaris Salfiya, the Rabtaul Madaris and the Wifaqul Madaris Al-Shia, and higher officials from the Rangers, Special Branch, and the home, religious affairs, Auqaf and law departments.

However, according to a senior government official familiar with the development, the provincial government did not present it to the assembly because they feared massive backlash form religious parties, especially after the pressure put on the authorities over the forced conversion bill.

“After this, the Sindh government chose not to continue to work on registering and regulating the madrasas in order not to anger the religious parties,” he told The News.

According to a February 19 report published in this newspaper, the government has resumed the process of registering madrasas by assigning the task to Sindh Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) chief Additional IGP Sanaullah Abbasi and has been patiently waiting to hear back from the federal administration on the former’s suggestions for amendments to the first-ever Sindh Deeni Madaris Act.

However, the ITMP is not aware about such developments. “We are not consulted on drafting the new legislation on the registration of mardrasas and will be able to comment after seeing the bill draft,” said Sakkargahi.

He said the Sindh government had not been registering the religious seminaries since 2015 and currently over 800 madrasas belonging to the Wifaqul Madaris Al-Arabia had been waiting to register.