Another story of a minor being the subject of violence at a madrassa has surfaced. Unsurprisingly, the incident came out of Punjab, the hub of violence against children. Despite being a proponent of a faith system that preaches mercy towards children, the pesh imam at the Shalimar mosque where the victim studied resorted to beating his pupil with an iron rod. The physical pain combined with the shock of being betrayed by a teacher whom the boy’s parents trusted made the boy succumb to his injuries. Problems at madrassas extend far and wide, encompassing physical and alleged sexual abuse. A stronger attitude needs to be adopted against those who are meant to instill the virtues of kindness and compassion in the young and not the contrary.
In November 2017, a child was tortured, molested and thrown off a roof in Faisalabad. Another victim from Kehrore Pakka, Punjab, luckily lived to tell the story of his rape but did not receive support from the justice system. The Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Interior are implored to reform laws and enforce punishment upon the manipulative abusers, murderers and rapists, as some three-and-a-half million children who are part of the country’s madrassa system remain vulnerable.
The mindset that needs to be perpetuated is that nobody, regardless of religious status, has immunity from transgression of basic moral principles. In fact, persons who are entrusted with children should be held to the highest standards and expectations. Unsuspecting parents send their children off to seminaries which, effectively, are like daycares in the Western world. Concerned parents scrutinise agencies before selecting a daycare to look after their child, and parents in Pakistan should do the same. Although there has been a recent push towards registering madrassas, the plan has hardly materialised, so parents themselves should exercise greater vigilance on their own.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2018.