Punjab’s seminary fact-file


Awais Saleem June 01, 2010

LAHORE: With the recent onslaught of terror in Punjab, the spotlight has started shifting towards the presence of extremist elements in the province, particularly in the southern belt and tribal areas adjoining the borders of Khyber-Pathtunkhwa.

The phenomena of the Punjabi Taliban recruited from south Punjab and the role of seminaries in breeding extremism was talked about in undertones preceding the recent attacks on Ahmedi places of worship in Lahore. However, the back-to-back blasts in Lahore, followed by the attack in Jinnah hospital has meant that these voices are becoming much louder.

The process of registering ‘deeni madaris’ was initiated in 2002/3 during the tenure of former president Pervez Musharraf. The task was assigned to the ministry of religious affairs under the ‘Registration and Regulation of Deeni Madaris Ordinance 2002’. The seminaries were to be given financial and infrastructural support under the ordinance and were required to offer computer courses and English besides other modern subjects align these students with the national mainstream education system. However, there are still a large number of seminaries that remain out of the loop and continue to resist governmental efforts to bring about any set of regulations or share data regarding their students.

Wafaqul Madaris’ chairperson Qari Haneef Jallundhri stressed that seminaries had never resisted the registration drive. He blamed bureaucratic hurdles for the delay in this process and also contested the claims of federal Minister for Interior Rehamn Malik on the grounds that he had never given any proof to back his allegations regarding seminaries being ‘responsible’ for increasing extremism.

Official data of registered seminaries states that presently over 20,000 seminaries are operating across Pakistan. The Sindh province has more than 5,500 seminaries, NWFP which is considered a stronghold of institutions for religious education has more than 3,000 seminaries while the number in Balochistan is about 1000.

The federal capital Islamabad has about 50 seminaries, and the most prominent amongst these used to be Lal Masjid. However, a predominant number (over 12,500) of the seminaries (almost 65 per cent) are located in Punjab. A break-up of the seminaries in Punjab clearly establishes a heavy concentration in south Punjab. If we divide Punjab in to three parts geographically, upper Punjab has the least number of seminaries which collectively amounts to approximately 2, 000 seminaries. Out of the remaining 10,000 ‘deeni madaris’, a dominant majority (around 7,000) are located in south Punjab whereas the remaining 4,000 are located in central Punjab.

Out of these seminaries, Lahore has the most number of deeni madaris (1,102), while Faisalabad (483) and Sargodha (433) fall second and third, respectively.

The top three cities in south Punjab in terms of number of seminaries include Multan (1,108), followed by more than 900 in Muzaffarhgarh and 811 in Rahim Yar Khan. If the seminaries established in tribal areas like DG Khan and Rajanpur and those alongside the borders of Khyber Pathtunkhwa, like Bhakkar, Khushab, Mianwali are also included in this list than the number of such institutions rises to more than 80 per cent at locations where extremism is potentially being promoted. The total number of students in seminaries across Punjab exceeds 1.5 million, out of which more than one million people are studying in Punjab alone.

The break-up of the data reveals that around 70 per cent of these students are enrolled in south Punjab.

The lack of proper education and a sense of deprivation already existing in this part of the province can potentially lead them to fall prey to terrorist outfits. Rehman Malik also listed details of terrorists the other day insisting that out of the total 1,764 terrorists, whose records were made available, more than 726 belonged to south Punjab. The provincial government continues remain in denial regarding the situation, it seems.

Senior adviser to the Punjab chief minister Sardar Zulfiqar Ali Khan Khosa told The Express Tribune that the federal minister had exaggerated the situation and accused Malik of ‘being ignorant of the ground realities’. Notwithstanding these back and forth arguments, the lack of any concrete action plan means that the masses continue to suffer from terrorism as the government appears to have conflicting accounts of the real situation.

Published in the Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2010.

COMMENTS (1)

ahmad | 11 years ago | Reply "Where knowledge is limited, and the desire to learn the complex reality doesn’t exist, public opinion can be shaped by whoever generates the most powerful symbols" In a week when over 100 people got killed in lahore, there was outrage all over pakistan over 12 people being killed in a boat near israel.
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