Karachi seminary torture: Released from shackles, rejected by families

Published: December 14, 2011
A child doubles over in pain at the seminary in Afghan Basti where around 34 adults and 14 children were rescued in a raid conducted by the Gulshan-e-Maymar police late Monday night. PHOTO: NEFER SEHGAL/EXPRESS

A child doubles over in pain at the seminary in Afghan Basti where around 34 adults and 14 children were rescued in a raid conducted by the Gulshan-e-Maymar police late Monday night. PHOTO: NEFER SEHGAL/EXPRESS

KARACHI: Most of them saw sunlight for the first time in months. But their freedom may be fleeting.

Around 34 adults and 14 children, rescued from a seminary-cum-rehabilitation centre by the police on Monday night, waited anxiously to go home on Tuesday. But outside the Gulshan-e-Maymar police station, their families refused to take them back.

“We have not come here to take them with us. We want the seminary to be restored.”

One man, Muhammad Sheikh, said he had provided chains to the authorities to beat his brothers. Another man, Ameer Hamza, said the seminary was ‘jannat’ (heaven), and that severe punishments are necessary for drug addicts and thieves.

A mother, whose son was among those recovered, shouted: “I will pay Rs10,000 to the police to take responsibility of my child.” The woman said she has been paying the seminary a monthly fee of Rs8,000 by taking loans from relatives.

Life in the basement

Were the families unmoved by the treatment meted out to their ‘loved ones’?

One of those recovered, a man named Hidayatullah, hailing from Gulshan-e-Iqbal, related the victims’ daily ordeal.

“We woke up every day at 4 am to whipping by the clerics,” said the man.

A drug addict, he was left at the seminary seven months ago by his family.

Breakfast was two paapar (poppadom), followed by qaida (primer) lessons. If you made mistakes, you were whipped with an industrial belt. Lunch was a plate of watery daal and burnt rotis.

Qaida lessons continued in the afternoon followed by prayer breaks and religious instructions. The day ended with watery daal served as dinner at eleven.

“Nights were not peaceful either,” Hidayatullah said. Cramped in a small room, the men were chained to pillars, and could only sleep in a straight position.

The men were not allowed to use the bathrooms at night either. “It’s embarrassing to tell but we were given a water bottle to pee in. If we urinated in bed, we were lashed,” said Babar, a teenager. Water to drink, from bathroom taps, was sometimes given in the same bottles, he added. Bathing was only allowed on Thursdays since families would visit them on Friday. The five-minute bath was the only time they were freed of chains.

The horror doesn’t end

How did the torture continue for so long?

The victims say they were never able to tell their families. “Mufti Dawood and his men had guns. They threatened to beat us if we told anyone.”

One of the most-affected victims, a bald man named Wali, sat in the middle, staring at thin air. He was whipped 150 times, in two days. “He has lost his senses,” the men said.

The children were not spared from the beatings either.

Four-year-old Asadullah, said to be a nephew of Mufti Dawood, was also beaten when he was unable to procure food for the seminary, from the neighbours.

Not all men were sent voluntarily by their families. A woman from Lyari said her son, Muhammad Arif, went missing after he left to attend the Tableeghi Ijtima at Raiwind in 2008.

“My relatives saw him on television,” she said. “I am happy that he is alive, but sad that he has suffered so much.”

Despite the torture, the children say they would continue to study at a seminary, not this one though.

One of them piped in: “I would become a qari (religious teacher) and go to Afghanistan for jihad.”

Investigators, however, say they did not find any links to terrorist activity.

“There was no terrorism training going on there,” said DSP Mukhtiar Khaskheli.

“What was happening there (rehabilitation) was right; just the method was wrong which is why we had to take action,” he added.

When not to follow your ‘teacher’

One of the culprits, Qari Muhammad Usman, sat blindfolded in the lockup.

He said he had joined the seminary two months ago and insisted they were not doing any criminal or terrorist activity. While the inmates slept on floors, Usman had his own room and bed.

The administration charged between Rs3,000 and Rs15,000 as fee – for treatment, food and religious studies, he said. The fee was waived off for those who could not afford to pay.

“I might have beaten them sometimes,” he said, very reluctantly accepting that the people should not have been treated so cruelly. “But Mufti Dawood was a mufti (scholar) and we did what he said,” he said in his defense.

‘Not a seminary’

Wafaqul Madaris alArabia, an umbrella organisation controlling Deobandi seminaries, said in a statement that the compound from where chained inmates were recovered was a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts, not an institute for religious education.

(Read: Need for madrassa reform)

(With additional reporting by our correspondent in ISLAMABAD)

Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (25)

  • MarkH
    Dec 14, 2011 - 5:58AM

    …Even the logic is faulty. The things they did had no chance at rehabilitating them. In fact, the extreme stress and the addition of the trauma caused by it would make them more likely to relapse or become a very unstable and potentially dangerous person in all aspects of life. Though it’s probably only a matter of time before someone who attended that place returns for revenge.


  • siddiqa
    Dec 14, 2011 - 6:05AM

    I am not only upset for the men / boys involved but more upset at the character assasination that is going to take place of our nation in general. Being a Canadian-Pakistani, I work so hard along with others in my situation to maintain a good image of ourselves.
    As far as those involved are concerned, my heart out to them but will this change anything? While I type this and while you read this, there is another household out there packing their child’s bag for madrassa!


  • Hu Jintao
    Dec 14, 2011 - 6:25AM

    These “families” should be put behind bars and put a fear of God in them. Idiots


  • anybodyagree
    Dec 14, 2011 - 6:27AM

    a new Guantanamo Bay . . . .


  • Pragmatist
    Dec 14, 2011 - 6:49AM

    This is the TRUE face of religion, folks !! Every religion is the same. If you want compassion, look outside of it. Religions are only there to control other humans and subjugate them and stop them from thinking. There is this all-powerful apparition built up by cock-and-bull stories which is used to brainwash every single child. The day humans start thinking for themselves, they’ll be free from the tyranny of organized religion.Recommend

  • dr j tipu
    Dec 14, 2011 - 6:51AM

    lets get that qaari dawood nude in public and lash him.this is insane, we all have to publically deny it, defy it and curse these idiotic elements like this mindless qaari dawood, to be able to live in a sane world….unbelievable……….


  • alicia
    Dec 14, 2011 - 7:03AM

    UFF.. these type of people should be sterilized they don’t deserve to have kids.


  • pathetic nation
    Dec 14, 2011 - 7:58AM



  • Dec 14, 2011 - 8:24AM

    Ban madrassas in Pakistan please..


  • simplemiss
    Dec 14, 2011 - 8:49AM

    In Pakistan people pay to Madarasas to torture their kids and do not want to take them back because what is happening there is right and only the method at times may go wrong. So simple.


  • Adeel759
    Dec 14, 2011 - 8:50AM

    This is happening in a city which is supposedly most educated, diverse, modern and dynamicand being ruled by the most liberal parties of the country. Karachi has time and again proven to be a jungle, where only the most brutal prevails.


  • KR
    Dec 14, 2011 - 9:04AM

    strong text“Now we all can’t be this naive to believe that beating a 4 year old child in the name of religion is correct way to teach them anything let alone religion. Shame on us for letting this happen in our country, where exactly does it say to beat a child senselessly and ladies and gentleman this is why our society is becoming so violent and crazy. Also for the sake of our country please stop having kids if you cannot afford to feed and educate them. There is nothing wrong if you choose not to have kids or adopt one”.


  • Mirza
    Dec 14, 2011 - 9:51AM

    Sad to say but Islamic Republic of Pakistan is not what people wanted it to be. Till we all identify this cancer in the country these incidents would continue. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Recommend

  • sohaib
    Dec 14, 2011 - 10:34AM

    I wana have a meeting with mufti sahab alone!


  • Mo
    Dec 14, 2011 - 11:10AM

    Sick . .Sick all the way. How could children be drug addicts? This is one insane making others as victim of insanity. This is not only sickening but repulsive and an insult to society!


  • Mo
    Dec 14, 2011 - 11:30AM

    What on earth has befallen this God-forsaken country?? Corruption and lack of humanity and out of control law and order.


  • Sad
    Dec 14, 2011 - 11:42AM

    Its simple.. there is a massive lack of education, monitoring and justice in our country.. as long as these persist.. these kind of things will keep happening..and mind u they don’t only happen in our country.. alot of under-developed countries have similar ghastly issues (but their media knows how to cover it up & show a clean face to the world!)…


  • Chilli
    Dec 14, 2011 - 11:55AM

    Can anyone tell me how many free government run rehabilitation centers functional???


  • Muhammad
    Dec 14, 2011 - 12:22PM

    As it is clearly declared the seminary is for drug addicted adults and children where they are also taught some books on religion and literacy. The West always mix these type seminary with religious seminaries. These seminary provides treatment and immense care to drug addicted people at very low cost. In fact they conduct most of operations on donations as they collect very low amount. We saw lady was giving only Rs. 8000 for the whole month. We should condemn the west for misleading masses by mixing such seminaries with Islamic institutions and also local law enforcement agencies for raid on this seminary for drug addicted people.


  • Bangash
    Dec 14, 2011 - 3:48PM

    Such and many other ugly things will unfortunately continue rather increase in our Nation because we do not have priorities as a nation.We know the critical issues but don’t have the will and right system to solve them.The mother reason of most of our issues is that there is NO JUSTICE in our country.


  • Pragmatist
    Dec 15, 2011 - 7:17AM

    @Mo: “What on earth has befallen this God-forsaken country??”
    Religion. Religion is like a light. When the light gets too bright, it blinds you.


  • siddiqa
    Dec 15, 2011 - 7:44AM

    not really .. i disagree… Guantanamo Bay was made for a total different reason whether we agree with it or not is a different story. No parent sent their child there voluntarily there!


  • Dec 15, 2011 - 10:57AM

    Great words sir. So true..


  • Outraged
    Dec 20, 2011 - 3:18PM

    @Hu Jintao:
    These ‘families’ should be made to suffer the way they let their loved ones suffer, and even now cannot understand the way they suffered and all that they had to endure.


  • Noran
    Dec 28, 2011 - 10:36PM

    Madaris are factories where people are being made useless for societyRecommend

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