Even though visas issued to more than 90 per cent of foreigners studying in religious seminaries across the Punjab have expired, they are still in the country, reveal official documents copies of which were obtained by The Express Tribune.
According to the report titled ‘Foreign Students Studying in Madaris of the Punjab on Invalid Visa’ only 31 out of a total of 329 foreign students have a valid visa.
The students enrolled in seminaries situated in eight districts of the province belong to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Comoros, Dutch, Djibouti, Ethiopia, France, Indonesia, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Mali, Myanmar, Morocco, Philippine, Netherlands, Russia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand and Turkey.
The agency that conducted the survey recommended that district administration and police be told to initiate legal action against the students living in the country illegally. “The present [security] situation warrants close coordination among all intelligence agencies,” says the report.
When contacted, Qari Hanif Jalandhary, the Wafaqul Madaris secretary general, said that the organisation had already directed all Deobandi madaris to follow the law. “As a student’s visa nears expiry the madrassa should issue a certificate and ask the Ministry of Interior for an extension,” he said. Jalandhary said that the body would take action against any madrassa that did not follow the directions.
The mohtmam of Jamia Naeemia, Dr Raghib Naeemi, said that they had checked the visas of all foreign students.
He insisted none of the visas had expired.
Tanzeemul Madaris president and Ruet-i-Hilal Committee chairman Mufti Muneebur Rehman said, “The student and the respective seminaries are responsible for getting an extension or renewing the visa.
The process should be initiated before the visa expires, not after.”
However, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jammat’s central secretary general Dr Khadim Hussain Dhillon said that visa status should not matter when it comes to religious education. Expired visas are no justification for deporting foreign students, he said.
When contacted, Deputy Inspector General (Operations) Ghulam Mehmood Dogar, told The Express Tribune that the police would take action against foreign students residing illegally in the city.
Cases will be registered in the respective police stations under Foreigner Act against such students, he said, adding that the students would then be deported with the help of FIA and the interior ministry.
District name Total no No of students
with valid visa
Lahore 244 1
Gujrat 23 11
Rawalpindi 15 0
Chakwal 14 0
Khanewal 11 0
Attock 13 11
Faisalabad 3 0
Rahim Yar Khan 6 5
Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2012.