The trouble with: Madrassas in Pakistan

Unlike Pakistan, in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, the state controls religious learning to prevent sectarian disharmony.

Web Desk January 25, 2012

Facts, figures and opinion based on The Express Tribune reports:

• There are around 18-24,000 registered madrassas in Pakistan. There are countless more unregistered seminaries.

• There are as many as 83 illegally constructed mosques and seminaries in Islamabad alone.

• The ministry of interior provides madrassas — including illegal ones — with walk-through gates, along with police officials for security.

• Unlike Pakistan, in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Iran, the state controls religious learning to prevent sectarian disharmony in society.

• 90 per cent of foreigners studying in religious seminaries across the Punjab have expired visas.

• On paper, the government plans to demolish madrassas not registered with the Wafaqul Madaris Al-Arabia Pakistan and Tanzeemul Madaris Pakistan.

• But the government is hesitant to demolish illegally set up madrassas fearing a violent backlash like Laal Masjid.

• There are numerous cases of torture, rape, violence and terrorism connected to madrassas in 2011 alone.

• The education ministry was provided over $70 million in aid to modernise the curriculum in madrassas.

• Most of the funds were not utilised due to non-cooperation from the seminaries.

• The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has researched Pakistani school textbooks to discover that there is religious bias in them denigrating minority communities.

• The study was based on visiting 37 public schools and 19 madrassas.

• “Madrassas not only spread a certain kind of ideology to students, they also spread it in society, to the families and extended families of these students. Saleem H Ali did a much better study and found that madrassas also spread sectarian hatred, and do not allow pupils and society to look at alternative perspectives within the religious discourse.” - Ayesha Siddiqa.


Naveeda Shaikh | 9 years ago | Reply

Let there whatever be here, but this issue had to be addressed, and thank you ET for taking a notice and take on it!

Umar | 9 years ago | Reply


You missed the essence of my previous comments. We all know madarassas in Pakistan are one of many sources of militants and extremists (so are colleges and universities who produce gang style student unions). So we agree on motives to do something about it, however I disagree with methods proposed here to fix the problem, ie shut them down. I am for reforming madarrassas (along with many other institutions and departments in Pakistan). We cannot just shut down everything that is faulty. Considering our sorry state we will have to shut down entire system by that logic. So my suggestion is to fix this problem, and have the government take away motives for people to send their kids to a free madarassa or a Private school. Madarassa means “school” so if I can get both religious and secular education in an institution run by the government I am happy to go to a “Government Madarassa”. What is wrong in proposing equal opportunities of both religious and secular education for entire population?????????????

Number of madarassas is never a problem, Indian state of Utter Pardesh is about same population as entire Pakistan but only 18% or less are Muslim. It has 10,000 maktabs and 15000 madarassas according to a report from Aligarh University. . Far more proportionally than entire Pakistan yet they do not have same problem of extremism as we do. WE NEED TO REFORM, NOT SHUT DOWN EVERYTHING.

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