By Muhammad Usman
03 July 2017
JUST before Eid ul Fitr, nation was drenched in blood by terrorist attacks in Parachinar, Quetta and Karachi and oil tanker inferno. Both are of own making albeit we remain obdurate to reside in state of denial. Ensuing pain, grief, gloom and regret marred festivity of Eid. It was even more painful to see that terrorist attacks failed to persuade our PM to change his plan of Eid at London. His government also did not consider necessary to dust off NAP which was the routine earlier after such attacks. Probably this time, they have to embark upon Eid holidays. Most egregious part was government indifference to sit-in at Parachinar for seeking justice for those whose blood was spilled.
Admittedly, there is a decline in terrorism because of military action. It has broken chain of terrorism but it is not yet eliminated. It could only be done by wholesale action where we continue to flunk miserably. Military action has provided us time and opportunity to put our act together but habitually we continue to squander leisurely. A terrorist attack is not a lone wolf operation by an angry individual. It is an act of organization which has ideology, committed force, operational infrastructure and logistic support. Ideological supply chain is its lifeline. It has been seen that Madaris ultimately become its mainstay. It is the area where we are most wanting. Ongoing operation Radd ul Fasaad is essentially a military operation whereas reforms in Madaris fall under civil jurisdiction.
Madaris in Pakistan are widely suspected of breeding hate, divide, intolerance and extremism. Its majority does not teach religion alone. They also teach sect. This germinates seeds of extremism, initially among their pupils and eventually, in society at large. Reasons range from self-aggrandizement to earning livelihood. Madaris in Pakistan are around 30,000. Approximate % of Madaris belonging to different sects is; Deobandi 70%, Barelvis 25%, Ahl-i-Hadith 2.3% and Shias 2.7%. An umbrella organisation namely Ittehad Tanzemat e Madaris Pakistan embodies five Madaris Boards; Wafq-ul-Madaris-al-Salafia (Ahl-i-Hadith), Wafaq ul Madaris (Deobandi), Wafaq ul Madaris(Shia) Pakistan, Tanzim ul Madaris (Barelvi), Rabta-tul-Madaris-al-Islamia (Jamat-i-Islami). About two Lakh students graduate from Madaris annually. Most of them are unemployables because of no or limited knowledge of modern subjects. Inevitably, they are only suitable to become Mosque Imam or perform religious rites. These slots are not readily available too. Opening of new Madaris is one way of job creation. Sanguine aspect is that Madaris house children of most indigent class of society, provide food and impart education. In their absence, a real possibility exists that these children may not have gone to schools at all like other25 million children, out of schools in the country thus, no education to these children also. Fillip side is that majority of these Madaris sows seeds of extremism in minds of children at impressionable age.
Some even do not hesitate to host terrorism. Mushroomed growth of Madaris took place in the country for various reasons with no corresponding increase in employment opportunities. It left them in a state of fierce completion with each other for self presumed esteem/prestige, influence and greater share in market of bread and butter. Instead of competing on intellect and reason, they chose to arm their pupils with gall, venom and intolerance even violent means to guard and expand own turf. Consequently, sect is taught more vigorously than religion. Implicitly this is the reason that all Madaris boards wants to maintain/guard their sway on teaching curriculum jealously. Madaris are controlled by respective board. It defines curriculum and collect registration/ examination fee. Government must break their monopoly because what they teach, is heart of the problem.
Government should constitute Text Book Boards, Examinations Boards, Teaching Training Institutes and Monitoring/Control Mechanism as it exists for public education in the country. Besides, government must ensure extra-curricular activities for students; essentially out of its own purse. Lofty ideals of Islam be inscribed/engraved on prominent places to instil feeling of brotherhood, peace and tranquillity. Madaris must hoist national flag and sing national anthem daily. No hoisting of any other flag/banner. Inter Madaris debate/speech competitions be held regularly to inculcate a sense of understanding, mutual accommodation, reason and dialogue.
Madaris to celebrate National Days with traditional zeal, enthusiasm and fervour. National documentaries be shown at suitable intervals. Recreational/sports facilities be also provided. Government must allocate appropriate fund to registered Madaris. Extra-curricular activities will cost money. Most of Madaris are run by funds, collected through Zakat, charity and donations. These are generally scarce. It is unfair if they are left to subsist on these uncertain sources of money alone. Education is responsibility of state and students in Madaris are equal sons of the land. Unequal and unfair distribution of resources, cause anxiety, pain, anger, antipathy and mistrust thereafter, it may take any route. Reforms are likely to face stiff resistance from Madaris and their political patrons. Government needs to employ intellect, imagination, flexibility and stick to get train moving.
Some Madaris receive money from even foreign sources for reason of scarcity and greed. In return, they are obliged to fall prey to their mischief. Periodic financial audit is necessary to check inflow of money. Often students of Madaris participate in public meetings/protest of their affiliated political parties to help perpetuate their political pursuits. It also impinges on cognitive development of young students. This needs to be restrained. Some Madaris have links with proscribed militant organizations. This linkage is dangerous and needs to be broken ruthlessly. These reforms are overdue to defang monster of terrorism completely.
Muhammad Usman, retired Lt Col, is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.