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In the name of Madrassas

In the name of Madrassas
Pakistan has been facing the problem of extremism; the essence of religion has been adding to politics since ages. Especially dictators and unpopular politicians have cashed the coin of religion to gain support of common people. It is very interesting, if you use the name of religion then no one can oppose, all actions become sacred even if you are unable to raise your voice for human rights to ask for preventing the misuse of blasphemy, it is a sign of extremism and intolerance. There is no negotiation when someone wields the sword of religion. Unfortunate that  Pakistan has had extremism which promotes hatred and intolerance.

The eyes of Pakistan have seen the dark chapter of Dictator Zia-ul-Haq who participated in Afghan War against the Soviet Union, he diverted the purpose of war, increased extremism and planted seeds of Mujahideen to counter political will and maintained his illegal power in Pakistan. Dictator Zia had sent Mujahideens to Kashmir and the essence of religion turned into extremism. Since then Pakistan has become a safe haven for the Mujahideens.

We cannot deny that Zai’s children (the Mujahideens) have been playing the main role and promoting extremism. Zai-ul-Haq was involved in promoting Madrassas.

To the question, what kind of shelter exists for the extremists, the answer is simple, Madrassas. Madarssas give them safe haven and they carry out terrorism. There is no check and balance on Madrassas, who is coming from where and what is their source of funding? Interesting it is that foreigners come and live in Madrassas,  but it is just not to live at Madrassas. They get training and spoil  the minds of children as well.

We have seen the bold step taken by martyre Benazir Bhutto. During her first term in office (1988-1990), efforts were made to ban the entry of Arab students to madrassas and to regulate madrassa funding. Each province was asked to submit reports to the central government on the functioning of the madrassas in their territory. Sadly, her government was dismissed by those who did not want this  practiced.

Last when she returned to Pakistan, she raised her voice against terrorist activities at Madrassas, on  December 23, 2007. As per a Reuters report,  Bhutto said, “Then there are the political madrasas, the political madrasas that teach their pupils how to make bombs, how to use rifles and how to kill women, children and the elderly”.

Benazir Bhutto tried to keep an eye on the functioning of Madrassas but a fragile government system could not maintain it. It justifies unregistered Madrassas which carry out activities of the Taliban. Though Bhutto bravely raised her voice and showed concerns regarding Madrassas, during
Musharrraf’s dictatorship, extremism was growing instead of dwindling.

To state clearly, Musharraf had the golden card of Taliban as Zia had the Mujahideens. Musharraf knew that the Taliban issue would keep him in power. The Taliban were growing and getting shelter under the roof of Madrassas. Now this time Madrassas are significantly increasing in Sindh and Balochistan.

What is the reason behind it? Madrassas are increasing day by day. We may think who is funding them, how is it possible that Madrassas increase without someone’s permission and that these Madrassas are unquestionable.

Interestingly, the government has lesser Madrassas registered with it but the existing number of madarssas are there to see. Sindh has a message of Sufism and has the ancient civilisation of Moenjo Daro that has had history of tolerance and peace. Hindus are the indigenous people of this land. We have not seen any difference among Sindhi Hindus and Sindhi Muslims.

None has had problem regarding religion. While, on some occasion, the sick minds (extremists) tried to disturb the peace of Sindh but the strong faith in Sufism/Bhaktism and political will have failed them.

Musharraf’s era played a clever game and paved the safe path for extremists in the name of Madrassas. Sindh has the fragrance of Sufism but now, seeds of extremism are being planted through Madrassas.

Pakistan People Party (PPP) ruled in pervious government. PPP, which was in Centre, had written to its own provincial government that, “The federal government has asked the Sindh government to take immediate action against 1,813 madrassas  being run by banned organisations across the province, reported in 2011.” The government did not take action and within two years another report said, “In a recent survey carried out by the Sindh home ministry, there are 12,545 madrassas in the province, of which 2,161 are sectarian and dangerous, reported in 2013.”

If the government is worried about the increasing Madrassas then why has it not taken any action? We understand that Madrassas have political agendas; Sindh is wintnessing a wave of extremism. For instance, in the Chak incident, four Hindu doctors were killed in Sindh in 2011. After the Chak incident, someone called and said to me  “do you know Madrassas are being developed in Sindh and you will see extremism.” I denied and said, “even they want to launch a company of extremism but they cannot destroy the Sufism of this land because it is rooted here.” Later, from 2012 till now, around 18 Hindu girls have been kidnapped and converted to Islam in Sindh, indeed, these numbers of Hindu girls’ kidnapping are less because many stories are not reported as they should be, as said by Khatomal Jeewan, MPA of PPP.

Illegal and unregistered Madrassas play the main role to increase extremism, role in conversion and spread hatred in the form of religion. Source shared that “Madrassas have affiliation with extremists who train Taliban; four factors are mainly involved those are Jamaat ul Dawam, Maulana Luhdianvi, Maulana Abdul Aziz and Jamiat ul Islam.”

Now we should not forget that PMLN Punjab government has allocated a share for Juamaat ul Dawa in its Fiscal Budget of 2013-2014, as reported. Jamaat ul Dawa (Jamaat ul Dawa is declared as a terrorist organisation) claims it is a welfare organisation. If you see its actions and political gathering, it will give you a message which  will not show that is a kind of welfare organisation.

I tried to contact its PRO and wanted to know what they are doing in Sindh. I talked to Ahmed Nadeem, PRO in Sindh and he said, “JuD has no Madrassas but yes we have rare Madrassas which do not work largely but we do have around 46 schools, our schools follow the syllabus designed by the government, though we focus on Islamic education.” I think, Nadeem could not recall his leader Hafiz Saeed’s speeches which showed that JuD was following the line of extremism.

Ramesh Kumar, MNA of PMLN, commented on increasing Madrassas in Sindh, “If you remember, when a Hindu Temple was burnt in Larkana, Sindh, it was a result of unregistered Madrassas and schools which teach hatred in terms of religion. We do not know about their funding. We believe in religious harmony but some people are getting funded and promote extremisms.”

Federal and provincial governments are silent on the issue of Madrassas, though Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah of Sindh issued a statement that “take serious notice of a number of madrassas being run without permission”, and ordered officials to take action, as reported in February, 2014. When I had approached Sharjeel Memon, Minister for Information, Sindh, regarding Madrassas he did not respond. It shows how  serious the Sindh government is on the matter of illegal Madrassas.
Authorities are silent and incapable of adopting a single strategy against Madrassas.

Raj Kumar, an activist, said influential political personality of Tharparkar, Sindh (on condition of anonymity), said, “We are helpless and have pressure to support them for developing Madrassas. We are also afraid of such kind of development where we do not know where will we be standing in future.” It means, in the name of Madrassas, Sindh can probably face horrendous consequences in future.

Why are Madrassas on a rise in Sindh? Another thought tells that the establishment wants to counter nationalist movement in Sindh and Balochistan, so they want to plant seeds of extremism for countering nationalism.

There is no doubt that extremism would disturb the situation of provinces and also the situation can turn into sectarian violence, minorities face problems, too. Most  Madrassas are funded by Saudi. When I spoke to Khatomal Jeewan, MPA of Sindh, and asked him about Madrassas in Tharparkar, he said, “We (Hindus and Muslims) both live peacefully and both celebrate our religious festivals. Some people want to create mess in the name of extremism”. He called a politician Taliban, Arbab Ghulam Rahim (Member of Assembly) when he returned from Dubai, first he visited Madrassas in Tharparkar. Why did he visit and what was his purpose? Khatomal quoted in his speech that he called Hindus RAW agents. These people spread hatred in the name of religion.

Politicians and activists all are aware of Madrassas, they know who is funding them but no one is able to take any names. Will Pakistan come out of its company of extremism? We ought to know who is behind the Madrassas and who is more powerful in Pakistan that none can stand up against, not even the politicians.

Another game of extremism is going to be played in the name of Madrassas. Questions need to be answered, but who will?

The author is a journalist and political interviewer. She writes daily news review, articles on socio-political and human rights issues
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