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Mainstreaming of Madaris

THERE are, once again, movements towards mainstreaming of Madaris (religious schools) and according to Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) a comprehensive plan is in place to realize this objective. Major General Asif Ghafoor said the army chief had engaged with Ulema from all sects on this and they all agreed that it was necessary to mainstream Madaris and contemporary education must be taught there. He said the army chief says, “Stick to your faith and don’t touch others”.
Minute details of the proposed reforms are not available but as per salient features in the first stage a legislation for the purpose would be presented before Parliament followed by review of syllabus, appointment of teachers and allocation of required financial resources. The objective is to introduce modern education in religious institutions to ensure that the children graduating from these institutions are equipped with latest knowledge and skills and are able to compete in the job market. This is a noble objective and should have been pursued since long as majority of children in these institutions live in somewhat pathetic conditions because of lack of financial resources as presently these are run on voluntary contributions and donations from the general public. However, according to reports, there are some institutions that get foreign funding and it is understood their syllabus is influenced by the donors. Parallel education of Quran and Hadith and modern subjects is need of the hour and successful implementation of such a programme would equip students with tools to carry out research and go deeper into issues facing the Muslim Ummah. But the issue is very sensitive and main stakeholders rightly or wrongly believe that the exercise is being carried out at the instance of global powers. There is, therefore, opposition to the move and the plan could not be implemented as envisaged in the past. There is again criticism of the move and prominent religious personalities including Maulana Fazlur Rehman have rejected the proposition of putting Madaris under the Education Ministry saying this would be a curb on freedom of these institutions. They also argue that the syllabus is being changed under pressure from some global powers and IMF and this is not acceptable. We believe that the religious leadership should be engaged intensively in talks aimed at sorting out differences and taking them fully on-board as without their cooperation such a major exercise cannot succeed.