ISLAMABAD – All the legal as well as administrative decisions taken during the Musharraf regime to bring reforms in madrasahs (seminaries) in Pakistan failed to achieve its objectives, mainly because of limited preparation for planning and the insufficient will of the government to bring about change in the overall system.

This is the crux of a newly published book ‘Madrasah Reform and State Power in Pakistan’ that comprises of research work of MPhil student of Quaid-i-Azam University, Sultan Ali of Swabi. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, a German-based non-government and political foundation, has sponsored the publication of this research work. The launching ceremony of the book was held at a local here on Monday where Lt Gen (Retd) Asad Durrani was also present who wrote the foreword for the book.

The writer says that the Madrasahs Reform Project (MRP) initiated for reforming the curriculum of religious seminaries during the Musharraf regime failed to achieve its objects, partly because of the opposition from seminaries but mainly because of the limited preparation for planning and implementation of appropriate measures in a positive manner and the insufficient will of the government to bring about changes in the overall system. The registration drive started by the government to monitor the activities of seminaries and to check the increasing militancy and foreign funding was equally unsuccessful. The writer further draws conclusion that similar efforts taken by the NGOs for bringing seminaries into the main stream also received limited response during the past eight years.

The book indicates that the events of 11 September 2001 increased the importance of seminaries all over the world as the Taliban (students of seminaries) were considered associated with Usama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks. In order to neutralize the perception of the world regarding the role of seminaries, the Musharraf government took legal steps to monitor the activities of seminaries and to reform their syllabi by introducing two ordinances. Such moves, proved counter productive as seminaries became more and more violent with the passage of time.

The shift in the state policy after 9/11 to discouraging militancy for the realization of religio-political objectives broke the traditional mullah-military alliance. The polarization reached the highest-level towards the end of Musharraf regime as the Ittehad-i-Tanzimat-i-Madaris-i-Diniya (ITDM) refused to hold any negotiations with the government regarding any matter relating to madrasah reforms. The writer says that the government’s inefficiency to handle the issue properly is largely responsible for such polarization. The Ulema on their part cannot escape the responsibility for the failure of the reform efforts during the Musharraf regime as well.

The writer views that the reform of madrasahs cannot be eluded for long because the demand for it regularly comes from different segments of society, including leading scholars, academics and intellectuals and also from some Ulema.

The writer has suggested that the present government should not abandon the efforts of reforming seminaries but should proceed with greater caution and ensure its absolute sincerity while undertaking the reform agenda. Before taking further steps the seminaries should be taken into confidence and possibly the whole community should be taken on board. Only such measures can ensure future prospects of reforms.