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fter a decade of intense debate and controversies about it, the framework for madrassa reform finally seems to be taking place. The Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood, in a meeting in Islamabad, announced that the education ministry had completed its initial work to register all seminaries, with the education ministry and heads of religious boards having finalised with consensus an agreement for registration of all 30,000 seminaries operating in the country.

Before further comment can be made about this madrassa regulation plan, a collective sigh of relief can be heaved that this topic has finally been touched upon and given consent to by the ever-stubborn religious boards. The effort to register seminaries has been in place since the National Action Plan (NAP) was announced, and the fact that the government has finally built up the courage to regulate seminaries, which have proven to be one of the primary sources of illegal funding, is a positive step.

Yet this is a positive move that feels too little and too late. In the years since NAP was passed, fierce debate around the regulation of madrassas gradually led to a consensus among the masses, media and the international forum that only registration of madrassas was not enough to counter the growing radicalisation of the youth. There is a widespread feeling that seminaries need to evolve their syllabus to produce productive members of society after graduation, and not simply future clerics.

Instead, the regulation plan introduced by Shafqat Mahmood focuses disproportionately on just registration. Though the Minister has promised that hate and sectarian will not be allowed to be taught at these seminaries, madrassas will not be working as subordinate organisations of the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, rather as affiliated institutions. This casts a shadow of doubt on the extent to which the government can regulate the content that these institutions preach to their students.

The fact of the matter is that unemployment, poverty and unproductivity is a factor in breeding radicalisation and terrorism among the youth. Until the students of the madrassas are not taught life and vocational skills which enable them to become contributing members of the economy, they will remain vulnerable to the disease of terrorism. The madrassas of the Islamic Golden age taught arts, logic and science, along with the Quran, in their institutions; this long-drawn-out step by the government is underwhelming and disappointing.