Religious seminaries and their connection to extremism is a well-established fact in Pakistan. The National Action Plan (NAP) laid great emphasis on regulating these institutes. The present government initially did try to further regulate the vast network that exists in Pakistan, only to be cowed by the combined might of all the seminary boards. Condemnable as that timidity is, its indolence is another matter. A recent update reveals that over the past few months it is the government that has not followed up with meetings and has let the matter stagnate.

The government was supposed to get in touch with the Ittehad Tanzeemul Madaris (ITM) for the implementation and conceptualisation of the reforms; however no contact has been made for several months. This job was specifically handed over to the officials of education and interior ministries. Meetings did take place in April with five federations of seminaries working under the ITM but there has been a long silence after that.

The problem here is that the Madaris Reforms, as it is known, is a huge part of the NAP is one plan that we pledged to follow in order to rid the society of extremism. If there is nothing but words and no action in the matter, then there is no way that Pakistan can prove that it is taking any effective measures to improve the security situation in the country. Under the Madaris Reforms, curriculum was supposed to revised, there was going to be investment in the seminaries so that they can follow a balanced ideology, and strict action was to be taken against those who perpetuate violence and hatred.

However, the government seems to have given up on the initiative despite having reached certain agreements with the ITM. The ball is in the government’s court, as quoted by Qari Hanif Jalandhari, representative of the seminary board, and they are still waiting for a response. If the ministries do not take any action, it will be a huge disappointment to families who went through the trauma of the December 2014 Army Public School attack. They were promised actions against the violators and if we cannot do that soon, it will just prove who has an upper hand as political actors.

The previous government certainly shied away from the issue of religious seminaries and also from outfits perpetuating extremism. However, there is some hope for the new cabinet; as they have been very vocal in extremism cases. It is 3.5 million children that we are talking about. The issue cannot be ignored.