LAHORE – In a landmark development, the government and Ittehad Tanzemant-e-Madaris have reached an agreement over longstanding issue of religious seminaries’ registration and curriculum for Madressah students.

The agreement reached in a meeting held on Wednesday in Islamabad between the ministry of federal education and the Tanzeem representing five boards of seminaries.

Heads of the boards told The Nation that students of religious schools will be able to study modern science, English, Pakistan studies at different stages and the government would consider their education equivalent to the students of state run educational institutions after conducting their examinations. An act of parliament will be passed to give recognition to the religious schools’ educations, they said.

Introducing reforms in educational curriculum in more than 35,000 Madaris across the country will bring them into mainstream through proper registration was the vital part of National Action Plan, a plan established by the government in consensus with all political and religious parties in January 2015 to crack down on terrorism. West and some quarters in Pakistan claim students of the Madaris are involved in terror activities and they are brainwashed to be violent and extremist during their studies. But the religious circles always negate the allegations of terror and violence on Madaris students. However they are more concerned about their autonomy and never accepted the government interference into their education system.

According to some estimates, more than 3.5 million students are receiving religious education in seminaries run under five federations (Wafaq) which include most powerful Wafaqul Madaris al-Arbia of Deobandi school of thought, Tanzeemul Madaris Ehle-Sunnat of Brelvi school of thought, Wafaqul Madaris Al-Salfia of Ehle-Hadith school of thought, Wafaqul Madaris Al-Shia and Rabtatul Madaris, the board representing religious schools run under the banner of Jamaat-e-Islami.

“Students of religious seminaries will be taught all compulsory modern subjects during their eight-year course of Dars-e-Nizami. Their qualification at different stages will be considered equivalent to the students of state run educational institutions,” heads of Wafaqul Madaris Salfi Dr Zafar Saleem and Rabtatul Madaris Dr Ata-ur-Rehman told The Nation. Both religious scholars attended the meeting which was presided over by state minister of federal education Engineer Balig-ur-Rehman.

They said the agreement on registration of Madaris had already been reached and Wednesday meeting was specific on curriculum issues.

“Madaris and the federal government have already agreed on a draft of registration form. The govt representatives told us the forms had already been sent to the provinces and it is up to the provincial governments now to forward it to the seminaries for obtaining data about Madaris,” Dr Ata said.

Quoting details of the meeting, he said Sanavia Aaama (initial two years of Dars-e-Nizami), Sanvia Khasa (four years), Shahadatul Aalia (six years) and Shahadatul Aalimia (eight years education for completion of seminary degree) will be considered equal to Matric, intermediate, graduation and masters degree respectively.

“The government will introduce an act of parliament for the purpose and all educational boards and universities will hold examinations of compulsory subjects for the seminary students to issue them certificates and degrees.

“Madaris will hire teachers to teach subjects of modern sciences, mathematics, English, Pakistan Studies etc to the students,” explained Ata-ur-Rehman.

He said the religious boards will have to fulfil all requirements proposed by the government to get legal status of issuing degrees and certificates to their students by conducting own examinations of modern subjects.