ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Madrassa Education Board (PMEB) working under the Ministry of Religious Affairs, formed by former president Pervez Musharraf to assuage concerns of the West on religious seminaries in Pakistan, still exists but with zero performance on the ground. "Now a proposal is underway to establish an inter-Madrassa Board comprising members of five major madaris groups in the country under the auspices of Ministry of Religious Affairs that would likely ask the government to set up a chain of model public madaris all over the country," sources within the Ministry of Religious Affairs said. The cardinal objective of forming the Pakistan Madrassa Education Board in 2001 was to set traditional religious schools on modern track and banish the elements of extremism from madaris to bring political pluralism and religious tolerance in society. Since the formation of Madrassa Education Board, only three model madaris have been established. Currently, former Secretary Ministry of Religious Affairs, Vakil Ahmad Khan is the chairman of the board. Talking to TheNation, Vakil Ahmad Khan said that the mandate of Pakistan Madrassa Education Board was to establish few model madrassas and after that 'we had to bring reforms in 15,000 existing madaris of the country on the pattern of that model madaris'. "As per ordinance that was promulgated in 2001, five major madaris groups had to nominate one member each for the board but they declined to do so thus literally PMEB remained dysfunctional," he added. Khan said that the madaris had to get affiliation with the board but as they did not accept and join it, therefore, the PMEB could accomplish its job. "Presently, there are three model madaris are working under PMEB: first is in Karachi for boys, second in Sukkhar for boys while the third one is in Islamabad for girls," he stated. He said that in 2002, the government constituted another Madrassa Reform Body in the Ministry of Religious Affairs. "According to this reform move, Rs 5.7 billion were allocated to the Ministry to give salaries to madaris teachers," he said, adding that through this scheme only 500 madaris of the country could be brought under government's supervision till 2007. When asked about the formation of inter-Madrassa Board, Vakil Ahmad Khan said that the former religious affairs minister, Ijaz-ul-Haq had taken this initiative and negotiated with five madaris groups to get them on board 'but the move also ended in fiasco'. He said that now the sitting regime would evolve its own strategy to introduce reforms in existing madrassa system of the country. It is pertinent to mention here that the board had been created to bring cardinal reforms in existing madrassa system with major focus on changes in curriculum. It had been decided that vocational training programmes would be included in madrassa curriculum and more time would be allotted for modern subjects in the new teaching schedule. It was the part of designed scheme that the degrees of only those madaris would be recognised that would adopt and follow government's set criteria. It was also proposed that it would be mandatory for all madaris at the time of registration to publish annual income, expenditure and audit reports as well as declare their assets and sources of funding. The government had also assigned Madrassa Education Board to ensure that madrasa reforms would not only confine to urban areas but also cover small towns and villages. Parliamentary oversight over religious seminaries and training of madrassa teachers were also part of the schme. Madaris in Pakistan provide free religious education, boarding and lodging and are essentially schools for the poor. As per recent surveys, around one and a half million children attend madaris while the number of such religious seminaries touches more than 50,000. The Musharraf regime had also pledged as many previous Pakistani governments to change the status of madaris and integrate them into the formal education sector. Former President Pervez Musharraf also promulgated an ordinance, the Deeni Madaris (Voluntary Registration and Regulation) Ordinance 2002, for fulfilling the task. As the previous regime wished to remain on good terms with religious parties therefore it could not get the ordinance implemented in its true spirit.