ISLAMABAD - Unlike the government claim that it has reached a consensus with madaras representative bodies as part of madrassa reforms, two major issues – bringing changes in the curriculum of madaras and acceptance of their education degrees - are still unresolved, The Nation has learnt.

Though the government and madaras bodies have reached a consensus on some points of regulations of religious seminaries, including their registrations, the issue of bringing changes in their curriculum and equivalence of their degrees is still a point of disagreement between the two parties.

Any final agreement of the government with madaras representatives as part of madrassa reforms under the National Action Plan (NAP) would be a futile exercise without bringing major changes in their curriculum.

The issue is important because an influential US lawmaker recently during a Congressional hearing on Pakistan has sought the closure of 600 Deobandi madaras in Pakistan while describing them as an “infrastructure of hate”.

Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the powerful House Foreign Relations Committee during the hearing alleged that madaras in Pakistan were spewing hate.

The Ministry of Interior in lengthy negotiations with the Ittehad-e-Tanzeematul Madaras (ITM), an umbrella body of five madaras organisations representing five different schools of thought, has convinced the latter on registration of religious seminaries throughout the country. The ministry is leading these talks at federal level.

The registration and regulations of madaras in the country is the demand of political and non-political circles of the county since last fifteen years due to rising extremism and militancy in the country and successive governments failed to bring madaras reforms despite two agreements were also signed in the past.

A government officer in the Ministry of Interior, who is part of the negotiations, said that madaras bodies had agreed to get register every seminary with the local district administration throughout Pakistan. Furthermore, it had been agreed that all madaras would submit their data forms before or during the month of Muharramul Haram every year with the district administration. “Madaras had objection that different government agencies used to visit these to get their data from time to time and they feel harassed,” he said. The government has agreed that its different agencies would leave practice of visiting madaras to get data.

The official said two points that had still to be addressed were including bringing changes in the curriculum and the acceptance of degrees of madaras equivalent to educational boards and universities like metric, FA and bachelor. Earlier, the government only accepted their degree of Shahadatul Aalmia as equivalent to MA. Madaras were demanding that their other degrees should be given the status equivalent to other education certificates and degrees.

In this regard, two committees were formed, one comprises Inter Board Committee (IBC) and madaras representatives to settle issue of equivalence of educational certificates and other comprising of HEC and madras representatives to settle issue of curriculum and equivalence of bachelor degrees. The committees have not given their final reports yet, the officer added.

However, the government has agreed to facilitate madaras for opening of their bank accounts. In a meeting of madaras representatives with the Federal Board of Revenue and State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), it was decided that each bank would appoint a senior officers for facilitation of their accounts. Earlier, banks were not allowing madaras to open their back amounts. Similarl, the government has met their demand about giving them exemption from withholding tax. Madaras have also agreed to get their audits on yearly basis and submit reports with the government.

Qari Muhammad Hanif Jalandhri, Secretary General Wafaqul Madaras, a madaras body under the umbrella of ITM, while talking to The Nation said that the government and madaras representative bodies had agreed on major point of madaras regulations. “We have agreed on principal issues,” he said and added that both sides have yet to sign a final agreement in this connection. He hoped that all matters would be amicably resolved soon. About a question whether madaras bodies have agreed to change their curriculum on the insistence of the government, he said, “There was misconception about bringing changes in madaras curriculum.” The government wants to get added some subjects in the curriculum of madaras but not asking for changing the curriculum, he said. The government wants that subjects like English, science and Pakistan Studies should be included in the curriculum and we have already agreed, he said.

The madaras regulations was part of the 20 point National Plan (NAP) on Counter Terrorism announced by the Prime Minister in December last year after Army Public School (APS) tragedy.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan the other day told the National Assembly that government and seminaries finally reached consensus for the registration and changes in the curriculum.