KARACHI - It seems the Sindh government has kneeled down in front of the pressure of religious groups over strict registration procedure of the Sindh seminaries.

The regulation was aimed at regularising the seminaries through an amendment into the Societies Registration Bill.

The government bill namely Societies Registration (Sindh Amendment) Bill 2015 was present on the agenda of assembly proceedings on December 10, 2015. It stated that the application for registration of the seminaries shall be supported by No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the provincial home department, deputy commissioner of the concerned area and the Sindh Building Control Authority.

The bill further said it was aimed at exercising effective control of the provincial government on the functioning of the seminaries. However, despite passage of over three months and 47 sittings of the provincial assembly from December 10, since the government bill was included in the agenda of the assembly, it is yet not tabled for approval.

The government had also tried to present the bill during the February session of the provincial assembly but once again retracted from it after strong opposition from the religious outfits.

On February 16 while addressing religious scholars of Ittehad Tanzeemat-e-Madaris, Mufti Muneebur Rehman openly opposed any attempt from the government to regularise the seminaries and warned that it could affect the religious harmony in the province. “We are concerned by the progress about additional legislation pertaining to registration of seminaries by the Sindh government. The provincial government is taking the step without taking Ittehad Tanzeemat-e-Madaris into confidence and is going to present the draft bill in the provincial assembly under the Section 21 of the Societies Act which could affect the atmosphere of mutual trust,” he added.

He said the government should not target the seminaries rather it should introduce a collective education reforms policy for all the educational institutes.

Talking to The Nation, a government official, close to the talks between the provincial government and the religious fraternity, also admitted stiff resistance from the religious groups in taking action against illegal or unregistered seminaries. “The religious fraternity does not want any action against the seminaries and they also pressed the minister for withdrawing the entire bill,” he said.

According to a home department data available with The Nation, there are still 3,087 unregistered seminaries in the province, having over 0.2 million students including 209 foreigners. All sects including Deobandi, Barelvi, Shia and Ahle Hadith have unregistered seminaries in the province.

There are 587 unregistered seminaries in Karachi with having a total number of 182885 students. Larkana region had the most number of unregistered seminaries in the province with 1,822 seminaries having 10571 enrolled students.

Hyderabad Range had 234 unregistered seminaries and 11727 students; Mirpurkhas has 116 unregistered seminaries and 10517 students. There are 200 unregistered seminaries in Sukkur and128 in Nawabshah having a total number of 11883 and 7927 students respectively.

The provincial government has also initiated action in the province against the unregistered seminaries and those who are spreading hate speech, however, no action in this regard had been taken in the most populated city of the province - Karachi.

A total of 167 seminaries were sealed in the province including 95 of the Barelvi sect and 63 of the Shia sect while five seminaries of Deobandi sect and four of Ahle Hadith sect were also sealed in the province.

The data also revealed that there were 258 seminaries in the province that were established on the state land and majority of them are in Karachi and Sanghar.

Sources in the religious affairs department informed that earlier it was considered that the religious fraternity would only oppose a Section of the bill which is about taking a NOC from the SBCA as many of them were either not built as per the approved maps or were built on illegal lands. However, later when the talks begin, they outrightly rejected the bill, saying they will not take NOC from any of the government department. They further said the religious fraternity has also complained to the minister over delayed registration process. The minister assured them to include a time limit for the registration process.