The Sindh government’s draft bill to regulate seminaries under the National Action Plan (NAP) is adhering to one of the more important aspects of working towards ending militancy in the country, which is why, if tabled (with all important provisions in place), the bill should be directly responsible for the reduction of extremism in the province.

Madressahs currently pose a multitude of problems for implementation of NAP. From the number of seminaries currently present in Sindh (and the rest of the country), to the ideological leanings of the clerics (level of sympathy to extremists) within, the curriculum being taught, the funding channels and what money donated is being used for; all these factors put a question mark on the role of individual seminaries in fostering or inhibiting terrorism in the country.

This is not to say that all seminaries are partaking in illegal activities that threaten Pakistan; however, there is a direct link to extremism and specific madressahs in the country. Sympathisers of extremism exist in religious circles across the board – with some clerics openly advocating extremism with the government as a silent spectator. It remains to be seen whether the Sindh government will be able to adequately highlight that this is an issue of national security and not religious reform as the clerics would have the public believe.

But the task at hand will not be a walk in the park for the Sindh government. Madressah reform has been resisted vociferously by religious circles in recent times. The PPP government might face the same hurdles that the federal government has, but it remains to be seen whether the ruling party in Sindh will attempt to placate seminaries through concessions on other aspects, or if bulling the bill through the Assembly is the plan of action.

Keeping seminaries under the government’s watchful eye is a very necessary step to make it harder for the facilitation of extremism, and to monitor the curriculum being taught to young minds. But religious leaders are not going to take this lying down, and the Sindh government has to be prepared for a long struggle to get this law passed, and that too with all provisions intact. Giving in to pressure at this point will be counterproductive in terms of upsetting the balance of power between the temporal and the spiritual, with the religious fraternity getting even braver if concessions are made to this law. The new Chief Minister, Murad Ali Shah has taken this task upon himself and the public can only hope that he is up to it.