As the journey towards registering and regulating religious seminaries in Sindh finally reaches a logical conclusion after the Madressah Registration Bill 2016 received cabinet approval, the bill now faces stiff resistance from the likes of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman. Thankfully, this is of no likely consequence, as the bill will move to the Assembly where its passage is almost assured since the religious political parties lack representation in the legislation.

The JUI-F party leader rejected this important step towards implementing the National Action Plan in Sindh, calling it narrow-minded at best, terming the law anti-Islam. Perhaps the Maulana could elaborate on why he is making such a serious claim, and why he feels his countrymen would ever try to do something that was offensive or un-Islamic. No one in Pakistan, including any political party, wants to do anything to offended religious sentiments knowing that it can spark needless controversy.

Regardless of the opposition, the Sindh government must be appreciated for displaying strength and completing this task before any other province. The fact that it could resist the opposition to regulate the madressah system means that other provinces should follow suit as well. This is not about regulating anyone’s religion, but making sure that madrassahs are safe places. If the seminaries have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear from the law. Thousands of seminaries have mushroomed in the province, many of which are involved in unlawful activities. In a recent meeting held earlier this year at the chief minister’s house, the officials of Sindh were informed by the inspector general of the Sindh police that over 10,000 ghost madrassas had been unearthed through physical verification. This verification was made after 7,724 actual madrassahs were digitally geo-tagged.

The most pressing question is that who has been funding these 10,000 ghost madrassahs, and who is benefiting from them? The JUI-F chief should be mindful of the sacrifices that are being made by our armed forces and the law enforcement agencies in the province that are working day and night to root out terrorism from the country, as well as these jarring facts about the seminaries. The fact that at least a few of these institutions have been found to have links with extremist groups makes it is necessary to bring all their activities – funding, curriculum and methods of instruction - within the purview of the state.