The Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Inter-faith Harmony has said that there is complete unanimity among Ulema of almost all schools, on the need for registration of seminaries. A new proforma has been finalised which will be used to start process of their registration, with the aim of working with honesty and dedication.

This process of registration will be carried out by the Ministry of Interior in coordination with the concerned provincial governments. A special curriculum is being devised for ‘Deeni Madaris’ across the country, where with the help of education authorities, it will focus on both religious and worldly education. According to the Minister, these efforts have been put in place to ensure an environment based on coexistence and tolerance so that followers of different schools of thought ‘may work shoulder to shoulder for the development of the country’.

This is a good step, as it means better monitoring of what is taught in the madaras. However, one can only applaud this, once something concrete comes to light, as well as the nature of the new curriculum. Even after 10 months of the announcement of NAP, the federal government has yet to start the process of registration of madrassas throughout the country, a basic point to introduce reforms in seminaries. According to rough figures collected by the Ministry of Interior, around 30 million students study in 18,000 madrassas in the country that are being run under Ittehad-e-Tanzeematul Madaris (ITM), a body of madrassas representing five major schools of thought.

The government has to make sure that when one curriculum will be created, it must not sideline or crush other schools of thought, or sects.

It is not understandable how they can create this curriculum, without turning the system into a more secular and liberal version of itself.

According to some estimates, there are some 35,000 madrassas operating in the country, yet there is no record of the registered and unregistered madrassas. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, claims that a committee having representatives of ITM and the departments concerned had been formed to finalise a registration form of seminaries. However there has been no progress on it.

A significant number of madrassas are recruitment centers for terrorist organisations, breeding future militants through teachings based upon on distorted, fundamentalist Islamic views funded by questionable sources. Not all seminaries have fundamentalist curriculums or extremist agendas and some, if not most, are actually doing good work. However, given the current security climate, registration has become essential, and resistance at the idea is suspicious. The clerical establishment can no longer expect to operate without transparency and accountability. They — for better or worse — educate millions of children and the state is right to require uniform standards of education. But the “uniform standard” itself is may not be free from controversy.