Perhaps one of the biggest flaws of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) is its tendency and eventual failure to pandering to the masses. Despite having one of the most liberal support groups, the party has always attempted to appease the right wing as well, with the result of never being able to please the left or right, and creating a contradiction of an image – which has seen Imran Khan being called both, a Taliban apologist and a Jewish conspiracy.
However, it seems that international blowback to terrorism has compelled the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to finally push back against extremism by taking the brave and necessary step of registration of seminaries, which are often the hubs of breeding extremism. The elementary and secondary education department has directed all boards of intermediate and secondary education in the province to register seminaries as a first step towards their mainstreaming. Every seminary will be bound to submit an undertaking to the education department that it will not impart education on militancy or sectarianism and that it will get its accounts annually audited and submit its report to the relevant department.
This is a much more efficient step compared to the KP governments past initiatives of bringing seminaries to the mainstream, which included KP Assembly allocating Rs.300 million to Darul Uloom Deoband, which fostered militants such as Mullah Omer. Two new steps include the most potential for actual reform - one is the requirement of details of bank accounts and staffing. This, if audited properly, will enable the government to weed out banned outfits and illegal sourcing. Second is the eventual monitoring of syllabuses, a vital step when comparing the amount of people being radicalised into militancy because of madaris.
However, these steps are only drafted on paper right now, and as past precedent of the Federal government’s stalled attempt to mainstream seminaries shows, there is much potential for exacerbation of the situation. There will be a lot of pushback, especially for opportunistic parties like JUI-F, who has already branded the KP government as a western conspiracy, and seminary boards. It is to be seen if Imran Khan has the political wisdom and will to look through the push-back and focus on eradicating terrorism in the province most affected by it.
It is also important to note that seminaries and Madaris are a part of an international connected network, and hence verification of documents becomes an arduous task. Thus, this is a burden too large for just the provincial educational department and for an opposition party. It needs support of local law enforcement and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) officials to truly form a credible database and get the job done.