National Action Plan & Madaris Reforms

By Sajjad Shaukat

The National Action Plan (NAP) is essential part of Pakistan’s war against terrorism, as it has co-relationsharmy shudaip with the military operation Zarb-i-Azb against the militants, including other related-issues like Madaris (Religious seminaries) which need registration and reforms.

In this regard, a high level security meeting was held at the GHQ, presided by the Army Chief General Raheel Sharif on August 12, this year to review progress of Zarb-e-Azb and the NAP. According to the reliable sources the Pakistan Army is unhappy with the progress on the National Action Plan, as the civil authorities have not made any progress on eight of the 20 NAP points. The sources said that Gen. Raheel Sharif took notice of the negative statements and criticism by some politicians and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a meeting at Prime Minister’s House.

In this context, a statement of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) pointed out that Gen. Raheel Sharif stated that NAP was “key to achieving the national objectives and a lack of progress on it was affecting the consolidation phase of the Operation Zarb-e-Azb…unless all prongs deliver meaningfully and all inadequacies are addressed, remnants of terrorism will continue to simmer and long-term peace and stability will remain a distant dream…we have come a long way in fighting this war…the nation has been standing by its security forces…any distracting and inciting comments and theories by some quarters are unhelpful and undermining the overall national effort.”

It is mentionable that taking cognizance of the Quetta terror suicide bombing in which 71 people were killed and scores injured, after a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and participated by the civil-military top officials, including the DG, of Inter-Services Intelligence agency in connection with the implementation of the NAP and ongoing counterterrorism operations, on August 11, 2016, the political and military leadership agreed to set up a taskforce to monitor the implementation of the National Action Plan.

It is notable that besides other important points, the National Action Plan also includes effective steps against religious persecution, registration and regulation of Madaris by the supervision of the government. The government, under National Action Plan against extremism and terrorism, had announced to register all of Madaris in Pakistan and introduce reforms in their syllabus on priority-basis. But still, there is slow implementation of this policy. In the country, there are more than 24,000 Madaris (seminaries).

As part of National Action Plan, the government has recently made an agreement with Ittehad Tanzeemul Madaris, the administrative body of Madaris for implementation of Madarisreforms, registration and regulations. Besides countering religious extremism and sectarian hate, government’s efforts in this regard are aimed at modernization of curriculum of Madaris to bring them at par with mainstream educational system. However, unfortunately, such accords have yielded no positive outcome in the past and this critical national issue has unnecessarily been made controversial by the people with vested interests.
It is expected that this time the government will remove impediments for implementation of reforms and Ittehad Tanzeemul Madaris will not be allowed to cause unnecessary delays in the process. The objectives of the reforms are to qualitatively improve the standards of education system with better control and management oversight. The demand and need for Madaris reforms have always been felt by the religious scholars—also Dars-e-Nizami was itself prepared as a reformative measure 300 years ago. It is outdated and it cannot meet the challenges of modern education system. The scientific subjects and vocational/technical training must be integrated with the religious curriculum of Madaris to uplift in standards. As Madaris are catering the educational needs of 3.5 million students, according to some estimates, the modernization of their curriculum on scientific lines will be beneficial for everyone including the administrative bodies of Madaris.

To provoke the individuals with religious bent of mind against government’s efforts to reform Madaris, extremist outfits make false propaganda that Madaris and Ulema (Religious scholars) are under threat in Pakistan. As a matter of fact, almost 32,000 Salafi, Wahabi, Barelvi, Deobandi, Ahl-e-Hadith and Shia registered Madaris are freely operating in the country.

As regards religious seminaries, in 2015, in a meeting of military, political and religious seminaries, all the participants reached a mutual consensus. While assuring unconditional support to National Action Plan, representatives of Madaris, Ulema said that culprits and black sheep in religious institutes should be dealt with iron hands. They agreed that “Pakistan is our motherland. We on our own have to protect its integrity.” They also agreed for reforms in the religious schools through introduction of new curriculum, registration, and funding process.

Earlier, the chief ministers agreed to all the proposals put forth by the interior minister regarding important issues including regularization of the affairs of Madaris and NGOs.

Meanwhile, according to online sources, in 2015, the Police had checked documents of 2,994 students of 11 Madaris in Karachi and their administration had been ordered to ban entry of any student who is without documents, and arrested several proclaimed offenders and court absconders, during a search operation of various hotels, inns and guest houses. Similar action was also taken in Islamabad and some other parts of the country.

Particularly, the religious scholars and seminaries should play their role in discouraging sectarianism and terrorism and a campaign to eliminate such tendencies should be launched by developing a counter narrative.

Now, Pakistan is in the state of new warfare, being waged by the Armed Forces and intelligence agencies against terrorists. This different war against terrorism demands not only cooperation of the people with the security agencies, but also a selfless national unity among our rulers and leaders of other political parties including Ulema. Hence, all segments of nation must be on one page, which is necessary to implement the National Action Plan which itself is essential to win this war against terrorism.
At this critical hour, public and Madaris administrations must cooperate with the government for Madaris reforms, registration and government should also ensure quick completion of this process.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

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