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Madressah clean-up?

Madressah clean-up?

IT appears that the Punjab government has been busy cleaning up the seminaries — but away from public view.

Rana Sanaullah, the provincial law minister, says the madressahs in Punjab have somehow been purged of militant elements. He did, as a prelude to his claim, ‘admit’ to the presence earlier of 20 such seminaries whose students or faculty had been involved in terrorism, even if ‘only’ as facilitators.

What magic wand the administration waved to get such surprising results has yet to be disclosed.

Know more: No militancy in Punjab seminaries: Rana Sanaullah

For the moment, those informed of the figures, intended to be reassuring no doubt, must deal with the mini-surprise of learning that, long identified as a hotbed of extremism, Punjab only had 20 seminaries that, presumably, required a little bit of fixing here and there.

The minister did come up with figures: 532 seminaries raided; 1,100 suspects taken into custody from them; 13,787 madressahs geo-tagged. But then, according to his remarks, the record of each and every student on the roll of these 13,000-odd tagged seminaries was being looked into.

So how is he so sure that the militant element has been uprooted?

There may be some credible evidence that shows the Shahbaz Sharif government’s commitment to targeting the nurseries of militancy, a commitment dictated by the National Action Plan. But unfortunately, the absence of substance in Mr Sanaullah’s claim does not make it part of the clinching evidence that would put Punjab ahead of the other provinces. On the same day the claim was made, in Sindh surfaced a list of 49 madressahs against which action had been ordered for their links to militancy. Just as it was unclear as to what the action in Sindh would be, it was difficult to assess whether Sindh had been sufficiently inspired by the big brother in the federation, or if both these bigger provinces were equally guilty of many airy-fairy boasts with little achieved on the ground. Sindh has repeatedly been criticised for lethargy and lack of purpose in recent years. In this case, it could justifiably look for some appreciation for having been able to identify 49 suspect madressahs whereas the much larger and, by many estimates, far more suspicious Punjab stopped at 20. Much more significantly, both these provinces — in fact, the whole country — need to come up with a transparent system where they are actually seen to be cleansing their respective territories of the dangers that are nurtured inside seminaries.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2015

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