EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
In its new role as key ally in the U.S.-led war on
terrorism, Pakistan’s military government has toned down many policies that
previously fostered militancy and religious extremism within the country and
internationally. Action against the Taliban, al-Qaeda and home-grown sectarian
terrorists are examples. But the military’s confrontation with its former
religious allies is likely, at best, a short-term response compelled by
circumstances and foreign pressure.
It is doubtful whether the military government has the
intent or the will to set Pakistani society on a sustainable course that would
lead to political pluralism and religious tolerance. On a key test – reform of
madrasas, Pakistani religious schools that breed extremism of many hues – the
military government thus far has acted weakly.
Madrasas provide free religious education, boarding and
lodging and are essentially schools for the poor. About a third of all children
in Pakistan in education attend madrasas. These seminaries run on public
philanthropy and produce indoctrinated clergymen of various Muslim sects. Some
sections of the more orthodox Muslim sects have been radicalised by state
sponsored exposure to jihad, first in Afghanistan, then in Kashmir. However, the
madrasa problem goes beyond militancy. Over a million and a half students at more
than 10,000 seminaries are being trained, in theory, for service in the
religious sector. But their constrained worldview, lack of modern civic
education and poverty make them a destabilising factor in Pakistani society. For
all these reasons, they are also susceptible to romantic notions of sectarian
and international jihads, which promise instant salvation.
The Musharraf government has pledged, as many previous
Pakistani governments have done, to change the status of madrasas and integrate
them into the formal education sector. It has also pledged to reform the madrasa
system as part of its anti-terrorism actions in fulfilment of UN Security
Council Resolution 1373. However, these pledges have not been backed by decisive
action or a credible plan to remake the system within a reasonable timeframe.
A madrasa reform law is in the works that would regulate
the schools. It would provide for changes in the curriculum, registration and
monitoring of finances but even the name of the draft – the Deeni
Madaris (Voluntary Registration and Regulation) Ordinance 2002 – gives
some sense of the lack of commitment to reform.
The bill does not envisage real intervention in the madrasa
system because the clergy is opposed. Madrasas will instead be asked to submit
to regulation voluntarily, and the law proposes no mechanism of enforcement or
punishments for violations. Madrasas would simply be asked to comply with the
Alongside this very gentle prodding, the government is
offering madrasas some carrots for good behaviour: free Islamic and modern
textbooks and other rewards, including salaries for teachers. Most madrasas have
shrugged off both aspects of the plan and have said they will resist any
attempts to secularise education. The religious organisations already banned by
the government continue to run schools and to produce militant literature.
Both the clergy and independent observers see the
government’s plans as measures aimed at assuaging international opinion. In
fact, the government’s apparent policy shift represents not real change but
rather continuity of the military’s alliance with the United States and its
patron-client relationship with the Pakistani clergy.
U.S. support gives international legitimacy to the
military’s role in Pakistani politics. A madrasa sector the autonomy of which
remains untouched and that is not forced to reform is unlikely to confront the
military. On the contrary, the clergy remains a vocal supporter of a politically
dominant military and its India policy. This explains why the government’s
madrasa reforms are cosmetic and lack substance, legal muscle or an intent to
institutionalise long-term change.
Madrasas have a long history in Pakistan and in Muslim
societies generally. They serve socially important purposes, and it is
reasonable for a government to seek to modernise and adapt rather than eliminate
them. International assistance to Pakistani education, especially from Western
donors, however, should focus heavily on rebuilding a secular system that has
been allowed to decay for three decades. Any international assistance for the
government’s madrasa reform project should be closely tied to proof that it
represents a genuine commitment to promote moderate, modern education.
clampdown on foreigners linked to the Taliban and al-Qaeda shows that
international pressure can work. It is what will determine if and when the
government will enact tangible madrasa reform. International acceptance of the
military’s domestic manoeuvres in exchange for support in the war on terrorism
risks more extremism in the not distant future that will be hard to contain.
Wavering by important international actors, especially the U.S., will not only
increase extremist threats to Pakistan but eventually also undermine global
security and stability.
To The Government Of Pakistan:
1. Establish a
madrasa regulatory authority immediately, to be headed by the interior
minister, that should:
out a comprehensive survey of the madrasa sector for purposes of mandatory
registration and classification within six months;
the Pakistan Madrasa Education Board in implementing and monitoring curriculum
and financing reforms;
efforts of the various government departments involved in the reform process;
as the focal point for liaison with the clergy, donors, law-enforcing agencies
and international organisations.
2. Institute curriculum
reforms for madrasas within six months that ensure:
training programs are included;
time is allotted for modern subjects in the new teaching schedule; and
of madrasa certificates and degrees is conditional upon adherence to the new
3. Immediately close
all madrasas affiliated with banned militant organisations and prosecute their
leaders under existing criminal laws if they are involved in incitement to
4. Require all
madrasas at the time of registration to:
annual income, expenditure and audit reports;
their assets and sources of funding; and
from any militant activity or group.
5. Create a
nation-wide Financial Intelligence Unit, as a subsidiary of the banking
regulatory authority, to prevent money laundering in the formal banking sector
and to curb the hundi system and other informal financial transactions.
6. Keep strict tabs
on foreign students who seek admission to Pakistani madrasas and permit their
enrolment only if such religious education is not available in their home
countries or they have otherwise been carefully screened by both their home
authorities and the appropriate Pakistani government authorities.
7. Ensure that
madrasa reform is not confined to urban areas but also covers small towns and
To International Donors:
8. Hold the Pakistani government to its commitments to madrasa reform, and
in particular in particular urge it to:
(a) close madrasas linked to banned extremist groups;
(b) establish a regulatory authority under the interior minister with
sufficient powers to overcome clerical resistance;
(c) institute mandatory rather than voluntary registration, curriculum reform
and financial control mechanisms;
(d) end involvement of intelligence agencies in the madrasa sector; and
(e) implement parliamentary oversight as soon as possible.
9. Provide financial assistance to help Pakistan upgrade its secular
education sector at all levels, with emphasis on vocational training.
10. Provide financial assistance to government programs to reform the madrasa
education sector but only if the government closes madrasas affiliated with
banned groups, makes it obligatory for all madrasas to disclose their sources of
income and declare dissociation from any militant activity or group, and
otherwise carries out the reforms described above. Funding for reform projects
should be suspended if the government fails to do so. International financial
institutions providing, or intending to provide, financial assistance for
madrasa reform should also make their grants conditional on the above criteria.
11. Recognising that some donors may have legal or constitutional
difficulties with direct support of religious education, they should consider
supporting a number of specific projects, including:
(a) training new madrasa teachers to teach a wider range of secular subjects;
(b) producing madrasa textbooks for modern subjects; and
(c) supporting civil society monitoring of government performance in madrasa
reform and on other education issues.
To The United Kingdom And Saudi Arabia And The Other Gulf
12. Publicly identify charities and NGOs suspected of links with militants.
To The G-8 Countries, Especially The United Kingdom And
13. Implement fully the eight special anti-terrorism financing
recommendations of the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on
Money Laundering and urge Pakistan to adopt legislation that meets these
14. Launch, with the help of domestic Islamic organisations, a public
awareness campaign to dissuade expatriate Muslims from funding jihadi madrasas
and to dispel misperceptions that Islamic education per se is a target of the
anti-terror financing laws.
Islamabad/Brussels 29 July 2002