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Rogue Madrassas

by Newsweek Pakistan

Aamir Qureshi—AFP

Pakistan is not politically stable enough to tackle the ever-growing power of the country’s madrassas.

Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Thursday rejected the Sindh government’s plea to take “action” against 90 “dangerous” madrassas in Karachi. The survey was no doubt badly prepared and the culpable madrassas were not even properly identified. However, this does not mean the minister should have dismissed it outright or reprimanded the Sindh government publicly through a letter made available to media. The press release clearly reveals this matter as yet another episode of the ongoing quarrel between the Center ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and the Sindh leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party.

The latest installment of this ‘Great Game’ might be a result of the minister smarting over the opposition chastising him over declaring before the Senate that “banned sectarian organizations cannot be equated with other banned terrorist organizations.” However, in wanting to retaliate, he just may be compounding the law and order crisis in Karachi.

Reportedly, there are 1,406 madrassas in Pakistan’s largest city, of which 833 are unregistered. This is a subset of the 35,000 madrassas estimated throughout Pakistan—a number that could be far less than the reality. Scores of banned terrorist organizations have set up camp in Karachi after fleeing the tribal areas of North Waziristan and Swat in the north due to ongoing military operations. Taking orders from leaders hiding in Afghanistan, these terrorists use the economic powerhouse status of Karachi to secure a steady supply of funds through murder—target-killing—and protection rackets—bhatta.

Unfortunately for Pakistan, we may have reached a point where our capacity to take action pales before the power of the madrassa. Last year, the Government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa allocated Rs. 300 million for the Taliban-linked Madrassa Haqqania to stay on its right side. Minister Khan himself appears either powerless or unwilling to do anything against the 401 madrassas entrenched in Islamabad—31 unregistered—and was recently castigated by the media for failing to stop a declared terrorist organization from staging a rally in the federal capital. He even admitted—albeit after much hemming and hawing—to meeting with a terrorist cleric in his office. The power of the madrassa in Pakistan is a consequence of the proxy jihad that the state indulged for decades; fallout of which it is no longer politically stable enough to handle.

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