Islamabad, May 5 (IANS) — From 245 at the time of independence, the number of madrassas shot up to 6,761 in 2,000 and 6,870 in 2001, despite the drastic decrease in state patronage and checks on seminaries and their administrations by the intelligence agencies following the U.S. war on terrorism.
The number of students enrolled in these schools, according to the report, stands at 1.5 million.
It said 37 percent of the total students at the madrassas in Balochistan were foreigners, while in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), also bordering Afghanistan, foreign students numbered 10 percent of total enrolment. In Sindh and the Punjab they were one percent and less than one percent, respectively.
“Figures show the seminaries have increased by 2,745 percent over the past 55 years. Until 1988, when former Soviet Union decided to withdraw from Afghanistan after 10 years of misadventure in that country, there were a total of 2, 861 religious schools in Pakistan,” it said.
The consequent civil war in Afghanistan and an upsurge in military activities in Jammu and Kashmir had a direct bearing on the rise of the
Seminaries, the report said.
It said a majority of these madrassas belonged to the fundamentalist Sunni Deobandi denomination and they later provided recruits to Afghanistan’s Taliban militia.
Giving statistics of the seminaries, the report says 64 percent of the seminaries were run by Deobandis, 25 percent by the Barelvis, six percent by the Ahle Hadith and three percent by various Shiite organisations.
While the number of seminaries has not decreased since 9/11, the number of foreign students has drastically come down to about one percent for the entire country. This is owed to stringent checks placed by Islamabad on the enrolment of foreign students, besides monitoring them closely, it added.
The report shows the number of female students is on the rise. Jama’at e Islami’s secretary general Syed Munawwar Hasan ascribes the rise to economic reasons.
“The majority of our population belongs to the lower middle class and more than 40 per cent of them live below the poverty line. These people cannot afford even admitting their sons to mainstream schools let alone their daughters,” he says.
“In religious schools, the teaching is absolutely free. Besides, these schools also impart vocational training to our girls, which they can use to share the financial burden of the family,” he adds.
© Copyright 2003 IANS India Private Limited, New Delhi. Posted on Religioscope with permission.