KARACHI: The closure of only 28 unregistered seminaries in Benazirabad and 139 in Hyderabad since the launch of a province-wide operation against 1,423 unregistered seminaries has displeased the authorities who have directed the law-enforcers to ‘go for a fierce hunt’, it emerged on Wednesday.
At least 579 unregistered madressahs — two dozens of them being allegedly involved in extremism — have been functioning in Karachi besides hundreds of others elsewhere in the province, but the law-enforcers appear to be reluctant to take action against them because of the street power many of them wield and the support they get from religious groups and parties, according to officials.
The progress was reviewed at the latest meeting of the apex committee which discussed the issue threadbare and such figures disappointed both Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah and Corps Commander Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar who said the situation should have been much better than what was being presented before them.
A report prepared by the Sindh Police and submitted to the home department shows that just 167 unregistered madressahs — 139 in Hyderabad and 28 in Benazirabad — have been sealed by the authorities so far. They included 95 Barelvi madressahs, 63 Shia, five Deobandi and four Ahl-i-Hadith madressahs.
No seminary has been sealed in Karachi, Mirpurkhas, Sukkur and Larkana at all, according to the report
“This should be unacceptable to everyone who is striving to restore peace to Sindh,” said a senior official in the home department, adding that the chief minister asked them to go for a ‘fierce hunt’ against all unregistered madressahs.
The report identified a total of 4,021 madressahs in Sindh. Of them, 2,598 were registered and 1,423 unregistered. But the report mentioned that a list of unregistered madressahs was still being prepared by police.
The district-wise number of madressahs documented by the home department shows Tando Allahyar with the least seminaries (30) and Karachi West with the most of madressahs (1,358).
Officials said they had sealed 139 out of 286 unregistered madressahs in Hyderabad and 28 out of 61 in Benazirabad. None of over 1,200 unregistered madressahs elsewhere in Sindh, which included 559 unregistered madressahs only in Karachi West, have been touched so far.
A total of 1,887 madressahs have been identified in Karachi out of which 1,308 are registered. Divided in seven zones, the breakdown of the registered madressahs is: Karachi East (86), Korangi (138), Malir (108), Karachi Central (295), Karachi South (46), Karachi City (76) and Karachi West (559).
An official of the home department said: “We are expediting our effort and orders have been placed to all the relevant departments including the industries ministry to amend its rules forthwith relating to granting permission for the construction of new madressahs.”
No action against new construction
Nearly half of the madressahs across the province were situated in Karachi, the officials said, admitting that no action had been taken so far to stop the construction of new madressahs without having formal permission and registration. “But we are trying to make all possible efforts to stop construction of unregistered seminaries and close the ones already open and spreading its influence and space,” the official added.
Sources privy to the apex committee meeting said that a pro forma had been finalized for the registration of seminaries in the province. They said the pro forma would require management of a madressah to fill in the details of students, teachers and sources of fund, if any, it received.
An official requesting anonymity told Dawn that the reluctance shown by the officials taking action against seminaries in Karachi and certain madressahs elsewhere in Sindh was because of the street power which a number of those seminaries manifested from time to time in the past and were considered to be the ‘reserve force’ for certain religious groups and parties.
“A large number of those seminaries are supported by some political and religious parties, which is the one greatest hurdle in our plan in addition to the street power,” the official said.
Official figures say 388,327 students are enrolled with madressahs in Sindh. Of them, 269,325 students were enrolled with 2,598 registered and around 119,002 enrolled with 1,423 unregistered madressahs.
Ten out of 663 foreign students are found to be enrolled with unregistered madressahs, according to the report.
Officials said majority of the madressahs were owned by Wafaq-ul-Madaris Arabia (Deoband), followed by Tanzeem-ul-Madaris Ahle Sunnat (Barelvi), Wafaq-ul-Madaris (Fiqh Jafria) and Wafaq Al-Sulfia (Ahle Hadith).