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April 10, 2015

Musharraf’s modern madrassas struggling to survive


April 10, 2015

Established 12 years ago during then president Pervez Musharraf’s regime to modernise traditional religious seminaries in the country and cut their links with militancy, the model madrassa system is struggling to survive. Now the Pakistan Madrassa Education Board (PMEB), tasked with expanding the system, is making fresh efforts to achieve this goal.
Banners announcing admissions to the government-run Model Deeni Madrassa and College (MDMC) have been put up in different neighborhoods of Karachi.
Situated on the premises of New Haji Camp in the Sultanabad area, the sole model madrassa in the city offers education for free.
Dr Imdadullah Zaigham, principal of the institution, said they had also been offering an annual stipend of Rs6,000, free food, books, uniforms and boarding.
The madrassa was established in 2003 by the Pakistan Madrassa Education Board, which was set up in September 2011 by Musharraf with the aim to modernise traditional religious seminaries. The model madrassas are run by the Federal Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Through a visit to the madrassa in Karachi, The News has learnt that there is a very low enrollment ratio despite the fact that the institution is offering free education and other benefits.
Recently, Karachi Youth Initiative, a USAID-funded project, has helped the MDMC to set up a modern science library and indoor sport facilities.
Sultanabad’s residents are unaware about the madrassa, and some residents who know it exists say that because of the presence of paramilitary Rangers in the premises of Haji Camp, people do not send their children to the seminary.
According to Zaigham, currently 125 students are enrolled at the MDMC. “In order to increase the enrolment ratio, we have been running a publicity campaign across the city and we hope this year we could enrol around 350 students at MDMC,” Zaigham told The News.
He also said people had a tendency towards religious seminaries and it

was very difficult for them to change their minds.
The MDMC offers education from 6th grade to intermediate, but the Karachi madrassa, which is affiliated with the Board of Secondary Education Karachi, there is education is given till matriculation.
Only three madrassas
Since its inception in 2001, the PMEB has failed to achieve its goals and establish more model madrassas in other parts of the country.
The project of the PMEB was the brainchild of Dr Mehmood Ahmed Ghazi, then federal minister for religious affairs and prominent scholar.
There are two madrassas for boys in the Sindh province – one each in Karachi and Sukkar — and one madrassa for girls is in Islamabad. The number of students in the three madrassas is around 1,500.
Dr Amir Tuaseen, chairman of the PMEB, says he has been making efforts to resolve issues after taking charge six months ago, and admits that because of wrong policies adopted by the pervious managements, the board has lost its authority.
After a gap of 11 years, a meeting of the PMEB was held in Islamabad in March, which was presided over by Federal Minister for Religious Affair Sardar Muhammad Yousaf. It was suggested that the PMEB’s name should be changed to Islamic Education Commission. The last meeting was held in 2014.
“In the meeting, issues related to model madrassas were discussed in detail and now we will organise a board meeting after every six months,” Tauseen told The News.
Tauseen says that setting up new model madrassas in Peshawar, Quetta, Multan and other cities have also been approved by the ministry.
Insiders in the Ministry of Religious Affairs have also told The News that with the collaboration of the Turkish government, the government wants to establish model madrassas on the pattern of Turkey’s Imam Hatim Schools System for imparting religious and worldly education to children.

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