Investigative Report about Other Madrassas in Islamabad: A Time Bomb

Madaris proliferating in capital
88 seminaries teaching more than 16,000 students
By Abdul Sattar Khan: The News, July 6, 2007

LAHORE: Eighty-eight seminaries belonging to various sects are imparting religious education to more than 16,000 students in the federal capital.

A research carried out by the News Bureau of Investigation (NBI) shows that the number of students of the Deobandi seminaries, including the Jamia Hafsa and the Jamia Faridia, doubled during the last one year. The figures have been collected from the government agencies, which would not like to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

In 2005-06, 5,039 religious students from Islamabad’s Deobandi seminaries took exams conducted by Wafaqul Madaris al-Arabia (WMA), the central examination board of the Deobandi sect. About 3,000 of them were from the Jamia Hafsa, the Madrassa for women attached to Lal Masjid, and Jamia Faridia, the Madrassa for men also associated with Lal Masjid.

But today these two seminaries hold 10,700 students, showing a 100 per cent increase in their number in just one year. The reason for this big surge in the number of students is still not known to the government.

A comparative research based on the figures available with the News Bureau of Investigation about the number of students who appeared in the 2005-06 exams shows more surprises.

A total of 5,093 students (male and female) appeared in different seminary examinations in Islamabad. Of them, 4,653 students appeared in examinations for degrees equivalent to Matriculation, Intermediate, graduation and post-graduation. The rest of them were for Hifz-e-Qur’aan only. The present number of 10,700, in the modern and progressive federal capital, is almost equal to the combined strength of the seminary students from Balochistan (6,374 students) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (2,835 students). Furthermore, the total number of students from the Jamia Hafsa and the Jamia Faridia (5,000 students) falls short of total seminary students of Balochistan by only 1,335 students.

A comparison with seminaries of other sects shows that the number of students, who have been studying in the Jamia Hafsa and the Jamia Faridia (Deobandi) is, again, equal to the total number of students (5,400 students), studying in all the 74 seminaries, belonging to all the other sects; Barelvi (3,000 students in 46 seminaries), Ahle-Hadith (200 students in two seminaries), Shia (700 students in eight seminaries) and Jamaat-e-Islami-led Rabitaul Madaris (1,500 students in 18 seminaries) in Islamabad.

The Jamia Hafsa has the highest number of teachers: 158, a strength which can be matched to any of the big institutions imparting liberal education.

The research also shows that Deobandi seminaries grew at a much faster pace in the federal capital during the period of liberal governments (Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif). Since 1990, 34 seminaries were set up in Islamabad.

Before this, during the rule of Gen Zia-ul-Haq (from July 1977 to August 1988) when the whole country witnessed a mushroom growth of seminaries, seven seminaries were established in the federal capital. However, 14 seminaries were set up in the capital during the eight-year rule of President Gen Pervez Musharraf.

Similarly, during the two stints as prime minister Benazir Bhutto (December 2, 1988 to August 6, 1990 and July 18, 1993 to November 5, 1996), who represented the liberal profile of Pakistan, eight seminaries became operational in Islamabad as compared to seven seminaries established during two tenures of Nawaz Sharif (November 1, 1990 to July 18, 1993 and February 17, 1997 to October 12, 1999). Both, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, had links with religious parties in their coalition governments.

The study shows that more Deobandi seminaries are located in posh areas than the sectors accommodating relatively less influential segments of the society.

Nine seminaries are located in Bara Kahu area with 426 students, five in F/6 sector with 1,150 students, five in F/7 sector with 670 students, five in F/8 sector with 305 students, two in F/10 with 165 students, two in E/7 sector with 2,030 students, one in Blue Area with 30 students, five in G/6 with 2275 students, nine in G/7 with 789 students, seven in G/9 with 613 students, two in G/10 with 160 students, six in G/11 with 330 students, six in I/8 with 635 students, four in I/9 with 500 students, six in I/10 with 323 students and one in H/8 sector with 260 students. While nine seminaries located in Sector G/7 have just 789 students, only two seminaries situated in E/7 sector have 2,030 students.

More than 90 per cent seminaries in Islamabad have somewhere between 50 and 100 students. Most of the seminaries are imparting preliminary religious studies. In 32 seminaries, 50 or less than 50 students are enrolled while 21 seminaries have 50 to 100 students. In one Madrasa, situated in F/6-4, the number of students exceeds 1,000.

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