PESHAWAR -- The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government has initiated reforms for the province's mosques aimed at controlling extremism and streamlining religious teaching.
The government is collecting statistics on the number of mosques and imams throughout KP and will then employ only qualified prayer leaders from registered madrassas and educational institutions, according to KP Minister for Auqaf, Hajj, Religious and Minority Affairs Habib Ur Rehman.
"After collecting the exact number of prayer leaders (imams) and mosques in the province, the ministry intends to streamline the religious affairs in the province by bringing the mosques under the ambit of the government as per the National Action Plan," Rehman told Pakistan Forward.
Part of the National Action Plan (NAP), launched in January 2015, includes vetting of religious centres to prevent the misuse of religious platforms to foster extremist ideologies.
Authorities expect to complete the count of mosques and imams by the end of September, said Rehman.
"It is the duty of an Islamic government to ensure that the mosques are headed by qualified imams who can properly safeguard Islamic morals and guarantee that the society is groomed according to the true teachings of Islam," he said.
Better prospects for madrassa graduates
The KP government's mosque reform initiative provides an opportunity for students of registered madrassas to receive proper appointments in the province's mosques, said Khalid Rehman, a religious scholar in Peshawar.
Previously, most madrassa alumni had no opportunities for an appropriate future, he said.
"Now the students at madrassas can breathe a sigh of relief regarding their future and will be relieved of financial concerns," he told Pakistan Forward. "They will be able to pay full attention towards preaching Islam, thereby not only serving religion but also the society and state."
Further, bringing prayer leaders under the ambit of the government will do away with their dependence on charities and donations, which will prove helpful in maintaining their integrity, he said.
"The reforms are a step in the right direction," said Anwar, although he expressed some concern about the government's ability to implement them.
The government will be able to check the sermons and speeches delivered on Fridays and other important religious days, he said, adding that this reform will help ensure that citizens hear a uniform religious doctrine, helping reduce conflicts within society.
However, in some mosques in the province, the ecclesiastical positions are hereditary, he said, adding that the government should take into consideration sensitivities about those appointments.