PESHAWAR -- The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government has started registering religious seminaries as part of an effort to prevent the radicalisation of students.
"The move [seeks] to curb the presence of terrorists wanting to use seminaries for acts of terrorism," KP Information Minister Shah Farman told Pakistan Forward. "In the past, religious schools have been misused by miscreants, who radicalised the students."
The province's 3,028 seminaries will be required to register with the education boards in order to collect precise information about their teachers, students and accounts.
The decision follows the federal government's directive to provincial governments in September to bring seminaries into the mainstream, he said.
"All the religious schools are co-operating to eliminate terrorism, and their students gain a modern education besides taking religious lessons," Farman said.
The KP Elementary and Secondary Education Department October 27 issued instructions to the seven Boards of Intermediate and Secondary Education in the province to register seminaries in their respective areas and to share developments on the process with the KP government on a weekly basis.
So far, the boards have distributed registration forms to the seminaries and are waiting for the schools' responses.
Previously, the KP Industries and Social Welfare Department was responsible for registering seminaries in the province, yet many unregistered ones continue to function.
The registration will "provide a lawful environment for the students", Peshawar-based security analyst Khadim Hussain told Pakistan Forward. "Previously, nobody was curbing [any illegal] operations, so these institutions were misused."
Preventing terror links
Muhammad Suhail, an official at the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Bannu, told Pakistan Forward the board had received an 11-page form to be used in registering religious schools.
To comply with the process, the seminaries will promise not to impart education encouraging militancy, terrorism, anti-state activities or sectarianism, and be willing to have their accounts audited annually by a government-recognised chartered accountant, according to Suhail.
"All religious schools will give [a signed declaration] that they have no links with banned organisations" and will pledge not to make new connections in the future, he said.
The schools will provide details on local and foreign teachers, other employees, and students, as well as other information requested by the government, he said.
"Once registration is completed, the government will know about the exact number of the students enrolled in seminaries and the materials taught there," Suhail said.
After determining the seminaries' financial condition, the KP government will release funds to provide additional resources, drinking water, and electricity to seminaries and will cover the cost of constructing washrooms, said KP Education Minister Atif Khan.
"The KP government has assured us that registration will benefit students and teachers alike," he told Pakistan Forward.
Seminaries sign on
Representatives of seminaries of various schools of thought have agreed to register their institutions, said Dr. Fazlur Rahman, chairman of the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Peshawar.
"The religious schools are willing to give modern education to their students along with religious courses," he told Pakistan Forward. "We have removed their apprehensions about the registration process."
"We have often been slammed for promoting terrorism, which is untrue," Maulana Ihsan Ali, a teacher at a Mardan-based religious school, told Pakistan Forward. "Registration with the government will streamline our affairs, and those indulging in acts of terrorism will come to the forefront."
Maulana Hussain Ahmed, provincial secretary general of Wifaqul Madaris Al Arabia, a federation of Islamic seminaries, said he agrees with the government's move.
"It is good to be registered with the education department," he told Pakistan Forward.