Last week police and rangers raided a number of madrasahs in Khairpur and rounded up their students and teachers. But all were freed after brief questioning. The raids were stated to be part of the National Action Plan (NAP) to restrain religious extremism leading to terrorism in the country. Government has directed madrasahs to get them registered to avoid action.
In fact NAP seeks to control mullah, masjid and madrasah, in addition to other measures, to purge the country of extremism and terrorism. Over years many elements and entities belonging to this triple M have provided irrefutable evidence establishing their link with religious extremism, sectarianism and even terrorism. Unfortunately while this linkage was gaining strength, little attempts were made to contain them due to religious reverence for the triple M, prolonged state patronage to them to achieve some strategic objectives and successive governments’ reluctance to prick the hornets’ nest.
Albeit after the Army Public School massacre a serious intention was demonstrated in form of NAP to contain the triple M, much to chagrin of many, feeble and fragmented attempts have been made in implementation of most of its points so far. Axiomatically the impact is almost negligible which might further embolden the trio.
Of all 20 points of NAP, registration of madrasahs merits urgent attention and relentless efforts. But the exercise to achieve this target is being done sans deftness, thoughtfulness and tactfulness. Usually uncouth low ranking sleuths and plain clothed policemen abruptly knock the doors of madrasah administrators and hand them in lengthy and cumbersome proforma containingunsavoury questions mandatory to be filled as a prerequisite to registration. Consequently most clergy get offended and refuse to cooperate. It is just one example of silly handling of otherwise manageable issue.
Other issue is lack of capacity of the law enforcement agencies to tackle the burgeoning workload. As per policy of zero tolerance envisaged in NAP, the number of persons borne on 4th Schedule of Anti Terrorism Act 1997, mostly involved in sectarianism, has increased manifold. But there are serious issues of lack of capacity of police to monitor this large number. As per law the movements of anybody borne on 4th Schedule are quite restricted. For example he cannot address public gathering; cannot appear on the media; cannot leave the city without permission of the local police etc. He is bound to report his activities and movements to the concerned police station. But police lacks adequate resources and manpower to diligently monitor their activities and violations. Rather at times due to their prolonged close interaction with 4th Schedulers they become comrades in crime. There were instances when police used sectarian tough men for land grabbing etc. With ever-lengthening list of 4th Schedulers such problems would definitely become more complex which might defeat the objective.
Control on misuse of masjid amplifier by the clergy was considered imperative to muffle the deafening decibels of hate speeches. Again there has been little success in this area. The police register cases against the violators but instead of the actual culprit,mostly his attendant or a minor is booked to avoid confrontation with influential mullah armed with the mighty mike.
Recently an attempt was made with a fanfare to ensure that call for prayers (azaan) would be made at one time from all mosques in Islamabad. It was announced from the highest forum but could not be implemented. As usual, different masjids continue chanting their calls at different times. It was a litmus test of government’s seriousness and also of its capacity to rein in the agents of religious extremism. In fact, lackadaisicalimplementation of vital decision, laws and plans is our Achilles heel.
One can see with half an eye that the target to bridle triple M has not been achieved, mainly due to flawed, faulty and non-serious approaches. But it is surely an achievable target, if handled in an innovative and careful manner rather than with erratic measures and undue coercion. Recently Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) signed an MOU with five boards of madrasahs of different sects to enlist and train the madrasah students as volunteers of PRCS and blood donors also. The registration and workshops for training in this regard are underway. Why can’t the government take the madrasahs into confidence on the same lines and integrate them in the mainstream of society. The change in their curricula will be possible once a conducive atmosphere of trust is created. And it would be easier to identify and penalize the madrasahs involved in objectionable activities like imparting extremist education, receiving foreign funds and supporting terrorists.
Other method can be to set a clergy to mend a clergy. Modern and enlightened mullahs can be encouraged to occupy pulpits of masjids and platforms of madrasahs. They can set example for the retrogressive lot to come in their fold. Of course the Ministries of religious affairs and Auqaf departments will have to play active role in it. A relentless policy to Monitor, Manage and Mend the triple M will surely pay off. This process, however, should be fortified with institutionalized counter narrative arrangement, to deflect typical conspiracy theories like alleged western plans of deislamicization in Pakistan, aiming at foiling government action against the triple M.