LAHORE: All boards of religious seminaries have unanimously rejected the government fresh proposals on Madaris registration, curriculum development and examination system, The Nation has reliably learnt.

The heads and upper councils of the five federations representing all Islamic schools of thought in their consultative meetings have decided to resist “unjustified” demands of the government on Madaris reforms.

Their decision prior to a meeting with the Interior Ministry on Wednesday is being considered an important hurdle in implementation of a vital point about Madaris registration and regularisation under National Action Plan.

Seminaries heads in their separate talks with The Nation also expressed their unwillingness to surrender the “autonomy of the Islamic seminaries.”

In their chat with this scribe, they felt more concerned about their “autonomy” rather to what they call the concern of the government and Western powers for bringing them into national streamline.

The government has recently proposed a new data form for collecting information about the religious seminaries. It also asked the Madaris to introduce compulsory subjects like Pakistan Studies, English and Mathematics in their curriculums with outlines suggested by the government. The Madaris students are required to appear before the Federal Boards of Intermediate and Secondary Education for receiving Matric and Intermediate certificates.

“The mechanism for registration exists since 2005. The government wants change in it. We are ready to provide all necessary information but their (government) unjustified demands cannot be fulfilled,” Qari Hanif Jalandhari told The Nation.

Qari Hanif represents the Wafaqul Madaris Al-Arbia — the largest federation of Islamic seminaries around the world. More than 10,000 Madaris across the country are affiliated with the federation representing most powerful Deobandi school of thought.

The other federations are: Tanzeemul Madaris Ehle-Sunnat (Brelvi school of thought which also claims to be the largest board in Pakistan), Wafaqul Madaris Al-Salfia (Ehle-Hadith school of thought), Wafaqul Madaris Al-Shia and Rabtatul Madaris — the boards representing religious schools run under the banner of Jamaat-e-Islami.

Over three million male and female students are receiving religious education in the five boards. The soft spoken Qari Hanif termed the government demand cannot be implemented.

“We have no link with terrorism. We expressed our full willingness to open our account in banks and always ready to inform source of funding. But we are not agreed on the draft of new registration form proposed by the government. The proposal on examination of Madaris students under Islamabad Board is also unjustified. The negotiations are underway. We will present our point of view with arguments.” He held the government responsible over delay in implementation of Madaris reforms.

Head of the Tanzeemul Madaris Mufti Muneebur Rehman is out of the country but some Brelvi scholars who are not willing to be quoted and representing Tanzeemul Madaris also rejected government’s fresh proposals on the Madaris issue. Around 10,000 Madaris run under the Ehle-Sunnat Wafaq.

Wafaqul Madaris al-Salfia head Dr Zafar Yasin termed the bureaucracy the main hurdle in implementation of Madaris reforms.

He said that all the religious scholars agreed to cooperate fully with the government in the meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif where Chief of Army Staff and ISI DG were also present.

“We had formed a registration committee and designed a form giving all information about Madaris. But now the government brought another form which can’t be justified,” he held. Over 1,400 religious seminaries run under Wafaq al-Salfia providing education to more than 40,000 students across the country.

Rabtatul Madaris chief Maulana Abdul Malik said the new forms contained odd things. For example it asks about the number of spouses of a Madaris head and information about mother, sisters and other family members of a student, he said.

“We are ready to admit every appropriate proposal of the government but can’t surrender on unnecessary and illogical things,” he said. Around 1,000 religious seminaries run under JI-led Rabtatul Madaris where more than 20,000 students are receiving religious education.

Wafaqul Madaris al-Shia Secretary General Allama Afzal Haidri said that they were ready to submit the details on the form which was designed by all boards and representatives of Interior Ministry unanimously.

He said around 450 Madaris where 20,000 students are getting religious education were being run under Shia Wafaq.