The number of madrassas in Pakistan have crossed 35,000 from fewer than 300 since the inception of Pakistan, according to a report issued in Karachi the other day.
Titled ‘The Madrasa Conundrum — The state of religious education in Pakistan’, the report is authored by Umair Khalil, lead researcher of the non-governmental research organisation, HIVE.
“After 11 years of Zia’s rule, the madrassa total ballooned to 2,801 with Deobandis accounting for 64 per cent of the total and the Barelvis only 25pc,” said the report. It said that after the downfall of the Zia regime, the state continued to have an interest in supporting a particular religious group to play a role in the ongoing proxy war with India for Kashmir.
The increase in the number of madrassas between 1988 and 2002 showed a significant rise in Deobandi seminaries, which increased from 1,779 to 7,000. The Barelvi seminaries rose from 717 to 1,585, Ahle Hadith from 161 to 376, Shia from 47 to 419 and Jamaat-e-Islami’s seminaries from 97 to 500. The total madrassas in 1988 were 2,801, which shot up to 9,880 in 2002.
The report refers to various sources about the number of students enrolled with the madrassas.
One report claims that some 3.5 million students were enrolled with 35,337 madrassas in Pakistan while another quotes the Auqaf authorities as saying the number of students was 26,131. Conflicting official figures put the number of madrassas in Punjab at between 14,000 and 16,000. Similarly, the Ministry of Religious Affairs says there are 7,118 madrassas in Sindh, while the provincial Auqaf department puts their number at a modest 2,800.
In Balochistan, the number ranges between 2,704 and a whopping 13,000 while in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the official figures are between 1,354 and 3,136.
The report also discusses some surveys conducted by researchers. One such survey published in a book by C. Christine Fair claims madrassas are not the most prominent recruitment venue for militancy; indeed fewer than a quarter of the militants (33 of 141) ever attended theological schools.
Of those 33 madrassa products, 27 attended a madrassa for four or fewer years, and most also attended public schools. In contrast, the remaining 82 were well educated by Pakistani standards, with at least a matriculation qualification. Only nine of the 141 had no formal education. The militants in that sample were better educated than the average Pakistani male.
Another survey by Tariq Rahman says the madrassa students were the most intolerant of all the other student groups in Pakistan.
The survey asked the same set of questions from diverse groups that included students of madrassas, Urdu-medium schools, English-medium schools, cadet colleges and public schools, government colleges, public universities and private universities.
The primary finding of the survey was that madrassa students were more likely to back war and militant conflict and less inclined to support equal rights for members of the oppressed groups than their counterparts in secular schools.
The report also discussed the issues of economic integration of madrassa students, registration, regulations and reforms and gave some recommendations.