How seminaries that promote violent extremism in Pakistan came into being

Written by  Published by:Shiite News
Published in Pakistan
Thursday, 05 March 2015


Shiite News Analysis
.By Eye Ali
.
U.S. think-tanks and Pakistani scholars trained at U.S. think-tanks have discussed role of Pakistani religious seminaries in terrorism and violent extremism and latest analysis has come from Dr Ayesha Siddiqa. Part one has been published in Dawn Sunday Magazine March 1, 2015 Issue and second and last part will be printed March8th Issue.

She wrote: “In truth, Madressa are one of the biggest unregulated sectors in Pakistan, with scholars estimating 16,000 to 20,000 registered Madressa operating in the country. Official sources, meanwhile, recently disclosed a figure of 25,000 registered Madressa, while it is also believed that were unregistered Madressa taken into account, the total would be around 40,000.

Ayesha Siddiqa says approximately 5,000 madressa (seminaries) were established after 1982 during the period of US-Pak strategic alignment. This compares with the figure of 150 new seminaries that were added between 1977 and 1979. Before that, there was controlled proliferation. From 1960-71, for instance, only 482 new madressa (Madaris or seminaries) were established. The numbers increased to 852 new ones during the 1970s.

She wrote it was during the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto regime that agreements were signed with some Arab states for the promotion of Arabic, as a result of which madressa were set up in South Punjab. However, some suggest that a real shift insofar as Madressa in southern Punjab go came after Mirza Aslam Beg’s appointment as GoC Okara. Not surprisingly, many commanders of Afghan Mujahideen and later warlords were drawn from southern Punjab. These people were ideologically motivated and trained in Madressa.

She wrote that during the Zia period, Madressa became powerful centers for different ideological groups. There were two other significant things which happened during this period. First, the government began providing financial help by diverting zakat funds. It was believed that the ulema were poorly paid and that students were in poor condition. According to a report in the early 1990s regarding Bahawalpur, the government knew exactly the sectarian divide that existed in Madressa and knew which Madressa were engaged in fanning sectarian hatred. This formula was later replicated across Punjab. Despite this, funds were never discontinued until Benazir Bhutto’s government came to power.

Second, the Zia regime developed a system of educational equivalence that recognized madressa qualification as equivalent to secular education. The idea was to modernize religious seminaries and encourage them to teach non-religious subjects. The 1990s and 2000s saw both a vertical and horizontal expansion of Madressa. From distant geographical areas to middle class and elite, or women, Madressa expanded in all directions. The elite Madressa were critical in producing teachers that then went and opened their own Madressa.

Dr Ayesha Siddiqa has referred U.S.-based scholars and Pakistani writers on the issue but she ignored the original research by U.S. journalist and author John Cooley who has elaborated the role of seminaries in his book Unholy Wars. That book was first published before 9/11 attacks on New York’s Twin Towers

She should have also cited the book of present foreign minister of Pakistan (technically speaking advisor to Prime Minister on foreign affairs) Sartaj Aziz. The Pushto-speaking Sartaj wrote in “Between Dreams and Realities” that U.S. and its allies set up hundreds of madressa (seminaries) in Afghanistan and Pakistan with Pakistan’s support.

So-called secular, liberal or progressive writers and analysts are no different from seminaries clerics because both tell half truth. Comprehensive truth is: madressa were “States-sponsored seminaries” that are now being discussed acrimoniously. No doubt, they are involved in violent extremism but they pose existential threat to Pakistan and they still don’t bite their foreign masters despite the fact that they bark at foreign masters and bite Pakistanis. Barking dog seldom bites is their policy towards U.S. and her real allies such as Turkey, Saudi Wahhabis, monarchies of Qatar, Bahrain, UAE and Kuwait and over 40 regimes around the world who remained declared allies and abettors of the U.S.-led West in war on terror. In reciprocation, U.S.-led West and allied Arabs and Turkish regimes also took no action against them.

Their real patrons acknowledge their involvement in terrorist attacks but they discuss it percentage-wise with low-percentage from seminaries in terrorism. As a matter of fact, Pakistan failed to hold a magnificent military parade on March 23 Pakistan Day because seminaries pose threat to the security. Now, 41 seminaries are asked to remain closed.

But, all this is an eyewash tactic. She cited southern Punjab’s seminaries and Malik Ishaq co-founder of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and now declared vice president of proscribed ASWJ/Sipah-e-Sahaba hails from southern Punjab. Sipah-e-Sahaba was founded, mother of modern takfiri terrorism in Pakistan, by a Deobandi seminary cleric of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) who Fazl ur Rehman and Sami ul represent in mainstream politics.

Sami ul Haq’s Darul Uloom Haqqania Akora Khattak is a seminary and 4 students of his seminary are arrested by the security officials as terrorists trained fro suicide bombings and they were involved in the plan to assassinate former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Ayesha Siddiqa is correct in implying that punishing clerics and ignoring seminaries would not bear fruit because the cleric who replaces clerics like Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid would continue the unholy mission. But, we all, anti-terrorist people of Pakistan should not trust U.S.-led self-claimed counterterrorism alliance in this war because blaming Pakistani establishment alone for all ills, will not help eliminate terrorism. They need to be advised that problem is the mindset that these timid fanatics are strategic assets for strategic depth and problem is the illusion that they are anti-imperialist fighters. Majority of the seminaries provide strategic depth to the U.S.-led West and allied Arab monarchs providing strategic depth to their foreign masters. Would the great lady Dr Ayesha Siddiqa like to agree with my viewpoint?

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Who is this lady? On July 01, 2004, Daily Times reported that “Dr Ayesha Siddiqa, The Friday Times' defence and security analyst, has been awarded a nine-month fellowship at the Washington-based prestigious Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars. The programme is funded by the Wilson Centre in collaboration with the Fellowship Fund for Pakistan (FFFP), a charitable trust based in Karachi. Dr Siddiqa is the first Pakistani scholar to win the award as a fellow-in-residence. During her stay at the Wilson Centre she will carry out research and writing on a project titled "Military Inc.: The Political Economy of Militarization in Pakistan."

She wrote: “In truth, Madressa are one of the biggest unregulated sectors in Pakistan, with scholars estimating 16,000 to 20,000 registered Madressa operating in the country. Official sources, meanwhile, recently disclosed a figure of 25,000 registered Madressa, while it is also believed that were unregistered Madressa taken into account, the total would be around 40,000.

Ayesha Siddiqa says approximately 5,000 madressa (seminaries) were established after 1982 during the period of US-Pak strategic alignment. This compares with the figure of 150 new seminaries that were added between 1977 and 1979. Before that, there was controlled proliferation. From 1960-71, for instance, only 482 new madressa (Madaris or seminaries) were established. The numbers increased to 852 new ones during the 1970s.

She wrote it was during the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto regime that agreements were signed with some Arab states for the promotion of Arabic, as a result of which madressa were set up in South Punjab. However, some suggest that a real shift insofar as Madressa in southern Punjab go came after Mirza Aslam Beg’s appointment as GoC Okara. Not surprisingly, many commanders of Afghan Mujahideen and later warlords were drawn from southern Punjab. These people were ideologically motivated and trained in Madressa.

She wrote that during the Zia period, Madressa became powerful centers for different ideological groups. There were two other significant things which happened during this period. First, the government began providing financial help by diverting zakat funds. It was believed that the ulema were poorly paid and that students were in poor condition. According to a report in the early 1990s regarding Bahawalpur, the government knew exactly the sectarian divide that existed in Madressa and knew which Madressa were engaged in fanning sectarian hatred. This formula was later replicated across Punjab. Despite this, funds were never discontinued until Benazir Bhutto’s government came to power.

Second, the Zia regime developed a system of educational equivalence that recognized madressa qualification as equivalent to secular education. The idea was to modernize religious seminaries and encourage them to teach non-religious subjects. The 1990s and 2000s saw both a vertical and horizontal expansion of Madressa. From distant geographical areas to middle class and elite, or women, Madressa expanded in all directions. The elite Madressa were critical in producing teachers that then went and opened their own Madressa.

Dr Ayesha Siddiqa has referred U.S.-based scholars and Pakistani writers on the issue but she ignored the original research by U.S. journalist and author John Cooley who has elaborated the role of seminaries in his book Unholy Wars. That book was first published before 9/11 attacks on New York’s Twin Towers

She should have also cited the book of present foreign minister of Pakistan (technically speaking advisor to Prime Minister on foreign affairs) Sartaj Aziz. The Pushto-speaking Sartaj wrote in “Between Dreams and Realities” that U.S. and its allies set up hundreds of madressa (seminaries) in Afghanistan and Pakistan with Pakistan’s support.

So-called secular, liberal or progressive writers and analysts are no different from seminaries clerics because both tell half truth. Comprehensive truth is: madressa were “States-sponsored seminaries” that are now being discussed acrimoniously. No doubt, they are involved in violent extremism but they pose existential threat to Pakistan and they still don’t bite their foreign masters despite the fact that they bark at foreign masters and bite Pakistanis. Barking dog seldom bites is their policy towards U.S. and her real allies such as Turkey, Saudi Wahhabis, monarchies of Qatar, Bahrain, UAE and Kuwait and over 40 regimes around the world who remained declared allies and abettors of the U.S.-led West in war on terror. In reciprocation, U.S.-led West and allied Arabs and Turkish regimes also took no action against them.

Their real patrons acknowledge their involvement in terrorist attacks but they discuss it percentage-wise with low-percentage from seminaries in terrorism. As a matter of fact, Pakistan failed to hold a magnificent military parade on March 23 Pakistan Day because seminaries pose threat to the security. Now, 41 seminaries are asked to remain closed.

But, all this is an eyewash tactic. She cited southern Punjab’s seminaries and Malik Ishaq co-founder of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and now declared vice president of proscribed ASWJ/Sipah-e-Sahaba hails from southern Punjab. Sipah-e-Sahaba was founded, mother of modern takfiri terrorism in Pakistan, by a Deobandi seminary cleric of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) who Fazl ur Rehman and Sami ul represent in mainstream politics.

Sami ul Haq’s Darul Uloom Haqqania Akora Khattak is a seminary and 4 students of his seminary are arrested by the security officials as terrorists trained fro suicide bombings and they were involved in the plan to assassinate former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Ayesha Siddiqa is correct in implying that punishing clerics and ignoring seminaries would not bear fruit because the cleric who replaces clerics like Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid would continue the unholy mission. But, we all, anti-terrorist people of Pakistan should not trust U.S.-led self-claimed counterterrorism alliance in this war because blaming Pakistani establishment alone for all ills, will not help eliminate terrorism. They need to be advised that problem is the mindset that these timid fanatics are strategic assets for strategic depth and problem is the illusion that they are anti-imperialist fighters. Majority of the seminaries provide strategic depth to the U.S.-led West and allied Arab monarchs providing strategic depth to their foreign masters. Would the great lady Dr Ayesha Siddiqa like to agree with my viewpoint?

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