Pakistan denies its takeover of religious schools was due to international pressure

by WorldTribune Staff, March 10, 2019

Pakistan’s government announced that, as part of its crackdown on Islamist militants, it has detained more than 100 people and taken control of 182 religious schools.

Students study the Koran at a religious school run by a religious scholar and leader of the political party Jamiat Ulam-e Islam at Akora Khattak. / EPA

The government of Prime Minister Imran Khan has been under international pressure to subdue militants amid increased tensions with neighboring India, sparked in large part by an attack last month claimed by the Pakistani militant group Jaish-e Muhammad (JeM) which killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police.

The Pakistani Interior Ministry said the move was part of a long-planned drive, not a response to international pressure.

“Law enforcement agencies have taken 121 people under preventive detention as of today,” the ministry said in a March 7 statement. Provincial authorities have “taken in their control management and administration of 182 seminaries (madaris),” the ministry said, referring to religious schools.

“Previous governments were not serious about cracking down on these anti-India groups, because these guys did not pose a serious challenge to Pakistan, so there was no urgency to work on them,” said Fawad Chaudhry, Pakistan’s information minister. “But we have said that now we won’t let even these organizations work here. No militant organizations can work from Pakistan anymore.”

Officials in the Indian government said they would not be convinced that Pakistan was serious until it took “steps which can be verified,” such as closing down the accounts of militants groups, prosecuting leaders implicated in terrorist attacks and liquidating assets, the UK’s Guardian reported.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) noted in a March 7 report that “religious schools, which in many cases are the only form of education available to millions of poor children, are often blamed for radicalizing young Pakistanis.”

Many banned groups such as JeM run religious schools. Another banned organization, Jamaat-ud Dawa (JuD), which calls itself an Islamic charity, is believed to run some 300 religious schools across the country, the RFE/RL report said.

Both JeM and JuD have been designated as terrorist organizations by the United States.

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