World Watch: Pakistan's Islamic schools resist government scrutiny
KARACHI, PakistanPakistan's 15,000 madrasahs, the Islamic seminaries viewed by critics as breeding ground for extremists, are defying President Pervez Musharraf's antiterrorism crackdown by resisting a new requirement to register with the government.
So far, not a single madrasah has complied with the new registration requirement that took effect last month, according to sources in Pakistan's Ministry of Religious Affairs. Hundreds of madrasahs have refused to even receive the registration form, sources say.
Musharraf, under pressure from the United States and European nations to deal with the problem of radical madrasahs, has ordered the religious schools to expel an estimated 1,400 foreign students and has threatened to close schools that fail to comply with the new regulations by the end of the year.
The registration forms request information about students and teachers and about school finances. Madrasah leaders had expressed particular opposition to the government asking about their sources of income, and there are press reports that the government, to avoid a confrontation with religious authorities, may ease its requirements to require only very basic financial statements.
New madrasah regulations also ban publication, distribution, and teaching of any sectarian or terrorism-related materials.