12/29/2005, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Madrassas refuse to expel foreign students

The decision, taken by the president in the wake of the London bomb attacks, should be carried out by the end of December. There may be an extension but the government is determined to push ahead.

Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Pakistan's Koranic schools have no intention of obeying President Pervez Musharraff's order to expel foreign students. The Ittehad-e-Tanzeemaul Madaris, a body which represents religious schools in the country, refuses to complete expulsion of foreigners by the end of the year, as ordered by Musharraf after the July bomb attacks in Great Britain. When it was revealed that one of the suicide bombers in London had attended a religious school in Pakistan, the president ordered that an estimated 1,400 foreigners enrolled in madrassas (Koranic schools) must leave the country.

Hanif Jallandari, head of the Ittehad-e-Tanzeemaul Madaris, said the government order would not be obeyed because it was "illegal, discriminatory and anti-Islamic". He said: "The foreign students have legal documents. None of them is wanted in any criminal or terrorist act. So why should they leave?"

The government said yesterday it was determined to pursue the expulsions. According to Islamabad, the ban on foreigners had already been accepted by the Pakistani madrassas in September.

Information released by the Ittehad-e-Tanzeemaul Madaris reveals that so far,

about 700 foreign students have left, leaving about another 700 still in the religious schools. The Interior Minister said about 65% of foreign students had so far been deported.

On 1 January, the madrassas will hold a meeting in the capital. The aim is to garner consensus from political and religious parties against the provision. Jallandri threatened to launch a nationwide public mobilisation campaign if the government did not withdraw its decree.

The Interior Minister, Aftab Sherpao, the government might have to push back the deadline by a few days but it was determined to enact the decree.

Soon after the bomb attacks on 7 July, Musharraf also ordered the official registration of all madrassas by the end of 2005. Even in this case, an undetermined extension will be necessary: to date, only 5,000 out of 12,000 Koranic schools have fulfilled this obligation.

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