Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s “jihad against extremism” hasn’t started out well. The International Crisis Group has found that despite his reform efforts, Islamic schools in Pakistan are still breeding grounds for Islamic radicalism. This from the ICG website, with thanks to Nicolei:
President Pervez Musharraf’s promise to drive extremism from Pakistan’s madrasas, or Islamic schools, remains unfulfilled. Today, two years after he promised his sweeping reforms, the jihadi madrasa remains the key breeding ground for radical Islamist ideology and the recruitment centre for terrorist jihadi networks.
The International Crisis Group’s latest report, Unfulfilled Promises: Pakistan’s Failure to Tackle Extremism, examines Pakistan’s unreformed madrasa system and the expanding power of Islamist extremists. The report states that the failure to curb rising extremism in Pakistan stems directly from the military government’s own unwillingness to act against its political allies among the Islamist groups.
“Having co-opted the religious parties to gain constitutional cover for his military rule, Musharraf is highly reliant on the religious right for his regime’s survival”, says Samina Ahmed, ICG”s South Asia Project Director. “It’s no surprise, then, that he hasn’t intruded on the mullahs” turf by reforming the madrasa system in any significant way”.
“Religious right.” Nice phrase. Unfortunately for the analogy, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson et al aren’t calling for anyone to be murdered. The same cannot be said of the “right-wing” imams in Pakistan.
In January 2002, Musharraf publicly promised a list of measures to tackle extremism, including bringing the madrasas into the mainstream. The government pledged to register all madrasas, to have them adopt a government-approved curriculum by the end of 2002, and to stop their misuse for preaching political and religious intolerance.
The international community welcomed Musharraf’s promise to stem jihadi ideology, but two years on, the lack of results is clear. To date, no presidential ordinance to regulate madrasas has been promulgated; in fact, the government openly assures the clergy that it will not interfere in the madrasas” affairs. Most madrasas in Pakistan remain unregistered and their sources of funding remain unregulated.
The pledge to have government-prescribed curricula at all madrasas similarly remains unfulfilled: no national curriculum has been developed. Three “model madrasas” teaching government-approved coursework have been established, but together these three schools have only about 300 students, while 1.5 million students attend unregulated madrasas.
Most critically, religious extremists continue to use madrasas and mosques to propagate their extremist Islamic agenda, including their anti-American and pro-Taliban campaign.
Pakistan’s failure to close jihadi madrasas and to crack down on jihadi networks has resulted in a resurgence of domestic extremism and sectarian violence, including two assassination attempts against Musharraf himself in December 2003. Government inaction continues to pose a threat to domestic, regional and international security.
“Musharraf’s priority has never been eradicating Islamic extremism but rather the legitimisation and consolidation of his military rule”, says Robert Templer, Director of Asia Program at ICG. “For that, he depends on the religious right. If the U.S. and others continue to restrict their pressure on Musharraf to verbal demarches, the rise of extremism in Pakistan will continue unchecked”.