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Pak plans law to monitor seminaries

Islamabad, Nov. 5 (Reuters): Pakistan today said that it was set to launch a long-delayed plan to monitor Islamic seminaries, which have often been accused of breeding religious extremists.

Interior minister Faisal Saleh Hayat said a new law to monitor and regulate the seminaries, or madarsas, would be put before the cabinet in about a month. “The policy is aimed at monitoring the activities of the madarsas in order to keep a watch on their performance,” Hayat said.

There are thousands of religious schools across Pakistan, mostly run by Islamic groups which strongly oppose any government regulation.

They are popular with the poor, because they offer free education and sometimes a free place to live. The schools supplied thousands of recruits for the hardline Taliban militia in Afghanistan.

Afghan officials say madarsas in Pakistan are still used to recruit militants to fight for the ousted militia.

But Hayat said the vast majority of the madarsas were just educational institutions. They teach mostly Islam, some rudimentary mathematics and other sciences. “We have no problem with them. The problem arises with a few madarsas,” he said.

Pakistan, a key ally of the US-led war on terror, has often been accused of harbouring militants fighting in India and Afghanistan. Before the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US, Islamabad was a key backer of the Taliban, but Hayat said officials had worked around the clock since then to counter militancy.

“We have been burning our midnight oil. Particularly after September 11, the security situation has undergone a radical change,” Hayat said.

“Pakistani security agencies and Pakistani personnel have been deployed and involved round-the-clock in undertaking operations at the western borders as well as within Pakistan.”

Pakistani officials say they have arrested more than 500 al Qaida members and Taliban remnants in the past two years. Most of these were handed over to the US. “We have been successful to a very high degree having apprehended, and to a large extent, neutralised the threat posed by the al Qaida and its affiliates also,” Hayat said.

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