Islamabad, Dec. 29 (Reuters): Islamic seminaries in Pakistan vowed today to resist a government move to expel all foreign students by the end of the year, while the government said there would be no extension of the deadline.
President Pervez Musharraf has ordered all foreigners studying at madarsas to leave by December 31 as part of a drive to stamp out terrorism and religious extremism after the July 7 London bombings.
Three of the London suicide bombers were Britons of Pakistani descent and Pakistan issued the expulsion order after revelations that at least one had visited a madarsa in the country.
Mohammad Hanif Jallandari, a senior cleric of the Ittehad-e-Tanzeemaul Madaris, an alliance of madarsas, said around 700 foreign students, out of a total of 1,400, had left Pakistan after the government’s order.
He said madarsas were also not enrolling any more foreign students, but would not respect the deadline.
“The move is based on the wrong assumption that foreign students are involved in illegal activities. They have legal travel documents, valid visas and none of them is wanted or suspected in any criminal or terrorist act. So what is the issue'”
“We want a peaceful settlement of this matter, but if they try to impose something, we will not accept it at all.”
In the southern province of Sindh, authorities had cancelled the visas of all the 92 foreign students still at madarsas there, provincial spokesman Salahuddin Haider said.
“If they do not leave by December 31, we will deport them. But the process will take seven to eight days, as there would be some issues regarding the logistics and availability of flights.”
Pakistan has about 12,000 madarsas, which provide education, shelter and food to boys from poor families. Some are suspected of being breeding grounds for Islamic militants.
Interior minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said 65 per cent of foreign madarsa students had left the country and the government would not extend its deadline.
“The provinces will submit reports on... December 31 and any further action will be based on those,” he said.