Musharraf warns Pakistan Islamic schools
Pakistan's president warned Islamic seminaries Monday against sheltering terrorists, and the government threatened to close religious schools unless they register with authorities by the end of the year, reported AP.
President Gen. Pervez Musharraf praised madrassas, or Islamic schools, for helping about 1 million of the poorest children in Pakistan, and said the government would encourage the schools to teach modern subjects like science and technology.
"However, we will not let any madrassa to harbor terrorists or teach extremism and militancy," the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan news agency quoted Musharraf as saying at a conference on terrorism in the capital of Islamabad.
There are estimated to be more than 10,000 madrassas in Pakistan, long considered a breeding grounds for militants.
In recent weeks, Musharraf has renewed his long-standing demand for the schools to register with the government, and has demanded the expulsion of 1,400 foreign students ¡ª following reports that at least one of the suspects in the deadly July 7 bombings in London may have visited a madrassa in Pakistan.
Musharraf, a key U.S. ally in the war against terrorism, accused some schools of "spawning hatred, militancy" and said Pakistan had cracked down on a number of madrassas in its tribal regions bordering Afghanistan that had harbored terrorists.
"We will do the same in our cities," he said.
Meanwhile, Religious Affairs Minister Ijazul Haq said the Islamic seminaries have until Dec. 31 to register or face closure.
"Those madrassas that will not register by Dec. 31 ... will be closed," Haq told Pakistan's Geo television network in an interview broadcast Monday. "This is absolutely categoric."
The government recently launched a registration campaign, handing out forms to seminaries, requesting information such as students' and teachers' names.
However, administrators of 250 Islamic seminaries vowed last week that they will not register, fearing the government will also make them disclose their sources of income.
Madrassas are mostly funded through private donations from inside Pakistan, but some also get money from other Islamic countries.