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Saturday, 12 January, 2002, 16:23 GMT
Pakistan to regulate religious schools
Stundents at madrassah in Lahore
The new policy will bring students into the mainstream
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has outlined a new policy to reform religious schools or madrassahs which are perceived to encourage militancy.

In a speech, seen by many as attempting to defuse the tension with neighbouring India, General Musharraf said these schools had become breeding grounds for intolerance and hatred.

Pervez Musharraf
Musharraf: Madrassahs must become part of the mainstream
A "new madrassah strategy" is being introduced in Pakistan to regulate the functioning of the schools and bring their students into the mainstream.

The president also strongly criticised the country's Islamist leaders, who he said were misleading Pakistanis and turning mosques into breeding grounds of sectarian violence.

He outlined several new measures governing the regulation of mosques and madrassahs:

  • all mosques have to be registered by 23 March
  • all students have to be listed
  • foreign students, teachers to show valid documents by 23 March or face deportation
  • use of loudspeakers will be limited.

In his speech, Pakistan's leader said the original aims of the madrassahs were noble because they provided free education for poor students - a welfare system which no non-governmental organisation could match.

He added that he had fought to combat negative stereotypes of these schools in his speeches in the West.

Now, these schools must reform their curriculum to include English, Pakistan studies and science and technology to enable their students to enter university and compete for jobs, said General Musharraf.

Extremism

He also came down heavily on religious leaders running these institutions, many pushing their own, narrow political agenda.

"Pakistanis are fed up with religious extremism," he said.

And he severely criticised those few religious scholars who, he said, no respect for humanity.

Within Pakistan itself, he said religious intolerance had led to a situation where "we started slaughtering each other in mosques, the houses of God".

These acts, as well as violent religious demonstrations, had led to a negative international image for Pakistan which was being seen as an intolerant and "medieval" nation.

Ahead of his speech, Pakistani police carried out raids across religious schools and mosques and arrested more than 200 activists.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Frances Harrison
"It is a very difficult tight-rope that (Musharraf) is walking"
See also:

07 Jan 02 | South Asia
Blair urges Kashmir dialogue
07 Jan 02 | South Asia
Analysis: Musharraf on a tightrope
06 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Blair handles diplomacy hazards
07 Jan 02 | South Asia
Blair urges support for Afghanistan
04 Jan 02 | Americas
Powell urges Pakistan to do more
03 Jan 02 | South Asia
Musharraf seeks China's backing
07 Jan 02 | South Asia
War moves spread fear on border
08 Jan 02 | South Asia
US hope on Kashmir crisis
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