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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 August, 2005, 17:30 GMT 18:30 UK
Madrassas ask for foreign support
Jamia Binoria
Many foreign students may go to India to complete their studies
One of Pakistan's largest madrassas, or religious institutions, has turned to foreign diplomats in a bid to overturn a recent ban on foreign students.

The head of Karachi's Jamia Binoria school told the BBC news website that "all foreign diplomats in Pakistan" had been invited to visit the schools.

The schools want President Musharraf to rethink his ban on foreign students.

Madrassas became a centre of attention after reports that a London bomber had studied in one of them.

Jamia Binoria has over 100 foreign students, many from Europe and the US.

"We will do whatever we can to help them complete their education," the school's Mufti Naeem told the BBC.

"But if the government says its decision is final, there is not much we can do."

Madrassa leaders say they have also contacted one of Pakistan's top lawyers, Sharifuddin Pirzada, to explore the possibility of challenging the government's expulsion decision in the Supreme Court.

Reeling

Mufti Naeem said foreign students were still reeling from the impact of the government's decision.

"These last few days have been like a living hell for us," he said.

"We spend our days answering calls from the media and our nights answering calls from anxious parents in Western countries wanting to know what the future holds for their children."

Mufti Naeem said the students were "absolutely determined" not to abandon their studies.

He said his greatest fear was that many of them may now go to India to complete their studies.

"What impression is this going to give about Pakistan?" he asked. "Do we want Muslims to go to India instead of Pakistan to study Islam?"

Chartered plane

As head of Jamia Binoria Alamiya, which is an international religious institution, Mufti Naeemi is one of the most influential madrassa leaders in Pakistan.

Madrassa students playing cricket
The government want foreign students out as soon as possible

Jamia Binoria is said to have had the highest enrolment of foreign students before their influx dropped following the September 11 attacks on the US.

It currently has 3,000 male and 500 female students.

"We have students from the US, Canada, UK, France, Germany and many other Western countries as well as those from the Far East," said Mufti Naeemi.

All madrassa leaders in Sindh whose seminaries admit foreign students were called for a meeting with the Sindh home secretary, Brig (Retd) Ghulam Mohtarim.

"He said the government wanted all foreign students out as soon as possible," one of the participants of the meeting told the BBC.

"From the way he was talking, it seemed as if the government wanted these students out of the madrassas within 24 hours."

Madrassa leaders were given a form on which they are required to fill out personal details of each one of their students by Thursday.

Sources said that the government had offered to charter a plane to fly these students back to their respective countries.


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