JI to oppose amendments to regulate seminaries

PESHAWAR: The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) has decided to oppose the amendments proposed last month by the Pakistan Tehree-e-Insaf (PTI)-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government in the Societies and Registration Act, 1860.

The amendments – tagged as the Societies Registration Act (Amendments), 2017 – are aimed at tightening auditing and registration procedure for seminaries.

“The JI believes the amendments will create hurdles in establishing more seminaries as it includes tough rules for registration and funds audit, and penalties for those are not complying with the proposed rules,” said JI’s K-P chief Mushtaq Ahmad Khan at a press conference here on Monday.

Mushaq said for the last several decades, the governments had been looking at the seminaries through the lens of the west. “Due to this attitude, various laws have been passed to make workings of seminaries difficult,” he added.

He said the K-P government had constituted an Ulama board with representations from all five boards of seminaries and sects in the country. “However, even the Ulama board has not been consulted in drafting the bill,” he added.

The JI provincial chief said that his party would never let the bill pass from the provincial assembly in its current form. “All stakeholders should be properly consulted before drafting and passing of the bill,” he added.

He said currently more than 3.5 million students were studying in seminaries whose education, rent, accommodation and treatment were supported by the seminaries’ administration.

“Thousands of graduates from these seminaries are playing a pivotal role in development of the country and promoting the good cause of Islam,” he added.

He said during the tenure of the last PPP government, the then interior minister Rehman Malik had signed an agreement with seminaries’ representatives to streamline affairs of the religious educational institutions but that agreement – on which all stakeholders had consensus – was yet to be implemented.

Inside the bill

Under the amended Section 21 of the registration act, all seminaries must submit a memorandum of association containing information relating to the institution’s name, address, sect under which the seminary is being run, date of establishment, number of staff, bank account number, and source of income, estimated annual expenditure and details of foreign students, if any.

Furthermore, sub-section 11-A of the act defines offenses and prescribes penalties for violators. “Any person who contravenes any provision of the act shall be punishable with an imprisonment for an extendable term of six months or with a fine of Rs500, 000 or both,” it says.

Similarly, all administrators of seminaries would now be required to submit an affidavit, pledging that their institutions would not provide any education or training based on militancy, terrorism, anti-state activity and sectarian hatred.

The affidavit must also contain an undertaking that the institution was not linked in any way with any banned or proscribed organization, besides promising to stay away from such organisations in future too.

By Izhar Ullah Published in Express Tribune

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