No madrassa cleanup in Pakistan, after all

No step forward, a few steps back

It fits the familiar pattern. Gen Musharraf goes on national television and makes grand promises. And the next day, his sidekicks do their best to dilute those promises and begin a process that renders them ineffective. Musharraf goes on to tell the world that if only he had more support from the international community, he would have done a better job. In many of the world’s important capitals, unfortunately, important people seem to believe him.

That’s because while Musharraf’s grand promises make the headlines, the subsequent process whittling them down does not. He announced madrassa reform soon after 9/11. By 2004, that process had come to a de facto full stop. Now after the London attacks, Musharraf announced the compulsory registration of all madrassas and repatriation of all their foreign students. Now Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, the leader of Musharraf’s own ruling party has taken the first step backwards.

Even as President Pervez Musharraf announced that foreign seminarians would be sent packing from Pakistan, the largest federation of seminaries (Itehad al-Madaris) with which the government was supposed to negotiate a deal, has broken off talks. PML party chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain says he will see to it that foreign seminarians keep coming to Pakistan. The opposition PMLN leader Raja Zafarul Haq has condemned the ban on foreign students. Not to be outdone, the federal interior minister, Aftab Khan Sherpao, has already pried open a crack in General Musharraf’s proclaimed policy by saying that he will expel foreigners only after “investigation”. [DT]

Meanwhile, the General himself has moved on to bigger things — like going on the offensive against Britain.

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