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First, it was KP and now the Punjab government has also decided to make education of Quran with Urdu translation for the Muslim students mandatory from class one to class twelve.

The education would be given in phases: starting from Quran taught in Arabic at primary level, and then given comprehensive details of Islamic teachings at secondary level. Quranic verses with Urdu translations would be studied at higher secondary level.

Read more: KP government introduces a Muslim Board to overview legislation, Education

In Punjab, initially it was floated that this scheme will first be implemented in one district – Bhawalpur — from next academic year; and then the province would expand to include other districts after seeing the result. But apparently under pressure from the KP government’s move Punjab has also made the initiative province wide.

While chairing a session at Lahore’s Children Library, PMLN’s provincial leader Rana Mashhood Ahmed Khan directed the education authorities to create a syllabus according to Islamic injunctions.

He said that this step would strengthen behaviour and attitude of the students according to the teachings of Islam. No discussion took place regarding the current ethics displayed by the country’s elite. From Rana Mashood’s assertion it can be assumed that they did not get Islamic instruction as children.

Earlier, on 18th January, 2016, the KP government announced that it would make Quran studies compulsory for children. This will be taught to children also from classes one to twelve in all schools throughout the province from this year’s new academic session.

PTI government faces hostility of Maulana Fazal ur Rehman, head of his own faction of JUI(F). Maulana often couches his criticism of Imran Khan and PTI in religious terms. To counter Maulana Fazal ur Rehman, PTI is busy engaging other religious political formations of KP, like Maulana Sami ul Haq.

The education would be given in phase starting from Quran taught in Arabic at primary level, and then given comprehensive details of Islamic incidents at secondary level.

The federal government is currently also in the process of preparing to implement this in federal schools but is waiting for the parliament to discuss the bill. With regard to the Urdu translation of the Holy Quran to be taught under this scheme, the Education Ministry led by Minister of State Balighur Rehman, was in consultation with different religious scholars and ulema bodies, and the Council of Islamic Ideology has already approved a version, acceptable to all.

This is an interesting move that is almost synchronized across the provinces.  Apparently this seems to be catering for the religious vote banks with upcoming elections in mind. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s first directly elected Prime Minister in 1973 also undertook initiatives to console the religious parties and groups by declaring Ahmedis as non-muslims, and later banning alcohol and declaring Friday as holiday.

Bhutto was himself westernized and fiercely secular; his actions were considered part of political bargain. However subsequent Nizame-e-Mustafa movement of PNA and Islamization of Zia that followed demonstrates that such “political bargains” have long term consequences.

Quran has been traditionally taught to children in Pakistan, privately under tutelage of parents and maulvis. It was not until President Zia in the 1980’s that Islamiat came to be taught in schools. In late seventies and early eighties recitation of Quran had marks allotted in examination in public schools – a practice that gradually petered out.

This is an interesting move that is happening across the provinces which seems to be catering for the religious vote banks with upcoming elections.

Now this week, 25 religious parties and groups that form Milli Yakjehti Council, announced that they would launch a protest movement from Friday for release of Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed and for the protection of Islamic laws in the country. The federal and Punjab governments appear be acting under two kinds of compulsions: One attempting to please India and United States on foreign policy issues; Second, trying to court religious lobbies to contain the reaction of its foreign policy actions. It has not worked in the past; what will happen in future remains to be seen.

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