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Why are religious scholars opposing Waqf Amlak Act 2020?

Religious scholars and representatives of five education boards of seminaries, Wafaqul Mad­aris, on Saturday rejected the Waqf Amlak Act 2020 and urged the government to repeal it while announcing that they would launch a protest from Rawalpindi from March 1.

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Religious scholars and representatives of five education boards of seminaries, Wafaqul Mad­aris, on Saturday rejected the Waqf Amlak Act 2020 and urged the government to repeal it while announcing that they would launch a protest from Rawalpindi from March 1. They threatened to stage a sit-in in front of Parliament House if their demands are not met.

They also criticized the government act to form new education boards for seminaries saying that it was an attempt to control the seminaries and its students.

The issues were raised at a joint press conference addressed by JUI-F Punjab chapter Amir Attique-ur-Rehman, Nazim of Wafaqul Madaris Punjab Qazi Abdul Rashid, Jamiat Ahl-i-Hadith leader Maulana Syed Atiq-ur-Rehman Shah, Maulana Abdul Rahim Babar, Maulana Zahoor Alvi and others at Jamia Islamia.

Dr Attique-ur-Rehman said the scholars of different schools of thought, lea­ders of religious parties and representatives of five boards of education of seminaries had devised a joint strategy to pro­test against the Waqf Am­lak Act 2020 and new edu­cation boards for seminaries.

Qazi Abdul Rashid said that in a meeting held earlier in the day all education boa­rds of seminaries had dec­ided to launch a movement for the protection of mos­ques and seminaries. “We will not leave any stone unturned till the Waqf Amlak Act is repealed,” he said. Earlier, a declaration on “protection of mosques and seminaries” was read out.

According to the bill, Waqf property means property of any kind permanently dedicated by a person professing Islam for any purpose recognised by Islam as religious, pious or charitable, but does not include property of any Waqf such as is described in section 3 of the Mussalman Waqf Validating Act.

In addition, the bill states that the property permanently dedicated for the purposes of a mosque, Takia, Khankah, Dargah or other shrines shall be deemed to be a Waqf property. And, the bill states, relief of the poor and the orphans, education, workshop, medical relief, maintenance or shrines and the advancement of any other object of charitable, religious or pious nature or of general public utility shall be deemed to be charitable purposes.

The bill, which was passed by the National Assembly in the last year, proposes imprisonment for a term which may not exceed from five years and fine up to Rs25 million for anyone who obstructs or offers any resistance to or impedes or otherwise interferes with the authorities of the officials concerned.

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The government is attempting to regularize religious seminaries across the country. Experts believe that Pakistani authorities must take swift action against some religious seminaries promoting extremism.

“Books of war”

Nadeem Farooq Paracha recently noted in an article that the books which promoted selective interpretation of Islam were neither written nor published in Pakistan. “An active member of one of the charity organisations about the books (Urdu textbooks that were being taught to students between the ages of eight and 12.), he told me the tomes were not originally published in Pakistan. To my astonishment, the books in question were actually reprints of textbooks that were first authored and printed in the US in the early and mid-1980s. They were then shipped to Pakistan, where they were distributed to various schools and madressahs countrywide and to madressahs and schools in the villages of Afghanistan near the Pak-Afghan border,” he wrote.

He further states that “this was done during the anti-Soviet insurgency in Afghanistan between 1980 and 1988. Afghan and Arab insurgents (the mujahideen) were stationed in Pakistan and sustained by financial aid and support from the US and Saudi Arabia”.

Moreover, in the March 23, 2002 issue of the Washington Post, Joe Stephens and David B. Ottaway write that, during the insurgency, Ronald Reagan’s government spent millions on the printing of textbooks (in Pashto, Dari and Urdu) “filled with violent images and militant teachings, as part of covert attempts to spur resistance to the Soviet occupation.” These books were sent to Pakistan with the billions of dollars’ worth of “aid” that Pakistan received from the US to facilitate the insurgency.

Changes in Curriculum

Recently, in a major development, Muttahida Ulema Board Punjab has recommended a ban on books authored by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and Ahmadi leaders.

According to local media reports, Muttahida Ulema Board Punjab Chairman Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi said that the representatives of Muttahida Ulema Board Punjab decided unanimously on Monday to ban five books, including manifesto of banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, monthly journal of Pir Afzal Qadri, ‘Awaz Ahl-e-Sunnah’, ‘Kashtiy-e-Noah’ and other five books collectively for having hateful and objectionable content.

Mr. Ashrafi also said that Muttahida Ulema Board Punjab has always played its due role in countering terrorism and menace of extremism from Pakistan.

He also informed the media that the central board meeting of Muttahida Ulema Board Punjab has decided to ban a book of Pir Afzal Qadri ‘Monthly Awaz-e-Ahl-e-Sunnah’, ‘Kashti-e-Nuh’ of Mirza Ghulam Ahmed Qadyani. The meeting further recommended filing case against the publisher of this book under section 295/C.

Pir Afzal Qadri is former chief of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA) and a firebrand speaker who along with Khadim Hussain Rizvi was taken into custody for using abusive language against the judiciary and threatening judges of the superior courts after the verdict of Ms. Asia Bibi.

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But the bigger question is will the government be able to reform seminaries since some political parties in Pakistan enjoy unconditional submission of students studying there.