- The Washington Times - Monday, December 3, 2001

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (UPI) Pakistan has decided to close down hundreds of Muslim seminaries that provide military training to their students.
Officials at the Ministry for Religious Affairs said in an interview that the federal government had ordered all four provincial governments in Pakistan to shut the schools, also known as madrassas.
The ministry estimates that between 25,000 and 35,000 madrassas exist in Pakistan. Most of them are funded by rich Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and teach an orthodox version of Islam.
While the majority of these madrassas provide education to poor children who cannot afford to go to regular schools, some of the madrassas also are involved in militant politics. Most of the Taliban leaders in Afghanistan had studied at these madrassas in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Pakistani officials said on Friday they are particularly concerned about two seminaries that, according to them, have been involved with the Taliban.
The more prominent of the two is the madrassa at Akora Khattak, a town in the North West Frontier Province. It is run by a Muslim scholar called Maulavi Samiul Huq who enjoys close personal relations with Mullah Mohammed Omar and other Taliban leaders.
The other madrassa is in a small town, Muridke, in central Punjab province. Students here receive military training, and some them have gone to Afghanistan for further training. Several pupils from this seminary were killed when U.S. warplanes bombed a Taliban hostel in Kabul last month.
Acting on the instructions of the federal government, police in the four provinces have arrested several dozen religious activists.
Prominent among them is Maulana Fazlur Rahman, who openly proclaimed links with Osama bin Laden, the chief suspect in the September 11 terror attacks in the United States.
Police also are holding another religious leader, Kazi Hussain Ahmed, who had urged the military to topple President Pervez Musharraf for supporting the U.S. military action in Afghanistan.
Last month, the government also announced steps to streamline the madrassa system of education, ordering all seminaries to get their curricula approved by federal authorities.

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