US study downplays Pakistan madrassa threat
Washington: Pakistan desperately needs more
schools to curb extremism but madrassas -- the Islamic
seminaries that have struck fear in the West -- are not the
main problem, a US study has said.
The Brookings Institution, a think-tank, estimated that
fewer than 10 per cent of Pakistani students attended
madrassas and said the number of such militant seminaries was
Rebecca Winthrop, a Brookings fellow and co-author of the
report, yesterday said more Pakistani parents preferred not
sending children to school at all to enrolling them in
"We do need to take the militant madrassa issue very,
very seriously -- in all likelihood they should probably be
shut down," she said at the launch of the report.
But she added: "We should really leave the question of
the role of Islam in the Pakistan education system to the
Pakistanis to debate. This is not something that I think is
fruitful if outsiders -- us here in the US -- start
weighing in on."
The study found that a more urgent priority was to
increase the supply of schools in Pakistan, whose literacy
rate of 56 per cent is among the lowest outside of sub-Saharan
Winthrop quoted one estimate that if Pakistan boosted
primary school enrollment from the present two-thirds of
children to the world average of 87 per cent, the country's
risk of conflict would decrease by three-quarters.
But the study found that Pakistani public schools also
needed major improvement, with many now failing to teach basic
skills and instilling hostility toward Hindus and India.
The US Congress last year approved a five-year, USD 7.5
billion plan aimed at building schools, infrastructure and
democratic institutions in Pakistan.