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Pak to extend seminary registration deadline

Pakistan's government may extend the deadline for the registration of Islamic seminaries beyond Dec 31.

world Updated: Dec 31, 2005 18:27 IST

Pakistan's government may extend the deadline for the registration of Islamic seminaries, which was to expire Saturday, a media report said.

President Pervez Musharraf had set December 31 as the deadline for the registration of over 13,000 seminaries, following a crackdown against extremists in late July. He also directed them to expel foreigners studying in these schools.

The July operation came days after British investigators named at least two Pakistan-origin Britons for their involvement in the London bomb attacks.

"The government will extend the deadline following a formal request from the Ittehad Tanzimat Madaris Deeniya (ITMD), an umbrella organisation representing all Islamic seminaries or madaris," the Daily Times Saturday quoted Vakil Ahmed Khan, a senior Pakistani religious affairs ministry official, as saying.

Registration of seminaries and expulsion of foreign students became explosive issues after most of the schools - supported by the religio-political alliance, the Muttahida Majlise Amal (MMA) - declined to submit to what they called "intrusive registration procedures".

The registration process requires the seminaries to reveal their sources of financing, be ready for annual audits, and refrain from preaching hate.

Many moderate seminaries registered themselves after the government made some changes in the registration law, but most of the schools still have reservations about the law.

Khan said it has been decided that the ITMD would appoint coordinators for the registration of the seminaries in order to carry forward the process in an amicable manner.

He said that up to 2,400 seminaries had been registered since the promulgation of the amended registration law in August this year.

Meanwhile, Qari Hanif Jullandhry, convener of the ITMD, told the newspaper that the registration process could be affected if the government expels foreigners studying in the seminaries.

Jullandhry's remarks came a day after Pakistani interior minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao told the media here that his government would not cancel the visas of foreign students but would like them to return to their countries as soon as possible.

The minister added that 65 per cent of the roughly 1,800 foreign students have already left Pakistan.