Inside the Pakistani madrasa

 Minapin village, Gilgit, Pakistan 2017

Madrasas provide free religious education, boarding and lodging and are essentially schools for the poor. Over 2.5 million children are studying in 30,000 madrassas across the Pakistan. It can be a secular, vocational, religious or technical school. In general, however, madrassas offer religious-based instruction focusing on the Quran and Islamic texts at both the primary and secondary levels.

The Pakistani government, mainly under pressure from the international community, has continuously been making efforts to regulate madrassas – some of them are accused of promoting radical ideologies and having links with terrorist networks – and bring them under the government’s control. Many of their alumni were accused of acting at the behest of extremist organizations, blamed for attacking the U.S. forces in Afghanistan and also fighting Indian forces in Kashmir.

Madrasas have a long history in Pakistan and in Muslim societies generally. They serve socially important purposes, and it is reasonable for a government to seek to modernise and adapt rather than eliminate them.