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PIPS engages madrassa students in its campaign for peace

Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) organized two-day activities in Islamabad on November 5-6 to bring madrassa students into interaction with other Pakistani youths educated form mainstream educational institutions, create awareness among madrassa students and teachers about modern political thought and systems, and encourage and award prizes to the position holder madrassa graduates. The activities were part of a PIPS initiative “Engaging religious scholars and madrassa students to promote harmonious values in society,” which was launched in first quarter of 2011.

On the first day a training workshop was held with madrassa students and teachers to introduce them to functioning of a modern state and its institutions and the challenges facing education system in Pakistan. Renowned scholars and educationists delivered lectures on different aspects of the subject and engaged the participants in a debate. Next day, a dialogue was held between students of different madrassas and universities on the topic of “The emerging challenges in Pakistan and the role of the youth” in collaboration with the Islamabad-based Khudi organization. The dialogue followed a prize distribution ceremony for position holder madrassa graduates of all five madrassa educational boards in Pakistan. Federal Minister for Information Qamar Zaman Kaira distributed prizes among students in presence of leading religious scholars belonging to all schools of thought.

1-Training Workshop with Madrassa Students
The workshop was held with distinguished students of five madrassa boards associated with Ittihad Tanzeemat-e-MadaarisPakistan, religious scholars belonging to all Islamic schools of thought and students of religious seminaries in Islamabad. In the first session of training workshop, Professor Muhammad Akhlaq Khan, senior researcher at Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services, and Zafarullah Khan, Chief Executive Civic Education Center, Islamabad delivered their lectures on “The system of government in Pakistan: how the Parliament works.”

Professor Akhlaq highlighted the role of Parliament by quoting the following excerpt from Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s speech on August 11, 1947 to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan: “remember that you are now a sovereign legislative body and you have got all the powers. It, therefore, places on you the gravest responsibility as to how you should take your decisions. The first observation that I would like to make is this: You will no doubt agree with me that the first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the State.”

Zafarullah Khan discussed the importance of constitution and laws in a state and said that the constitution of Pakistan gives us all the basic civil and human rights and every citizen should know his rights which the state has given to him because he is in an agreement with the state. He stressed that the democratic system is the key element in the development of the country. Under the parliamentary system, the government is responsible for the distribution of resources on equal basis to all the provinces. Responding to a question from a student about the Islamic system and democracy Zafarullah Khan said democracy is the method of selection and if you want Islamic system or Khilafah, you should have to choose a method or way to implement this system and democracy is one such method.

Raza Rumi, director (Policy and Program) at Jinnah Institute, Islamabad delivered his lecture on “Functions of a state and good governance” in the second session of the workshop. He said a state has three pillars; executive, legislative and judiciary. Every pillar has its role to run the state. It is responsibility of the state to provide basic facilities of life to its citizens including education, health and social services. He highlighted the role of local government system in addressing the problems of a common man at a local level.

The third session was focused on “Education system in Pakistan: challenges & intellectual crisis.” Renowned TV anchorperson and religious scholar Khurshid Nadeem elaborated the importance of education and knowledge and said that our education system provides degrees but not knowledge. He said education and learning are never ending processes. He argued that religious education is helpful in understanding the purpose of life but Muslims are backward because they did not concentrate on the materialistic demands of life.

Dilating upon the problems of religious education, deputy director Al-Sharia Academy, Gujranwala Maulana Ammar Khan Nasir said there is no any best example of religious education that we have to follow for identifying the problems of religious education at present. The basic aim of the religious education is that the people should have knowledge to spend their lives according to the path which was ordained by Allah and His Messenger (pbuh). He recommended that we should directly connect with Quran and Sunnah to get our religious education; the other sources, research and interpretation about religion and its education can help us in further education. He said Pakistan’s religious circles should carry out research on the modern state system and inform their followers how they can work for their religion in this system. Dr. Khadim Hussain, director Bacha Khan Educational Trust, Peshawar highlighted the goals and objectives of education. He said we first try to understand what our curriculum tells us about the humankind and world. If it teaches hatred then there is no use of such education. He emphasized that we should change the techniques of education and should not impose certain beliefs on students. He said students have a great role in education and each and every skill is part of education.

After the training workshop the student visited some famous places in Islamabad city.

2-Dialogue between Students of Madrassas and Universities
PIPS collaborated with Khudi, an Islamabad based organization, to hold a dialogue between madrassa and university students on “The emerging challenges in Pakistan and the role of the youth” on the second day of activities. The purpose of the dialogue was to develop interaction between students of madrassas and public educational institutions. The students discussed at length the core issues currently faced by the country and gave their points of view on them. Most of them agreed that terrorism, worsening law and order situation, extremism, Balochistan issue, poor education system, sectarianism, division among people on ethnic, social and political levels, and corruption are the major problems in the country that need to be addressed immediately. However on some issues like factors and remedies of terrorism and sectarianism students held different opinions. But they recognized the issues very well and determined to play their role to compete these challenges.

3-Prize Distribution Ceremony for Position Holder Madrassa Graduates
The prize distribution ceremony for position-holders of different madrassa boards graduated in 2012 was the significant event of PIPS engagement with madrassa students and it was the second consecutive year that the institute had organized this ceremony. Federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira presided over the prize distribution ceremony held on second day of the activities. The position holder students of all madrassa boards associated with Ittihad Tanzeemat-e-Madaaris were awarded prizes. The prize distribution ceremony manifested a unique example of sectarian harmony particularly due to the manner distribution was managed. Students of each madrassa board received prizes from head of some other madrassa board. For an instance position holders of Wafaqul Madaaris Al-Arabia were given prizes by head of Wafaqul Madaaris al-Shia Allama Niaz Hussain Naqvi and vice versa.

Mr. Qamar Zaman Kaira congratulated the award winning students and said that it is necessary to obtain both formal and religious education in order to cope with the challenges of the world. Qamar Zaman Kaira said that Pakistan is a tolerant society but illiteracy and poor education have contributed enough to distribute intolerance in Pakistan. We have left dialogue and focused on gun power to solve all our problems. He said Pakistan has lost more than 40,000 lives in the war on terror and is forced to use its optimum resources to eradicate this menace instead of spending them on education and creating diversity.

Director PIPS Muhammad Amir Rana said in his introductory speech that the purpose of this activity is to spread and enhance dialogue and interaction to remove the prevailing confusions and misperceptions among different segments of society about one another. By organizing dialogue among liberal and religious classes we can practically remove misconceptions and pave a way to develop pluralistic society based on the principles of harmony, co-existence and tolerance.

Addressing the students Qazi Abdul Rasheed, central deputy secretary Wafaqul Madaris Al-Arabia, said that such kind of workshops and trainings for the religious seminaries are worth mentioning as the state organizes such events only for university students and not for religious students. He said religious seminaries are struggling to put an end to sectarian divisions in our society, which is really a hard task and needs cohesive efforts.

Qari Yaseen Zafar, secretary general Wafaqul Madaaris Al-Salafia, encouraged the fact that some civil society groups held the flag to educate society with Islamic norms, which he said is an ultimate responsibility of the state. He said such trainings by civil society organizations in current situations are the signs of unity that Muslims are not divided and they want unity and discipline in every aspect of life.

Allama Niaz Hussain Naqvi, deputy head of Wafaqul Madaaris Al-Shia, said that the Quran stresses upon the importance of education. He said it is the responsibility of Ulema (religious scholars) to remove such confusions from society which lead to sectarian divide and violence that is possible only through interaction with each other and engaging in dialogue.

Maulana Ghulam Muhammad Sialwi, chairman Quran Board Punjabsaid separating state affairs from Islam is not the solution of problems faced by Pakistan. Islam is based on liberal principles and all other systems spread chaos in society.

Maulana Attaullah Shahab, advisor to Prime Minister, said our religious scholars, academicians and intellectuals should highlight the values of co-existence and beauty of diversity before people.