In an unusual move, Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has criticised the role of mushrooming madrassas, which mostly taught only Islamic theology, underlining the need to revisit the religious schools concept in the Muslim majority country. “I am not against madrassas, but we have lost the essence of madrassas,” the Nation newspaper quoted the powerful general telling a youth conference in Quetta, capital of the restive Balochistan province, stressing the need to revisit the religious schools concept. Speaking at a seminar on ‘Human resource development — opportunities and challenges’ yesterday, he noted that there were more religious seminaries established in Balochistan than the modern and quality schools during the past four decades. “Only religious education is being imparted to the students at all the seminaries and thus the students educated from the seminaries are left behind in the race for development,” he was quoted as saying by The Express Tribune. “We need to look at and revisit the concept of madrassas…We need to give them a worldly education,” he was quoted as saying.
However, a brief press release by the military’s media wing did not contain much of his comments on madrassas, a sensitive subject. Bajwa also commented on the Army’s role in Pakistan. The Army enjoys considerable influence over major policy decisions in Pakistan. He said the Army is a state institution meant to serve the nation. “Army shall continue to perform its role while national security and development remains a national obligation for all state institutions,” the Inter Service Public Relations quoted him as saying.
He also said that he believes in democracy and even more so in the democratic values of selfless service and supremacy of moral authority. “All of us have a duty to the nation,” he emphasised. The Army chief’s comments are considered significant as Pakistan, which has seen many military coups and apprehensions have been expressed by different quarters about his intentions, especially after the disqualification of ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who believes that army is behind his ouster by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case.