Religious schools in Pakistan agreed Friday to register with the government on condition the process is approved by parliament and they don't have to reveal their sources of funding, a representative of the schools said.
An umbrella group representing 13,500 madrassas met in Islamabad with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to resolve a standoff over a government drive to combat Islamic extremism and make the schools more mainstream.
Pakistan renewed a long-delayed campaign to have official oversight of the seminaries after it was revealed that at least one of the suicide bombers in the July 7 attacks on the London transport system visited a madrassa in Pakistan linked to an outlawed militant group.
Qazi Abdul Rashid, president of the Wafaq-ul-Madaris-il-Arabia for Punjab province, said the schools would register if the National Assembly and all four provincial assemblies approved the order handed down by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. He also said the agreement was conditional on the schools not revealing their sources of funding.
"The prime minister has assured us that the government will address our reservations and objections," he said during a news conference.
No information on income source
However, the schools' refusal to reveal their sources of income — mostly from private donors in Pakistan, but also from other Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia — could raise doubts about the effectiveness of the registration drive.
State-run Associated Press of Pakistan news agency quoted Aziz as welcoming the madrassas' agreement, saying they had displayed a "responsible and constructive attitude."
Asked whether madrassas would register by Dec. 31, Rashid said they would sign up as soon as parliament approved the legislation.
"If the government gets the ordinance approved, we will start registering straight away," he said.
Rashid said the government had agreed it would accept all applications for registration of madrassas without objection, and would not interfere in their "internal matters" and activities, including their curricula."
The government wants the schools to teach a range of subjects, including science, computing and the English language, as well as Islamic studies.