Pakistan Gives Foreign Students 'a Break'

Pakistan backtracked Friday, December 30, on a demand ordering all foreign students attending madrassahs to leave the country by year-end, urging foreign students remaining to go "as soon as possible".

Pakistan Gives Foreign Students 'a Break'

President Pervez Musharraf had ordered foreign students studying in Pakistani madrassahs leave the country by December 31, following the July 7 terrorist attacks in London.

Around 700 foreign students, out of a total of 1,400, have since left the country, but hundreds remain, according to Pakistani officials.

"As such, there is no deadline for them to leave, but we want them to go back to their countries as soon as possible," Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao told Reuters Friday.

He, however, said that the remaining foreign students might face "some administrative issues" in leaving the country by Saturday.

The Pakistani official ruled out forced deportation of foreign students who failed to meet the deadline.

"What action can we take against those students? The managements of the madrassahs are responsible to arrange departures of their students and we are pushing them to help us in implementing our decision."

On Thursday, Sherpao had said that the deadline would not be relaxed.

There are around 12,000 madrassahs in Pakistan, often offering free religious education and board for more than one million Pakistani children, especially in areas neglected by state education services.

The number of foreign students attending madrassahs in Pakistan has already fallen sharply since the government imposed tougher visa restrictions after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

Madrassahs Resist

Pakistani students attend a class at a Karachi Madrasah. (Reuters)

Pakistani madrassahs have vowed to resist the government order to expel all foreign students by the end of the year, saying they would resist an deportations of the students.

"Not one foreign student wants to go back," Maulana Ghulam Rasool, a senior leader at the Ittehad-e-Tanzeemaul Madaris, (the Alliance of Organizations of Religious Schools), told Reuters.

"They will give themselves up for arrest if the government uses force."

Rasool said the government decision to expel the students was aimed at "pleasing European countries and the United States".

"These students should be given a chance to complete their studies, it's their basic right," he said.

Peaceful Settlement

Authorities in the southern province of Sindh say they have cancelled the visas of 92 foreign students still at madrassahs there.

Sindh government spokesman Salahuddin Haider said foreign students might take seven to eight days to leave.

"They need flights to go back and it will take some time."

Mohammad Hanif Jallandari said the government decision was based on wrong grounds, urging a peaceful settlement of the issue.

"The move is based on wrong assumption that foreign students are involved in illegal activities. They have legal travel documents, valid visas and none of them is wanted or suspected in any criminal or terrorist act. So what is the issue?"

"We want a peaceful settlement of this matter, but if they try to impose something, we will not accept it at all."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16