Pakistan seminaries resist expulsion of foreign students

Pakistan’s Islamic schools today said they would resist any effort by police to round up their foreign students – even as the government backed away from its threat to do so unless the students leave Pakistan by tomorrow.

The estimated 13,500 schools, known as madrassas, have long been regarded as a recruiting ground for Islamic militants.

Three of the four suicide bombers who killed more than 50 people on London’s transport system in July were of Pakistani origin, and at least one visited a madrassa with known militant links.

After the bombings, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf vowed to deport foreign madrassa students. His government also warned that madrassas would be closed unless they registered with authorities by the year’s end.

Last week, the Interior Ministry cranked up the pressure, issuing an order that madrassas should expel foreign students by December 31. But late yesterday, Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao appeared to back down from that order and ruled out the immediate expulsion of students. “There is no deadline for it,” he told the private Geo TV network.

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