The only thing more condemnable than the unspeakable depravity of inflicting abuse on a minor is the perpetration of such barbarism by a man of the cloth. The incident of the horrific torture of a minor girl by clerics of a religious seminary, who died at the Nishtar Hospital, is but one more tragic case of abuse in a series of such persecutions carried out on children enrolled in seminaries.
There is a prevailing and tangible link between barbaric ‘corporal punishment’ and madrassas. In fact, the use of the term ‘corporal punishment’ is a misleading epithet for such glaring cases of what is plainly child-torture. The fact remains that by and large, the madrassa environment is beset by trends of inherent misogyny, apathy, child abuse, and religious-cultural taboos all under the umbrella of the incontestable eminence accorded to the purveyors of religious-dogma. In this case, hanging a minor girl upside down should not be cauterized under the misnomer of ‘corporal punishment; it is the barbaric misuse of the authority accorded in a cleric – child relationship and stands as an unequivocal and categorical case of violence. Madrassas, by their very grassroots nature, operate outside the ambit of state accountability and cater to a strata of the population that has no option in such events to turn to the recourse of lawyers, police or even effectively mobilizing civil society at large. Where in such cases the district authorities cursorily call for an inquiry to be conducted into the matter- the perpetrators have to be swiftly punished. There has to be an induction of the madrassa culture under the administration of a subsidiary government department to bring it under the immediate ambit of transparency, checks, accountability and rule of law.
The new government steered by Imran Khan has to make many hard decisions in its term and tackling the behemoth of religious dogma and all its paraphernalia is one of the more immediate concerns. The pervasive abuse of children in madrasas comes at parity with the exigent possibility of such seminaries being the womb of militancy. As such, the yet-to-be-realized proposition called for by the government to mainstream madrassas under its regulation and supervision holds imperative significance and should be implemented post-haste. Where the PTI has demonstrated a disposition ranging from feigned ignorance and avid pandering to the religio-political ilk, once in office, the maiden ruling party has to take a decisive stand on all such sensitive issues, or continue risking the lives and safety of innocent children first and then the public at large.