Pakistani police rescued 45 brutalized students found chained in the basement during a raid late Monday on an Islamic seminary in the southern port city of Karachi.
Officers also arrested two clerics at the Madrassa Zakarya in Karachi’s central Sohrab Goth area, but the head of the seminary managed to escape, police official Mukhtiar Khaskheli told AFP.
“At least 18 of those chained are aged 20 or younger, while the rest are older,” Khaskheli said. Several Islamic schools in Pakistan are accused of training terrorists and supporting violent extremist groups, with some dispatching fighters to neighboring Afghanistan.
“The madrassa officials claim that they had chained those students because they were drug addicts and they wanted to rehabilitate them and make them better Muslims,” the police official said, adding police were looking into possible links with terrorist groups.
The local private Samaa TV showed footage of the madrassa and the chained students – some of them children – who danced in jubilation as police released them.
“Every possibility including its involvement in militancy will be investigated upon,” said Sharfuddin Memon, a spokesman for the home department of Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital. Memon said the incident highlighted the brutality in society.
“It showed the brutal aspect of our society and our police’s effort was aimed at eradicating that element,” he said.
According officials in Islamabad, there are at least 15,148 seminaries in Pakistan with more than two million students – around five percent of the 34 million children in formal education.
But officials suspect thousands more go unregistered, noting such institutions are often the only education Pakistan’s poverty-stricken majority can afford.
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