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Public Statements

Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2005

Location: Washington DC

Sept. 23, 2004


Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I propose this amendment in the hope that it will help Congress to assess the progress that is being made in reforming Pakistan's secular and religious educational system. This objective, shared by the Governments of Pakistan and the United States, must be addressed. If the next generation of Pakistani youth is denied the benefits of a sound, modern, ideologically moderate education, the results could be tragic for both of our nations.

The President has committed the United States to a 5-year, $3 billion package of assistance to Pakistan, a key ally in the South Asia region in the war against al-Qaida, but also a place where radical fundamentalism has taken root. One important element of this U.S. aid package to Pakistan is assistance for educational reform.

Because of the many problems plaguing Pakistan's education system, many parents in that country turn to the vast, unregulated system of madrassas, or religious academies. These madrassas range from well-run schools teaching both Western and Islamic subjects side-by-side, to a far larger number of institutions that provide only the very most rudimentary education, in either religious or secular topics. Of greatest concern-to U.S. and Pakistani interests alike-are a small but significant number of madrassas that indoctrinate their students with radical, violent ideology, and sometimes serve as training camps and recruitment offices for militant organizations and terrorist groups.

When President Musharraf was our guest in the Senate in June 2003, he specifically highlighted the urgent need for educational reform as a key priority, and one for which he requested U.S. assistance. With regard to the madrassa system, President Musharraf has already laid out what should be done-the task now is to stop strategizing and start doing it. First, all madrassas should be registered with the government. Second, a uniform basic curriculum should be promulgated: this curriculum should include instruction in subjects like math, science and other non-religious topics, so that religious education is a part of the course at these academies, but not the totality. Third, instruction at madrassas should not foster extremist or violent ideology, and should not include military or paramilitary training.

For the past 3 years, various officials of the U.S. government have been stating that progress was right around the corner. For years, we have been told that if we provide Pakistan with debt relief, Islamabad will use the savings in debt service to undertake serious educational reform. Yet it is not clear that much has been done.

The reporting requirement set forth in this amendment will ensure that the Congress has adequate information about the amount of funding provided for educational reform and the strategy for undertaking such reform. We should have a clear strategy-and the means by which to evaluate the progress of educational reform in Pakistan.

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