Pakistan’s Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has said that the concept of madrassas in the country need to be revisited as the religious schols leave students ill-equipped for life in the modern world, Pakistani newspaper The Nation reported. Bajwa made the remarks at conference attended by youngsters in Quetta, the Capital of the southwestern province of Balochistan.

Bajwa said that he recently learned that 2.5 million students were being taught in madrassas belonging to the Deobandi school of thought alone. “I am not against madrassas, but we have lost the essence of madrassas,” he said. “So what will they [the students] become? Will they become maulvis [the cleric who lead the prayers] or will they become terrorists?”

The country needs to revisit the concept of religious schools and think about giving students in these religious centres of learning “a worldly education”, Bajwa said.

Pakistan has more than 20,000 registered madrassas, Reuters reported. Security services in the country keep such learning centres under a close watch as they are often a conduit for Islamist militant outfits to recruit youngsters.

In 2016, the military put before the government a detailed plan to deradicalise orthodox religious figures by bringing them into the political mainstream, The Nation reported. This strategy received a setback when the Capital city of Islamabad was put in a gridlock for almost three weeks by a blockade staged by a religious party from the Sunni-Barelvi school of Islamic thought.