A religious seminary in Pakistan is cocking a snook at the government by refusing to release a US girl despite deportation orders.
Muna Abanur Mohammed is among the eight students placed on a black-list last month by Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Their religious education visas to study Koran had expired.
But Maulana Mufti Mohammed Naeemi, founder and head of Jamia Binora, a leading madrassa in southern port city Karachi, was defiant. "Yes we have received the deportation orders but we will not hand her over,' he told Deutsche Presse-Aguntur (DPA).
The only concession was that he would try its level best to negotiate with the government for an extension of Muna's visa. But what if it doesn't materialize? He wouldn't elaborate, but throws dark hints, raising visions of armed confrontation.
Senior immigration officers at state Federal Investigation Agency, requesting anonymity, said they had no immediate instructions from the federal authorities to carry out any swoop against the madrassa, situated on a sprawling 12-acre site.
Meanwhile, a US embassy official in Islamabad said they were closely watching the situation.
A madrassa insider said that the embassy was in constant touch with the girl.
So far, out of the eight students, two American teens, known as the Khan brothers, were removed last week by US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Pakistani authorities and sent back to Atlanta, Georgia, following the intervention by US Representative Michael McCaul, a Republican from Texas.
Both brothers were evacuated following a documentary 'Karachi Kids' shown by US-based Fox Television, which claimed that teens were forced to study at Jamia Binoria.
The other five students who have also been served deportation orders include four girl students from Thailand and one male from Fiji.
The South Asian Foundation for Education Reform (Safer) has called for immediate return of Muna.
"Without the intervention of Congressman McCaul, the US State Department and the Pakistani government, the Khan brothers would still be in the Jamia Binoria madrassa," Safer said, adding that the US government must now act swiftly to secure release of Muna and other American children.
The South Asian Foundation for Education Reform (SAFER) is a newly formed non-profit, non-partisan organisation committed to raising global awareness about Islamic seminaries.
As a growing number of American youngsters, predominantly of Pakistani descent, are being sent by their parents to madrassas in their ancestral homeland, the SAFER's role is becoming ever more significant.
It says its primary concern is for the long-term well-being and education of these children as they re-acclimatize to American society.
Last year the International Crisis Group had said in a report, "Exploiting Karachi's rapid, unplanned and unregulated urbanisation and its masses of young, disaffected and impoverished citizens, the madrasa sector has grown at an explosive rate over the past two decades. Given the government's half-hearted reform efforts, these unregulated madrasas contribute to Karachi's climate of lawlessness in numerous ways - from illegal land encroachment and criminality to violent clashes between rival militant groups and use of the pulpit to spread calls for sectarian and jihadi violence."
It had also called for a crackdown on the misuse of madrassas by jihadists and radical overhaul of public education. But nothing much seems to have happened.
Meantime people are keeping their fingers crossed over the fate of the US girl and others detained in Jamia Binora against their will.