Pakistan's government appears to have backed away from a demand that all foreign students enrolled in Islamic schools, known as madrassahs, leave the country by December 31st.
Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said there is no deadline for the students to leave, and the government has no plans to carry out forced expulsions. He told Reuters news agency the students should still leave as soon as possible. Last week, the ministry said the deadline would hold.
Madrassah representatives have threatened to resist any deportations.
Several months ago, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf ordered all foreigners to leave the country's madrassahs by the end of the year, or risk deportation. The order was part of a government drive to stamp out Islamic extremism.
Officials say around 700 foreign students remain in religious schools. Hundreds of others have left the country in recent months.