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The foreign funds affair

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In the last year, there has been much huffing and puffing about the inflow of ‘foreign funds’ to the country, and the National Action Plan(NAP) formulated in the wake of the Army Public School massacre in December 2014 makes specific reference to the identification of sources of funding for madrassas, and if appropriate, blocking it. A year on, in a written response to a question in the National Assembly, there comes the admission by the interior ministry that 285 madrassas are receiving financial support from at least 10 countries, but the government is clueless about just how much money or other support is coming into the country.

The inflow is from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iran, Turkey, the US, the UK and South Africa. It goes to 147 seminaries in Punjab, 95 in Gilgit-Baltistan, one in Sindh, 12 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and 30 in Balochistan — a very considerable spread geographically. The sums involved are not petty cash. Two seminaries are in receipt of amounts going up to Rs2.5-Rs3 million every year, and 80 seminaries collectively receive Rs300 million a year.

Given that under the NAP, the government was committed — indeed required — to track the foreign funding of seminaries, it would appear that at best the job is less than half done. If the detail of numbers of seminaries receiving funding is known, as is the source of that funding, as well as the means by which it is transferred, both legal and illegal — then surely it is not beyond the competencies of our myriad security agencies to put a figure to the amount and thus complete the picture. A further gap is revealed with the news that “there is no tangible intelligence as to whether these (funding) countries were facilitating the seminaries in terms of training, capacity-building and curriculum development”. One might be led to wonder if the reason for the absence of such intelligence was because it had been decided, for whatever reason, not to gather it. It might also be inferred that there is an absence of sincerity in fulfilling this objective of the NAP. We will continue to observe developments on this front with critical interest.

Courtesy–Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2015.

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