ISLAMABAD: The Senate was informed on Friday that only 23 religious seminaries in Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan were receiving foreign funding.
Minister of State for Interior Baleeghur Rahman told the upper house that according to information received from provincial governments so far, as many as 12 madressahs in KP were receiving funding from various sources in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Similarly, nine madressahs in Balochistan and two in Sindh were also receiving foreign funding.
He said that the seminaries were registered under various laws, including the Companies Ordinance 1984, Trust Act 1882, Societies’ Registration Act 1860, Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies (registration and control) Ordinance 1961, Charitable And Religious Trust Act 1920, Musalmaan Waqf Act 1913, and the Charitable Endowments Act.
Enforcement of these laws has been devolved to the provinces following the 18th Amendment, he said, adding that there was sufficient control and vigilance within these laws to monitor the working of seminaries, including keeping a check on their financial sources and conducting audits.
However, it was pointed out that the responsibility of implementation in this regard rested with the provincial governments.
The minister said that certain madressahs were receiving financial support from Muslim countries, but money transactions were often difficult to trace. The Anti-Money Laundering Act 2013, is designed to track down illegal transactions and includes provisions for monitoring any transaction to a madressah and Sections 3, 4, 6 and 7 of the act are specifically focused on restricting illegal money transactions.
Even though these revelations were startling in their own right, many senators were astonished to learn that no seminaries in Punjab were receiving funding from foreign sources.
The Special Branch additional inspector general from Punjab, in his reply, had written, “The requisite report may be treated as nil. No madressah involved in receiving financial and training assistance from Islamic countries has come to our notice during surveillance carried out by field formations.”
The question was originally asked by PPP Senator Sughra Imam, who sought details of financial and other forms of support such as training of clerics and teachers and curriculum development, received by religious seminaries across the country.
Senator Imam said she had been asking the question for over a year or so, but there had been no response. She said that according to media reports, the interior minister had met the Saudi ambassador to persuade his country to stop funding seminaries in Pakistan. She also rejected the Punjab police claim that no seminary in the province was receiving foreign support and said that Punjab was believed to be the major beneficiary of foreign funding.
Opposition members also protested the absence of the interior minister and PPP and ANP senators staged a token walk-out from the house, insisting that they wanted Chaudhry Nisar to give a clear response on the question of foreign funding to seminaries in Punjab.
The proceedings of the House were also suspended for 30 minutes after ANP’s Zahid Khan pointed out a lack of quorum.
Many members of the house termed the provision of ‘misleading’ information as a breach of privilege, with Afrasiab Khattak of the ANP proposing the adoption of a motion against the Punjab inspector general.
Senate Deputy Chairman Sabir Ali Baloch initially referred the matter to the concerned committee of the house, but on Ms Imam’s insistence, referred it to the privileges committee. The house will now meet next on Monday at 4pm.
Published in Dawn January 31st, 2015