ISLAMABAD: Drawing the Foreign Office into a controversy over Saudi Arabia’s alleged funding of extremist groups in Pakistan, the kingdom’s embassy in Islamabad said on Monday that the FO had been certifying that Riyadh’s financial support for mosques and seminaries was in public interest.
In a statement, the first since the controversy over Saudi funding of seminaries erupted following the adoption of the National Action Plan against terrorism, the embassy said all requests for financial assistance were referred to the Foreign Office for clearance.
“In fact whenever any seminary, mosque or charity organisation requests the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for financial assistance, the embassy refers the matter to the Government of Pakistan through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for examining the suitability of the applicant for financial assistance,” the embassy said. It said the money was disbursed after the FO’s certification that the funds “served the interest of public welfare”.
The Senate was informed last month that seminaries were being funded by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Iran and the UAE.
Embassy says all requests for financial assistance referred to Foreign Office
Diplomatic sources said that the Saudi charge d’affaires had been called by the Ministry of Interior for discussing the Saudi funding of seminaries.
But, the embassy’s statement chose to blame the media for “propagating false impression” that the kingdom was sponsoring extremism through financial assistance for seminaries. It apparently happened because of the media’s strong criticism of alleged funding by Saudi Arabia.
The embassy only spoke about the financial assistance given to seminaries, mosques and charities through official channels, ignoring the substantial amount that had been reportedly flowing in from private Saudi individuals and charities through illegal means.
Former ambassador of Saudi Arabia Abdul Aziz Al Ghadeer, in his first interview with Dawn in 2009, had said the Saudi government had little control over flow of funds from private sources.
The embassy said the kingdom was coordinating counter-terror measures with the Pakistan government and ensuring that “philanthropic and humanitarian assistance does not fall into the hands of extremist elements”.
Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2015