DOLING out public funds to forward political agendas is a well-established practice in Pakistan. Out of many such instances, one particular political donation has been in the news of late.
According to reports, the PTI-led KP government has put aside Rs300m for Darul Uloom Haqqania, located in Akora Khattak, from the recently passed provincial budget.
Party and government officials have defended the ‘donation’ in the name of bringing the seminary — overseen by Maulana Samiul Haq, who runs his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam — into the mainstream.
Apparently, the funds will be spent on construction and repairs at the seminary. However, this ‘donation’ has raised hackles, as questions of propriety and conflict of interest arise.
For one thing, the madressah is a private institution. Critics are right to ask why a private set-up is receiving a large amount of public funds.
After all, the KP budget is financed by the taxpayer; it is not the funds of the PTI that are being provided to the Darul Uloom, but of the people of the province. Also, if the KP administration justifies providing government funds to a private madressah, what of the other private institutions in the province; will they also be entitled to financial support from the state?
Even if the seminary did not have links to hard-line circles — as it very much does — it would be difficult to justify this transfer of funds. Moreover, the Darul Uloom is a highly political seminary, a veritable arm of the JUI-S. Samiul Haq is also a rival of the JUI faction led by Maulana Fazlur Rahman, who in turn has a toxic rivalry with the PTI.
So the financial support can be seen as supporting the ‘enemy’ of the KP government’s ‘enemy’, while the madressah is located in district Nowshera, the home district of the KP chief minister, which raises issues of conflict of interest.
The decision to grant the seminary state funds should be revisited as it sets a negative precedent and politicises public funds.
Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2016