EITHER the PTI is completely blind to the optics or its political ambitions have trumped all other considerations.

At a time when Pakistan is regarded with suspicion for allegedly not having done enough to stop terror financing, KP’s PTI-led government is set to approve a grant of Rs277m for Maulana Samiul Haq’s Darul Aloom Haqqania, otherwise known as the ‘jihad university’.

The sobriquet is well-deserved, for the seminary — located in KP — has churned out thousands of militants since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

In fact, so many Afghan Taliban leaders have studied here that the maulana, who also heads his own faction of the JUI, is often dubbed the ‘father of the Taliban’.

These are dubious credentials, and the PTI ought not to dismiss them lightly.

Indeed, this is not the first but the second time that the madressah is to be the recipient of such largesse.

The provincial government in its 2016-2017 budget allocated it a grant of Rs300m.

The flimsy pretext offered by the PTI then was that the money would go towards implementation of reforms by the Darul Aloom Haqqania to bring it into the educational mainstream.

No doubt there is an urgent need for changes to seminary curriculums in order to curb radical ideologies.

Nevertheless, in the two years since the first grant, it is far from clear what reforms, if any, have been carried out at a madressah whose chief cleric was, not too long ago, unabashedly vocal in his support for Osama bin Laden as well as the banned TTP.

There has, however, been a significant political development in the interim, with the JUI-S and PTI declaring their intention to form a ‘joint strategy’ in the coming election, an alliance presumably designed to counter the JUI-F, their nemesis in KP.

In the run-up to elections, incumbent governments do take steps to shore up their chances at the hustings, but the PTI’s move is a cynical one, and deeply troubling in its disregard for the consequences.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2018

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