Nearly 300 madrassas in Pakistan are receiving financial support from around 10 countries, the government has informed the lower house of parliament, as it admitted it had no idea about the total amount of funds or any other kind of support these seminaries receive.
The interior ministry, in a written response to a question, told the National Assembly that 285 seminaries were receiving funds from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Iran, Turkey, the US, the UK, and South Africa.
Of the seminaries identified by the interior minister, 147 are located in Punjab, 95 in Gilgit-Baltistan, 30 in Balochistan, 12 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and one in Sindh.
The figures were submitted to the house on the eve of the first anniversary of the gruesome massacre at the Army Public School in Peshawar, which had prompted a 20-point National Action Plan (NAP). Under the NAP, the government was supposed to track foreign funding of seminaries which had ties to surreptitious activities.
The report went on to add that most of the seminaries identified belonged to the Deoband school of thought. While some of these madrassas receive funds through the legal channels, the administrators of some seminaries raise money by visiting sponsors in foreign countries. The interior ministry said it had no tangible intelligence whether these countries were facilitating the seminaries in terms of training, capacity building, and curriculum development.
The ministry, while admitting it had no idea about the total amount of funds these seminaries received, said it had tracked three to four cases where money had been transferred through banks and that two seminaries had received Rs2.5 million and Rs3 million per year respectively.
It added that seminaries continue to receive funds through unfair or illegal means, which makes it almost impossible for the government to track the flow of funds.
Earlier, in January 2015 the interior minister had told the Senate that around 80 seminaries in the country had received Rs300 million from around a dozen countries. “Some madrassas are receiving financial support from Muslim countries. However, it is often difficult to trace the transaction of such money,” he had said in his written reply.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 17th, 2015.