The government has conceded that funding is coming in from foreign sources for seminaries across the country. In the year 2013-14, some 80 seminaries received Rs300 million to help support them. The origin of some of this funding is surprising. The Netherlands, Australia and the US are among the countries that have donated funds to various organisations to help run seminaries in Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and other parts of the country. Money has also come in, as would be expected, from Saudi Arabia. This was disclosed in the Senate by the interior ministry in response to a question put by a PPP senator. Other members of the Upper House also raised questions why this funding was coming in and pointed out that this created additional difficulties for Pakistan in combating militancy and extremism. There has been a great deal of comment recently from official and non-official sources about the role played by madrassas in creating particular mindsets.
It is important that the authorities find a way to stem this funding and ensure no foreign organisation or government is able to hand over money to promote education that has contributed to our militancy problem. It is unfortunate that this practice has continued for so many years. The amount handed over to the institutions is also alarming. While it is true that not all seminaries are involved in fostering of extremism and militancy, the fact is that we still need to ensure that all our children have access to modern, high quality education, which can help them move forward with the times. To achieve this, what is needed is funding and efforts to improve conditions within existing public sector schools and raising standards within them. It is, of course, the collapse of government schools that has forced many people to turn to seminaries in such large numbers in order to educate their children. The seminary sector today is one of the fastest growing components of our education system. This has to change and the government must ensure all its allies from beyond our own borders cooperate in this task.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2015.