ISLAMABAD: An issue of not revealing foreign aid to seminaries in Punjab sparked uproar in the Senate on Friday after the government failed to adequately answer whether madrassahs receive foreign assistance or not.
The simmering issue topped an agenda of the National Action Plan (NAP) to wipe out terrorism.
Punjab’s response in regard to foreign funding of madrassahs sparked angry reactions from lawmakers, who observed that the country had failed to choke terror funding which had been fueling militancy and extremism for decades.
“We are in a state of war. If our intelligence failed to identify seminaries taking foreign aid, how can it enable us to execute the NAP?” observed Senator Raza Rabbani of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), who was standing with Leader of the Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan on the floor of the House.
“We need a simple answer, “yes” or “no”, of whether seminaries are taking foreign aid in Punjab or not,” both lawmakers said one after another, before the opposition staged a walkout on this issue.
The walkout forced Deputy Chairman Sabir Baloch, who was chairing the Senate, to suspend proceedings for 30 minutes after Zahid Khan of the Awami National Party pointed out the quorum.
“The government is incompetent and the [interior] minister should have resigned,” a furious Rabbani remarked after the opposition took their seats again after Minister of State for Interior Balighur Rehman entered the Senate to answer questions of the opposition.
A debate was triggered over the Punjab Home Department’s claim that not a single madrassah in the province was receiving foreign funding.
“The requisite may be treated as ‘nil’. No madrassah receiving financial and training assistance from Muslim countries has come to our notice during a surveillance carried out by field formations,” Additional Inspector General Police Muhammad Amlish explained.
“This reply is deceiving the Parliament, because it belies ground realities,” a flabbergasted Senator Sughra Imam of the PPP stated.
Imam has posed this question since January 8, 2014. She said the interior ministry revealed in May last year that Minhajul Quran, Madrassah, Jamiatul Islam in Sargodha have been receiving foreign aid.
Further, the government, in the last 13 months, has admitted that close to 80 seminaries have received financial support to the tune of Rs300 million from a dozen countries — which include the United States, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Australia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran.
Rehman reasoned that provinces themselves are looking into their respective law and order affairs after the 18th Amendment.
“Call spade a spade,” Rabbani interrupted, pointing out that more than eight cabinet ministers had failed to convince the opposition regarding foreign aid to seminaries in Punjab.
The leader of the House, Raja Zafarul Haq, and Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique tried to convince the irate opposition over the issue of madrassahs’ foreign funding, Senator Rabbani brushed them aside, “We are not ready to listen to you.”
At this stage, the House again witnessed slogans of “No, No, Shame, Shame” to responses from Rehman.
Some senators even called Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar, “a missing minister” in the Upper House.
On this, the deputy chairman referred to the case of the Inspector General Police to the Senate Standing Committee on Privileges to explain his position over the recent response on the seminaries’ foreign aid issue to the Senate. Due to a long debate on this question, the Senate adjourned the session for the day.
Earlier, the House unanimously adopted a joint motion, offering prayers for deceased Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz.
Lawmakers offered condolences to the royal family over the death of King Abdullah and Begum Kalsoom Saifullah. The House will meet again on Monday.