Saudi Arabia on Monday stoutly denied claims and inferences in the media that it is bankrolling the ‘extremist mindset’ in Pakistan by lending a generous hand to religious seminaries.
“A section of the media is propagating a false impression that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is funding extremist mindset in Pakistan through its financial support for the religious seminaries,” the Saudi Embassy said in a terse statement on Monday.
The rare rebuttal from the kingdom came in the wake of allegations levelled by federal minister for inter-provincial coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada that Saudi Arabia was creating instability in the country by supporting certain religious seminaries.
In its response, the Saudi Embassy acknowledged that the kingdom was providing funds to religious seminaries in Pakistan but made it clear that the assistance was not meant for fuelling instability in the country.
“In fact, whenever any seminary, mosque or charity organisation requests the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for financial assistance, the embassy refers the matter to the government of Pakistan through the ministry of foreign affairs for examining suitability of the applicant for financial assistance,” the statement said.
Clarifying Riyadh’s stance, the Saudi diplomatic mission said that the embassy only provides financial assistance if it’s in the interest of public welfare.
“Eventually when the ministry for foreign affairs informs the embassy that the financial assistance is in the interest of public welfare, the assistance is provided to the applicant,” it said.
“As Saudi Arabia is closely coordinating with the government of Pakistan in its efforts stamp out terrorism, it is very conscious that philanthropic and humanitarian assistance does not fall into the hands of extremist elements,” the embassy said.
Under the new National Action Plan, the government has decided to increase the scrutiny of seminaries, particularly the source of funding.
Pakistan is believed to have asked the ‘friendly countries’ to provide financial assistance to seminaries through government channels in an effort to prevent funds from falling into the wrong hands.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 10th, 2015.