07/05/2016, 19.14
PAKISTAN
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Province has second thoughts over Taliban madrasa funding

Party chief Imran Khan has distanced himself from the province’s decision to give US$ 3 million to a school run by a cleric dubbed the "Father of the Taliban." The madrassa in question is thought to have trained Mullah Omar. The money comes from lower allocations for minorities. Khan maintains ambiguous attitude that undermines Pakistan’ fight against terrorism.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Weeks of scathing criticism have apparently prompted the Province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to review a grant of US$ 3 million to a controversial Islamic seminary that would cut funds allocated to minority groups. The madrasa has about 4,000 students.

The province is ruled by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which is headed by Imran Khan. The latter said he has instructed the provincial authority to submit a report to him to justify the allocation.

Last week, the province’s decision drew criticism from many sources. “We condemn this injustice. It is a form of state-sponsored terrorism.,” Catholic Church leaders told AsiaNews.

The issue involves the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary, or madrasa, headed by Samiul Haq, whose association won him the title of “Father of the Taliban.”

The cleric is known for teaching armed jihad and his students have been recruited in neighbouring Afghanistan. Some say Taleban leader Mullah Omar studied at the what has been dubbed ‘Jihad University’.

If it goes through, the funds allocated to the Islamic school would come from cutting money earmarked for the province’s minorities. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s PTI administration allocated Rs117 million (52.70%) for minority communities last year. This year (2016-17) that dropped to Rs86 million (23.49%).

Khan distanced himself from the decision, arguing that he was not informed about the individual spending item; at the same time, he has maintained a vague position when he was asked whether he would change the policy.

"Well, it depends where the money is being spent, if this money is going to mainstream the students who at the moment are basically marginalized.  I mean, again, the party policy is to mainstream the students from these madrasas.  As I said, exactly how it is going to be done we are waiting the report from the chief minister," Khan said.

Some 2.2 million students in madrasas across the province come from families unable to pay fees in private or government schools. However, experts believe that funding extremist schools under the guise of helping poor students will undermine Pakistan’s efforts to fight Islamic terrorism.

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