The fight for survival
Foreign funding has changed the orientation of the prayer leaders and those running the seminaries. Until the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, the mosques as well as seminaries were entirely funded by the local community to which they were answerable. This inculcated a sense of responsibility among the clerics. Preaching sectarian hatred was extremely rare. Foreign funding, however, gave rise to seminaries and mosques of a new brand where leaders owed allegiance to countries which had launched a proxy war in Pakistan. As the rivalries in the Gulf sharpened, sectarian provocations increased from the pulpit. With the arrival of Al-Qaeda, which had strong support groups among the well-to-do sections of the Gulf population, a certain section of the clerics and seminary leaders started promoting extremism and militancy.
There can be no peace in the country as long as the nexus between the seminaries and Gulf charities remains unbroken. Of immediate need is for the government to monitor the funding of the madrassas. As the seminary leaders have access to huge funds, they are unwilling to allow the government to exercise oversight into their financial dealings. They are instead threatening to politicise the issue. Their task is made easy as a number of religious parties also run a section of the seminaries and depend on seminary students as party activists. The latest meeting of the seminary alliances was held at the central office of a religious party in Lahore where the speakers condemned the arrest of clerics involved in hate speech and the restrictions put on the use of loudspeakers for preaching violence.
The Punjab IGP, who had initially denied any knowledge of seminaries in the province receiving funds from abroad, has now informed the Senate that there are 147 foreign-funded madrassas. Many believe the number runs into four digits. It is highly important to implement the National Action Policy in letter and spirit. Any compromise on the anti-extremism and anti-terrorism policy will adversely affect the nation’s ongoing fight for survival.