A further move towards the right
The KP assembly has made provisions in their provincial budget to allocate Rs 300 million to be disbursed over two years for the rehabilitation of the Darul Uloom Haqqania in Akora Khattak. Dubbed the University of Jihad, it has quite a thought provoking list of past graduates. The approval of this outlay reserved only for the “mainstreaming” of a known terrorist breeding, Taliban supporting seminary is appalling and dangerous.
There is obvious outrage and concern over this move by the KP government. In a country where there is growing consensus on the need to regulate madrassas, a funding of Rs 300 million to one of the most popular (for all the wrong reasons) madrassas in the country is hard to fathom. The list of graduates speaks for itself. The last two deceased Taliban leaders (Mullah Umar and Akhtar Mansoor) both are alumni. Jalaludin Haqqani, former leader of the Haqqani network, is also a graduate while leader of the Indian faction of al Qaeda, Asim Umar, also passed out through the madrassa.
The madrassa is run by Maulana Sami Ul Haq, a vocal supporter of the Taliban. He was also the leader of the ridiculous committee set up to talk to the Taliban when the government was still unwilling to start an all-out operation in the north, giving credence to another attempt at the so called ‘talks’. Thankfully, better sense prevailed or was made to prevail. The results are there, not perfect, but better than before.
Obviously the criticism from the PML-N, the PPP and the ANP has not been taken well by Imran Khan. Then again when does he take criticism well? The defense that he is offering for his decision isn’t easily acceptable. In his usual style he first clarifies and then reiterates that those criticising me do not know anything about society, hence cannot understand my bulletproof (pun intended) plan to reform madrassas. He then uses his preferred form of ignorant logic to defend Sami Ul Haq’s views on the Taliban by stating he once helped the polio drive in KP when the Taliban were violently trying to stop it.
That’s all well and good, but let’s see some justification for the “Father of Taliban” title that is still associated with Haq. Simply giving Rs300 million to a madrassa that has for so many years preached the same hate filled syllabus and expect it to reform itself and all of a sudden become the model for the modern education system is ludicrous. These childish notions serve only Khan’s ego. The messiah complex, it seems, is very much active when making such important decisions. It has also been revealed that the Rs 300 million were actually a condition for reform. The madrassa asked that the money be given first in order to begin the process. That’s like trying to discipline an overweight child by giving him an unlimited supply of his favourite candy on the condition that he himself will ration it responsibly. This aggressive move to the right is nothing new though. IK has always been there – for reasons, ideological, religious and most importantly political.
He has always maintained that the Taliban are not the enemy and that the only way to end their violent attacks on our soil is through talks. He believes that years of war have not helped the situation so it is a failed solution to the problem. He famously suggested situating a Taliban run office in the federal capital. This is the same Taliban who have on multiple occasions tried and in some instances successfully attacked the same capital. So it’s only natural that he side with and support another Taliban apologist.
His brief flirtation with a modicum of liberalism was an attempt to give women rights its due attention. The reason for the bill even being considered in KP was however reactionary and ill-fated. Punjab successfully passed it so KP had to respond. It was sent to CII to be reviewed. No points for guessing what happened next. So that’s that. In that respect, owing mostly to his daughter, Nawaz Sharif, a traditional hard liner and one time hopeful of becoming a virtual ‘ameer-ul-momineen’(commander of the faithful) has taken a more liberal approach towards matters. Especially ones related to women protection.
Taking account of the ‘naya Pakistan’ project, it looks like it is on hold and will remain there until IK himself is on the big seat, democratically or otherwise (preferred method). Last year KP utilised a measly 58 percent of their total development budget for 2015-16. Underutilisation is a universally recognised metric of inefficiency. This number accurately displays the priorities of the KP government. The PR machine depicts an image of a successful regime in KP that has transformed it for the better. The reality is quite different. The PML-N has mastered this strategy of doing just enough for re-election, the PTI however still needs to get the national mandate for the first time.
Just days after the announcement of funding to the madrassa, the Difa-e-Pakistan council led by Maulana Sami Ul Haq as well, gathered on GT road to protest against drone strikes and inform the crowd about the presence of ‘thousands of US drones parked on Indian air bases’. They also announced a million-man-march post-Eid. Is this the syllabus reform that the Rs 300 million was supposed to bring about? Is the approval of the money to be disbursed and the subsequent announcement of the marches just a coincidence?
The country has in the past week witnessed a surge in violence with the brutal killing of Amjad Sabri in Karachi. Just days before, the son of serving Sindh High Court Chief Justice was kidnapped in broad daylight. The NAP (National Action Plan) was created as a roadmap towards a safer Pakistan with input, support and implementation from all provinces along with military and the federal support. There has been lack of implementation in terms of getting the intelligence apparatus up to the mark. NACTA remains without funding and leadership. Madrassa reform is also a significant point and mission within NAP and it too still lacks the sufficient attention it deserves.
But throwing this money at the madrassa problem and expecting it to solve itself is not reform, it is a step backwards. It also serves more of a political purpose than anything else. By aligning itself more with the JUI-S, the PTI aims to maintain its control over KP come 2018 where JUI-F aims to gain power with full support from the PML-N. It would serve the party, the province and the country better, if this move towards the right would at least slow down in pace starting with the possible curtailment of the funds in question.