Karachi : A Pakistani provincial government has given a $3 million grant to a hard-line Islamic school once attended by the founder of the Taliban and other militant leaders, officials said. The hard line religious school Darul Uloom Haqqania in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is known as the alma mater of most of the Afghan Taliban leadership and its affiliated Haqqani militant network, branded a terrorist organization by the U.S.
The money provided to the madrassa is the start of a program to “mainstream” the Islamic schools, said Mushtaq Ghani, a spokesman for the provincial government, who said the funds would be used to build classrooms where English and computer studies also would be taught. The school’s clerics teach a hard-line curriculum and preach jihad, or holy war, to nearly 4,000 students. It is run by Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, dubbed ”the father of the Taliban,” who publicly speaks up in support of the Afghan Taliban and justifies their war against the United States and NATO allies.
The school was implicated in the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, when the prosecution said the suicide bomber in the assassination and his two accomplices had studied at the school. The seminary denied any links. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is run by the Tehrik-e-Insaf or Justice Party of Imran Khan, cricket-star-turned-politician who leads the opposition to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government. Khan has defended the funds, saying seminary students who are marginalized will always remain more dangerous. ”We want to bring them in mainstream,” he told Pakistani Geo TV News on Wednesday.
Both the government and the opposition criticized the move. Lawmaker Zahid Khan from an anti-Taliban, secular party called for an immediate withdrawal of the funding, describing the seminary as a ”nursery of terrorism.” Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said funding the seminary was like rewarding killers. However, Sharif’s own party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, has also allotted huge funds in Punjab province to the terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba’s front charity Jamat-ud-Dawa, headquartered in and around the prime minister’s power base in eastern city of Lahore, under the pretext of getting their seminaries and welfare organizations under government supervision.