'Funding for Haqqania seminary was to bring it into mainstream'

Islamabad:  Days after outrage against a Pakistani provincial government allocated Rs 300 crore for the Haqqania seminary, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government on Wednesday clarified that the budgetary allocation was a step taken to bring the seminary into the mainstream. The government set aside funds for the construction and rehabilitation of the Darul Uloom Haqqania in Akora, Khattak, in the annual provincial budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The grant announced by provincial minister Shah Farman, who said the seminary does a "great service to the province by providing education" and "we want them to continue to provide this service", was widely criticised across sections. Mushtaq Ahmed Ghani, Special Assistant to Chief Minister, said the move was aimed to mainstream the seminary. "Around three million students are enrolled in these seminaries, where they are fed, sheltered and taken care of without any expense." "Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has a vision to streamline all sorts of education systems into one system that seeks to bridge the appalling disconnect between the government and the seminary systems," Ghani said. He added that a main chunk of the allocations will also be utilised for the construction and repair of the seminary's building. "The provincial government is keen to enhance financial as well as technical assistance to religious schools in the province in order to bring them under the umbrella of the provincial education regime, and this step is the first in this direction." The seminary, located in Nowshera district and currently run by Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Sami chief Maulana Samiul Haq, has faced controversy in the past as its students have been accused of involvement in the murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. However, the seminary administration has denied having any connection with the suspects.