(CNSNews.com) – Just weeks after a U.S. drone strike killed Taliban leader Akhtar Mohammad Mansour inside Pakistan, the government of the country’s northwestern province reportedly has agreed to provide $2.86 million to a madrassa (privately-run religious school) where Mansour, his predecessor Mullah Omar, and other top terrorists studied.
In the latest sign of official Pakistani collusion with the Taliban, the government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (formerly the North West Frontier Province, or NWFP) plans to give the funds to the Darul Uloom Haqqania madrassa in Nowshera, a city some 30 miles east of the provincial capital Peshawar.
“I am proudly announcing that Darul Uloom Haqqania Nowshera will get 300 million rupees to meet its annual expenditure,” provincial information minister Shah Farman was quoted as telling the provincial assembly.
Another member of the government, religious affairs minister Habibur Rehman, told the Karachi daily The News that the madrassa “is one of the oldest and largest seminaries of Pakistan and it deserves financial assistance.”
Founded in 1947 – the year Pakistan attained independence – the madrassa in question has long been dubbed the ‘University of Jihad,” and regarded as the institution that launched the Taliban.
It counts among its alumni the last two Taliban leaders, Omar and Mansour; the founder of the Haqqani network, Jalaluddin Haqqani; as well as Asim Umar, leader of the al-Qaeda franchise launched in India in 2014, al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS)
The madrassa is run by Sami ul Haq, a controversial cleric sometimes called the “father of the Taliban.”
When Pakistan’s federal government launched one of many ill-fated peace attempts with the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) in 2014, the terrorist group named Haq as one of its negotiators.
Haq also serves as chair of a coalition of several dozen radical groups called the Difa-e-Pakistan (Defense of Pakistan).
Other members of that coalition include Laskhar e-Toiba (LeT), the U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization that changed its name to Jamaat ud-Dawa (JuD) after being supposedly banned in 2002. LeT is led by Hafiz Saeed, the U.N.-designated global terrorist who is wanted by India for masterminding the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, in which six Americans were among the 166 victims.
Pakistan has a long history of collusion with the Taliban, which its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) military intelligence agency helped to establish in the 1990s.
In this case, support for the terrorist group is coming not from the federal authorities in Islamabad but the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government, which is led by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (“Movement for Justice”) party, in coalition with smaller parties including the Islamist Jamaat e-Islami.
Thousands of madrassas exist across Pakistan. A 2002 government estimate exceeded 10,000 madrassas, with some 1.7 million students.
In 2005, following al-Qaeda’s bombings in London, then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf bowed to international pressure to try to reform some of the madrassas suspected of breeding extremism.
Three of the four London suicide bombers were of Pakistani origin, and at least one had recently spent time at a madrassa in the country.
Musharraf issued an ordinance making registration compulsory, directing the schools not to disseminate “hate material” or teach radical ideas, and to include general subjects in their curriculum.
But a study funded by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) six years later found that textbooks being used across Pakistan’s schools – but especially in the madrassas – extolled jihad and encouraged intolerance of religious minorities.
“In every madrassa textbook reviewed, the concept of jihad has been reduced from its wider meaning of personal development to violent conflict in the name of Islam, considered to be the duty of every Muslim,” that report found.
“The Qur’anic verse commanding the believer to ‘kill the pagans [or infidels or unbelievers] wherever you find them’ is often cited with no context.”
Pakistan has received more than $33 billion in U.S. aid, including reimbursements for counterterrorism efforts, since 2001. This year it is the fifth biggest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance.