The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is under severe criticism for allocating huge amount of taxpayers’ hard-earned money for a religious seminary in the annual budget. Darul Uloom Haqqania of Akora Khattak, located in Nowshera district, the home town of provincial Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, is believed to be the alma mater of key Taliban leaders, besides still providing a strong (to be extra careful) moral support base for the Taliban militancy in Afghanistan. The seminary is the personal property of Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, who proudly calls himself the “Father of the Afghan Taliban” and has always had a soft corner for the Pakistani Taliban, who continued their bloodbath across the country targeting civilians and security personnel. The budgetary allocation, the first-ever of its nature, is said to have been arranged by applying a huge cut on the amounts earmarked for the welfare of minorities last year, and that too, without consulting the provincial minister for Auqaf and religious affairs. The motive, as per the official account, for the allocation of Rs 300 million is to carry out construction work at the madrassa, and the request for the assistance came from Maulana Sami-ul-Haq in a letter to the provincial government. The allocation of the amount is reflected in the white paper of the budget book. However, the issue came to the forefront when a minister of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, Shah Farman, “proudly” announced during the general debates on budgetary documents that “Darul Uloom Haqqania Nowshera will get Rs 300 million to meet its annual expenditures.” There is no direct comment from the media-shy chief minister, who is a seasoned politician and one of the senior most members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly. However, the provincial government spokesman Mushtaq Ghani said the amount would be spent to buy computers and modern equipment for the students. Chairman of the ruling PTI party, Imran Khan, when asked about the Haqqania funding during a television interview, said it would help mainstream the religious seminaries, besides reducing class gap between the poor and the rich in terms of educational opportunities. Mainstreaming religious seminaries by equipping its students with modern education and technology is no doubt a noble cause and deserves appreciation, but the million dollar question here is that did Maulana Sami-ul-Haq agree with the provincial government to modernise the curriculum at his seminary? If the answer is in affirmative, then the government must have signed some sort of memorandum of understanding with Darul Uloom Haqqania, or planned to be signing one in the days ahead. If so, it will be appropriate to let the public know about this landmark achievement by the PTI government. However, if there is no such arrangement done or likely to be done, then the singling out of a particular seminary in a particular district, which happened to be the hometown of the provincial chief minister, is not going to be without an ulterior motive that either be an appeasement or political gimmicking. According to a report, “district-wise details of madaris” compiled by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government last year, of the 3,010 seminaries in the province, 57 percent are Category B or “highly sensitive.” The remaining ones are in Category C or “sensitive.” The huge sum in the budgetary allocations can be construed as an appeasement of a religious leader believed to have immense influence over an armed group that rigorously targeted the previous provincial government and bitterly affected its operational activities. It is also a fact that the three assassins of the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto had proven connections with Darul Uloom Haqqania. On the political front, the provincial government tried to hit two birds with a single stone. By allocating Rs 300 million in the annual provincial budget, the chief minister not only won Maulana Haq to his side, but also irked his rival Maulana Fazl-ur-Rahman, who is an ally of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the centre. Maulana Fazl and PTI chief Imran Khan do not see eye-to-eye on many issues, and often publicly criticise each other, sometimes even resorting to personal attacks. Khan was a ray of hope, particularly for those who wanted an end to the status quo in Pakistan. However, Khan defended his party government’s decision by retorting that leaders such as Wali Khan also visited and supported the seminary in the past. This is, no doubt, a lame excuse, and in no way suits the stature of a person like Khan. In order to realise Khan’s dream of a modern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it is an opportunity for the PTI government and its leadership to kick start a province-wide campaign of registering all seminaries and making them accountable for audit. Since the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister has already revealed his “good intentions” by extending financial support to Darul Uloom Haqqania, it is time to persuade Maulana Haq to voluntarily present his institution’s finances for audit, which will push other religious seminaries to follow the suit.