- The KP government gets ready to shower largesse
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has decided to pay each mosque’s prayer leader an honorarium of Rs 10, 000 a month come July 1. With an estimated 22,000 prayer leaders in the province, this is a step is expected to cost Rs 220 million a month, or Rs 2.5 billion a year. The provincial government is going ahead even it does not have complete details of all those eligible, or even proper Auqaf Department set-ups in all districts. A clue to this rush is to be found in JUI(F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s call for the boycott of the scheme. The Maulana is spearheading the PDM movement against the PTI, and depends on prayer leaders for support. The dissensions against him in the KP party are being ascribed to the PTI, and this step will, also.
However, the PTI has loudly and frequently complained that its political opponents, when in office, have used taxpayers’ money for political bribes like this. The irony of its doing exactly the same thing should not escape it, especially when its opponents had equally weighty-sounding reasons for this spending as the PTI now does. The KP government should also realize that payments of such large sums, where documentation is not complete, invites embezzlement, as happened with BISP honorarium payments. Has the KP government got some means of ensuring the security of the money? There is the issue of how prayer leaders in other provinces might react; though that is not the KP government’s issue, the PTI will face it directly in Punjab, while an ally must face it in Baluchistan.
The prayer leaders may be influential, but they are hardly the most progressive element in society. An example of the work of KP Ulema may be visible in the case of the Samadhi-shrine of a Hindu holy man in Teri village of Karak district of KP. That Samadhi had been demolished recently on the incitement of Mohammad Sharif, a local maulvi, and the Supreme Court not only ordered that Evacuee Trust Property Board to repair the shrine but also recover the cost from Sharif and his followers. A JUI(F) leader was also involved, exactly the sort of person to whom the honorarium is to be paid. Is the PTI hoping to attach those honoraria to pay the repair cost?