ISLAMABAD - The Senate witnessed furore on Friday after the house was told that not even a single seminary in Punjab was getting funding or training assistance from any foreign Muslim country.

The opposition benches in the house came down hard on the government after State Minister for Interior Baleegur Rehman gave this statement ‘based on information received so far from the provinces’.

He stated in the house that only 23 madrassas in three provinces, excluding Punjab, were receiving funding from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Iran. The government earlier has been portraying the issue of foreign funding to religious seminaries in the country as being one of the major concerns and curbing this funding as key part of its National Action Plan (NAP).

PPP Senator Sughra Imam had asked from the interior ministry about the details of financial and other support like training of clerics and teachers and curriculum development received by religious seminaries across the country.

Responding to his query, the state minister said that as many as 12 madrassas from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, nine from Balochistan and two from Sindh were getting foreign funding. He said the Punjab government has conveyed to central government that no seminary in the province was receiving financial or training assistance from any Muslim countries.

"The requisite report may be treated as 'nil'. No madrassa involved in receiving financial and training assistance from Islamic countries has come to our notice during surveillance carried out by field formations," Punjab additional Inspector General of Police (Special Branch) Muhammad Amlish stated in his reply sent to the interior ministry.

This outright denial of Punjab government of any rogue seminary in the province sparked angry reaction from opposition lawmakers. They said the county failed to block terror funding, which was fuelling militancy and extremism since decades.

The lawmakers were not ready to accept that only less than two dozen madrassas in the country were receiving foreign funding and no seminary in Punjab was receiving any kind of assistance from foreign Muslim states.

Ms Imam, who has been posing this question since January 8, 2014, told that interior ministry revealed in May last year that Adar-e-Minhajul Quran, run by Dr Tahirul Qadri, and Madrassa Jamiat-ul-Islam, Sargodha had been receiving foreign aid. She said that she had posed this question for a number of times but the government never replied correctly.

She said according to media reports the interior minister met Saudi ambassador to persuade his country to stop providing funds to seminaries in Pakistan and added it was believed that Punjab was the major beneficiary of foreign funding.

"We are in state of war. If our intelligence failed to identify seminaries getting foreign funding then how we would become able to execute NAP," said Senator Raza Rabbani. Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Aitzaz Ahsan and Rabbani asked the government that they wanted answer in "yes" or "no" that weather seminaries in Punjab are getting foreign funding or not.

Many lawmakers termed the answer of question as breach of privilege of the house, with Afrasiab Khatak of ANP proposing adoption of a motion against Punjab IGP. Senate Deputy Chairman Sabir Ali Baloch initially referred the matter to the relevant committee of the house, but on insistence of Sughra Imam changed the decision and referred it to the privileges committee.

Earlier, the opposition benches including PPP and ANP staged a protest walkout from the house on the absence of Interior Minister Ch Nisar and State Minister Baleegur Rehman in the house to answer the question. The walkout forced deputy chairman to suspend proceeding for 30 minutes after ANP’s Zahid Khan pointed out the lack of quorum.

Raza Rabbani demanded resignation of interior minister saying the government was not competent enough to run its affairs soon after Balighur Rehman entered the house. The house witnessed slogans of "No, No, Shame, Shame" in response to different answers of interior ministry. Some of senators even called Chaudhry Nisar "a missing minister".

The house also offered fateha for the departed Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. Lawmakers conveyed their condolences to royal family over the death of King Abdullah and to family of former minister Begum Kalsoom Saifullah.