Shaheryar Ali

Yvette Rosser is a famous historian from Texas USA. Her field of expertise is South Asian History, especially the “education of History” in South Asia. She has wrote extensively on “Politics of Historiographies”  in SouthAsia. A scholar with Post-modern turn she is critical of traditional left, especially in India. She has written an article on Pakistani text books. How hate and prejudice is cultivated in young Pakistani minds. Recently this subject got a great media attention in Pakistan, with General Musharaff’s rhetorical “change in curricula” policy, which like all  of dictator’s policies proved to be nothing more than  a propaganda stunt.

The much “condemed” changes largely remain ineffective  and the Pakistani text books remain bigoted and prejudiced. Many Pakistani scholars have worked on this subject, Some of which are acknowledged in this article, Others are Dr KK Aziz and Mubarak Ali who have systematically worked on “Murder of History” theme in Pakistan.

Pakistani Textbooks: Politics of Prejudice

Yvette Rosser

All students in Pakistan are required to take courses called Pakistan Studies and must pass standardized tests based on that curriculum. Pakistan Studies is a compulsory subject in all secondary schools and colleges. There are numerous textbooks published under this title for the 9th class to the BA level. In general, the curriculum is a composite of patriotic discourses, justification of the Two-Nation Theory, hagiographies of Muslim heroes, and endemic in the discourse, polemics about the superiority of Islamic principals over Hinduism. The rubric in these textbooks must be learned by rote in order for students to pass the required exam.

Many students in Pakistan with whom I have spoken not only dislike this required course, but openly mock it. A student at a women’s college in Lahore told me that “Pak Studies classes were usually scheduled at five or six in the afternoon” and “hardly any students attend,” choosing instead to spend their time studying for “important classes such as Math or Urdu or English” which are held in the mornings. “Besides,” the student continued, “we’ve covered the Pak Studies material year after year, it’s just the same Lucknow Pact, Two-Nation Theory. . . we don’t have to study for the test, the Ideology of Pakistan has been drilled into us.”

Textbooks in Pakistan must first be approved by the Curriculum Wing of the Ministry of Education in Islamabad after which they are published by the provincial textbook boards located at Jamshoro in Sindh, Quetta in Balouchistan, Lahore in Panjab, and Peshawar in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). The social studies curriculum in Pakistan, as both product and propagator of the ”Ideology of Pakistan,” derives its legitimacy from a narrow set of directives. The textbooks authored and altered during the eleven years of General Zia-ul-Haq’s military rule between 1977 and 1988, are still in use in most schools. They are decidedly anti-democratic and inclined to dogmatic tirades and characterized by internal contradictions.
When discussing General Zia’alasting influence on the teaching of social studies in Pakistan, a principal at a woman’s college in Lahore told me a joke which she said was well known among intellectuals in the country, “General Zia– May He Rest in Pieces.” Indeed, after his airplane exploded in the sky, the pieces of his body were never found, along withthe American ambassador and several other top brass generals on board the fatal flight. The casket in Zia’s mausoleum near the beautiful FaizlMosque built with Saudi money in Islamabad, purportedly contains only his false teeth, jawbone, and eyeglasses. The remaining weight of his coffin is compensated with sandbags. There are, however, bits and pieces of Zia-ul Haq’s body politic littered across the Pakistani psychological, educational, political, and military landscape.
During the past three decades, the Pakistani military3 has helped to empower a vast cadre of politically motivated, religiously conservative Mujahideen, evidenced by the accelerating crisis in Kashmir, the war like situation in Kargil, airplane hijackings, and the Talibanization of madrass education. This continuing move towards Islamization is accentuated against the ominous backdrop of nuclear testing, missile development, failed diplomacy, and sporadic tit-for-tat acrimonious exchanges between India and Pakistan. The social studies curriculum in Pakistan employs a very narrow definition of Islam in the construction of Pakistani nationalism.
Islamizationis a controversial term with a variety of interpretations. There are subtle distinctions among usages of words such as Islamization, Islamic nationalism, Islamic Republic, Islamizing, that represent the manipulation and implementation of religious terminology and symbols as political tools. Both Maududi of the Jaamat-I-Islami and Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran saw Islamizationas a model for the world-wide community of Islamic Ummah, distinct from Islamic nationalism, which is “essentially a Western, non-Islamic, secular, and territorial concept that emphasizes patriotism and love of one’s nation-state, its sacred territory, political institutions and symbols”.5 A more thoroughly Islamized Pakistan, which would finally fulfill the true Shariat-ruled mandate inherent in the creation of an Islamic Republic was how General Zia constructed the meaning of his Islamization campaign, which he propagated and popularized as the inevitable evolution of Pakistani nationalism. Zia institutionalized a kind of paranoia about parading Islamic symbols, which were seen as essential for the survival of the nation-state. Unfortunately some of the strategies that Zia and his fundamentalist mullah supporters appropriated and propagated were based on narrow, medieval interpretations of Islam, which resulted in gender-biased attitudes and policies and militarized exhortations to take up arms for the sake of jihad.
The “Ideology of Pakistan’quot; is based on Islamic nationalism. Islamizationis what Zia called it, but not coincidentally. He was consciously pushing for stricter adherence to external expressions of religion, placating conservative forces, exerting social control, influencing social norms. Pakistan’s ideology of “Islamic nationalism,” still has a dynamic and powerful hold over the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis. Professor Mir Zohair Husain wrote in a personal communication:
Just because Zia used the word ‘Islamization’ time and again, doesn’t mean that he was successful in his so-called ‘Islamization’ of Pakistani political and economic institutions. While Pakistan’s governing elite may have been relatively liberal, pragmatic and secular, the majority of Pakistanis were always devout Muslims, and Pakistani culture was always ‘Islamic’ [and] thus didn’t need any further ‘Islamizing.’ If Zia’s so-called ‘Islamization’ of Pakistani society had actually occurred, Pakistanis would never have elected two relatively liberal, pragmatic, and secular Muslims to run Pakistan four times in 11 years in free and fair elections based on adult franchise–Benazir Bhutto (1988-1990, 1993-1996) and Nawaz Sharif (1990-1993, 1996-1999). General Pervaiz Musharraf, who usurped power on October 12th, 1999, is also a liberal and pragmatic Muslim, who has said that he admired Mustafa Kemal Ataturk of Turkey [who] is denounced by devout Muslims all over the world for being a secular dictator who tried to Westernize Turkey. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was not ‘actually working to establish an Islamic-dominated state.’ A ‘Muslim-led government’ is by no means the same thing as an ‘Islamic-dominated state!’ Most governments in the Muslim world are led by Muslims, but they are not Islamic regimes based on the Islamic Shariah (like Iran or Afghanistan [under the Taliban]).
Husain’s observation, contrasting the elites with the more “Islamized common” people highlights the irony of Zia’s efforts. Though this impetus to Islamizethe outward manifestations of social and political institutions was itself a reflection of a world-wide movement towards religious conservatism and fundamentalism within the Islamic community, the results of twenty years of Zia’s Islamization indoctrination programme has given rise to more women in burqas, a generation of Pakistani girls prevented by social conventions from riding bicycles, and militant mullahs preaching political jihad from their Friday pulpits. Though certainly, these expressions are part of the international trend among Muslims toward religious conservatism, Zia latched on to that and used it. The Islamization of Pakistan initiated during the eighties brought an end to the liberal secular ambience of the sixties and seventies, inherited from the sophisticated and educated father of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam, when some women still wore saris to weddings and elbow-lengthsleeves were the norm in a hot climate, and girls still rode bicycles to the market. Middle-aged Pakistani women remember when hijab and traditional headgear was an anomaly.
Men in Pakistan have also adopted more Islamic expressions in their outward attire. Prior to the pressures exerted by Zia to Islamize all facets of society, Pakistani men who sported long beards and short pants could be seen on their way to pray at the Mosque, they were respected as either sincere Tabliqi practitioners or elderly gentlemen who had performed Haj. Now, as friend in Sindh told me, ‘Most of the men who dress up as mullahs are quacks and crackpots. Every dacoit, shopkeeper, middle class businessman, and rickshaw walawants to look like a mullah.’He added, ‘Twenty or thirty years ago Pakistani men were not judged by the length of their pants or their beards.’ Once social and political conventions become codified by conservative religious dictates, it is extremely difficult to break or oppose those newly imposed norms that quickly become sacrosanct and in fact, required of ‘true believers’. External expressions of Islamization, such as traditional Muslim fashion–beards and caps for males, burqas, purdah, or at least long-sleeved clothing for females–are also potent symbols of patriotism, proving one’s personal commitment to the Ideology of Pakistani.
Since the deadly terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001, the popular media in the West has begun to pay attention to the vitriolic anti-American narratives that are pervasive in textbooks in several Islamic countries, including allies such as Saudi Arabia. For years, objective Pakistani scholars have warned that the textbooks in Pakistan were fomenting hatred and encouraging fundamentalism. For several decades now, textbooks in not only Pakistan, but many Islamic nations have promoted a radically restrictive brand of Islamic exclusivism, and exported that perspective to other nations as in the case of Pakistani born Taliban and their negative impact on Afghani society. In March 2001, an article I wrote appeared in The Friday Times, a weekly newspaper published in Lahore, Pakistan. In that article I warned of the imminent blowback of America’s foreign policies, in the 1980’s in South Asia.6 Unfortunately, the dire predictions became front-page news on September 11, 2001 and the Pakistani government will hopefully take some action to tone down the jihadi rhetoric that characterizes not only Islamic educational institutions but also the government sponsored social studies curriculum.
In the minds of a generation of Pakistanis, indoctrinated by the “Ideology of Pakistan’ are lodged fragments of hatred and suspicion. The story manufactured to further Zia’s ‘Be Pakistani/Buy Pakistani’ worldview is presented through a myopic lens of hyper-nationalism and the politicized use of Islam. According to Dr. Magsi, a psychiatrist at the Civil Hospital in Karachi, ‘When Civics classes teach negative values’ the result is a xenophobic and paranoid acceptance of authoritarianism and the denial of cultural differences and regional ethnic identities.’ In the past few decades, social studies textbooks in Pakistan have been used as locations to articulate the hatred that Pakistani policy makers have attempted to inculcate towards their Hindu neighbors. Vituperative animosities legitimize military and autocratic rule, nurturing a siege mentality. Pakistan Studies textbooks are an active site for negatively representing India and othering the Subcontinent’s indigenous past.
The teleological nature of the civic responsibility to create patriotic citizens finds a malleable tool in the social studies curriculum where myth and fact often merge. The many textbooks published in Pakistan under the title Pakistan Studies are particularly prone to the omissions, embellishments, and elisions that often characterize historical narratives designed for secondary level social studies classes. During the time of General Zia-ul Haq, social studies, comprised of history and geography, were replaced by Pakistan Studies, which was madea compulsory subject for all students from the ninth standard through the first year of college including engineering and medical schools. Curriculum changes, institutionalized during Zia’s Islamization campaign, required that all students also take a series of courses under the title Islamiyat, the study of Islamic tenants and memorization of Quranic verses. Committees formed under Zia’s guidance began to systematically edit the textbooks. The University Grants Commission (UGC) issued a directive in 1983 that textbook writers were
To demonstrate that the basis of Pakistan is not to be founded in racial, linguistic, or geographical factors, but, rather, in the shared experience of a common religion. To get students to know and appreciate the Ideology of Pakistan, and to popularize it with slogans. To guide students towards the ultimate goal of Pakistan’the creation of a completely Islamized State.7

Pervez Hoodbhoy and A.H. Nayyarpublished an article, ‘Rewriting the History of Pakistan’ in 1985 when Zia’s policies were in full swing. They commence with a near prophetic comment regarding the inevitable and eventual blowback from General Zia’s efforts to Islamize the educational system, ‘the full impact of which will probably be felt by the turn of the century, when the present generation of school children attains maturity.’8 Nayyar and Hoodbhoy explain that the UGC’s directives centered on four themes:

1. The ‘Ideology of Pakistan,’ both as a historical force which motivated the movement for Pakistan as well as its raison d’être

2. The depiction of Jinnah as a man of orthodox religious views who sought the creation of a theocratic state

3. A move to establish the ‘ulama’ ‘ as genuine heroes of he Pakistan Movement

4. An emphasis on ritualistic Islam, together with the rejection of interpretations of the religion and generation of communal antagonism 9
The broad expanse of South Asian history is a tabula rasaupon which Pakistani historians and policy makers have created the story of a new nation replete with cultural roots and ancient socio-religious trajectories. This manufactured view of the past narrates Pakistan’s emergence as an independent country: in just seven short years, under the enlightened guidance of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Quaid-e-Azam, the father of the country, Pakistan rose from the strife and oppression of religious communalism in Hindu dominated India to join the comity of modern nations. Nayyar and Hoodbhoyexplain, “The ‘recasting’ of Pakistani history [has been] used to ‘endow the nation witha historic destiny’.”10The story of Pakistan’s past is intentionally written to be distinct from and often in direct contrast with interpretations of history found in India.
In the early seventies, Z.A. Bhutto in a precarious political position, governing a drastically diminished territory, strove to win the support of the religious sectors of the population. He had the textbooks altered to placate these factions. An integrated Pakistan, one strong Islamic nation that could overcome separatist movements and prevent another splitting such as the creation of Bangladesh, was the mandate. To appease the conservative clerics, such policies as the declaration that Ahamadis11 were “non-Muslims” were enacted under Bhutto. Textbooks laid even greater stress on the Islamic perspective of historical events. Islamiyat was made a required subject up until class eight. The use of the phrase, “The Ideology of Pakistan” had already been inserted into social studies textbooks during Bhutto’s first term, and pre-Islamic South Asian history was obliterated. Despite all this, Bhutto gets no credit for Islamization, textbooks calling his efforts ‘too little, too late.’
The military coup that ended Bhutto’s second term and eventually his life brought his protégé General Zia-ul Haq to power. Islamization began in full measure. Non-Muslims, such as Hindus in rural Sindh, were madeto vote in separate electorates. Blasphemy laws were often used selectively against non-Muslims. The phrase “Ideology of Pakistan” was installed with vigor and the textbooks were rewritten by committee to reassert the Islamic orientations of Pakistani nationalism according to General Zia’s socio-political decrees. It has now been over a decade and a half since Zia was assassinated yet, the textbooks he caused to be authorized have survived four democratically elected governments, and the supposed de-jihadization campaign of General Musharraf, the propagandistictone of the historical narrative is still taught as absolute truth to the youth of Pakistan. Zia is depicted as benevolent and religious minded, a discourse that remains in the textbooks published through the 1990’s during the two tenures of his protégé, Nawaz Sharif. BenazirBhutto was too preoccupied withremaining in power to concern herself about the revision of curriculum, even concerning the dismal representation of her father in textbooks. Once a historical character or event is divinely sanctioned and anointed with religious significance, altering that discourse is difficult, almost apostasy.
From their government issued textbooks, students are taught that Hindus are backwards, superstitious, they burn their widows and wives, and that Brahmins are inherently cruel, and if given a chance, would assert their power over the weak, especially Muslims and Shuddras, depriving them of education by pouring molten lead in their ears.12 In their social studies classes, students are taught that Islam brought peace, equality, and justice to the Subcontinent and only through Islam could the sinister ways of Hindus be held in check. In Pakistani textbooks “Hindu” rarely appears in a sentence without adjectives such as politically astute, sly, or manipulative.

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