Months ago, I came across an article written by Col Athale(retd) at rediff.com. I have read Athale’s writings earlier and I have always found myself disagreeing with most of what he has to say. This article too, had a conclusion in the title itself — Peace with Pakistan: Chasing a mirage. But it did raise a very important point which made a very lasting impression about what the future could hold with regard to our western neighbor.
Colonel Anil Athale, in his article, indirectly points out that it was under Zia-ul-haq that Pakistan took a stance of radical Islam as a state policy. As a part of Zia’s adoption of Wahhabism, a very conservative and almost radical form of Islam, textbooks were changed in schools to accommodate religion as the basis of the state’s existence. In effect, what Zia’s textbooks of social studies, speculated to be still in effect, are seeking is “to create practicing Muslims rather than democratic citizens” (2), to put it mildly.
The author of the article should also be credited to taking this up with Prof. Abdul Hameed Nayyar, a prominent Pakistani physicist who is probably more famous as Pakistan’s man of peace. Professor Nayyar was, at that time in 1998, working on what was being preached out of Pakistani schoolbooks. In 2003, Nayyar went on to author a paper that created ripples in the country. “The Subtle Subversion: The State of Curricula and Textbooks in Pakistan” (1) clearly stated that what Pakistan was offering to its school going children was a very flawed version of history, among other things and facts, which were conveniently changed to nurture hatred for any non-Muslim, specially Hindus.
Not only that, the report mentioned that in the post-Independence days of Pakistan, the textbooks offered a much “real” version of history and even had admiration for Hindus. Chapters on MK Gandhi were a part of the curriculum while teachings of Ramayana and Mahabharata were also mentioned. This was contrasting because this text existed after the bloody experience of partition that both the countries went through and two gory wars.
What happened after Zia took over was a very systematic conversion of Pakistan from a democratic state to a country that based everything on religion. There have been many papers published since Nayyar’s, authored by Pakistani nationals and others, who have confirmed and validated the claims made by Prof. Nayyar. The textbooks have time and again mentioned the western powers and India specifically as sworn enemies of the state while endorsing the involvement of military forces in day to day governance of the state.
In his paper titled: “Islam, Democracy and Citizenship Education: An Examination of the Social Studies Curriculum in Pakistan”, professor Iftekhar Ahmad of Long Island University raises another important point that could very well be another branch of the concerns raised by Colonel Anil Athale: Could it be that it is this model of civic and citizenship education that is now hurting Pakistan the most?
Athale continues to say that If the texts of these books were changed for the better, it would still take a good two decades before we see any change coming out. There is no doubt in my mind about the validity of his statement.
Just a day ago, the Indian diplomat, SM Krishna, on his visit to Islamabad raised the issue of anti-India speeches made by LeT chief there in Pakistan. There is no doubt that the hate rhetoric coming out on the streets when Hafiz Saeed gives his speech should be objectionable to people in the Indian Government. What worries me is that the Textbooks of Pakistan, with their unending tirade against India, do not appear to be bothering much to the Indian administration.
1. Islamisation of Curricula – A. H. Nayyar, link here.
2. Islam, Democracy and Citizenship Education – An Examination of the Social Studies Curriculum in Pakistan – Iftikhar Ahmad, link here.
3. Peace with Pakistan: Chasing a Mirage – Anil K Athale, link here.