Pakistani students study textbooks

  • By Yvette Rosser
  • October 2004
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Pakistani Studies Textbooks Can Cause Cognitive Dissonance in Students

The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) organized a conference in Islamabad on December 8 & 9 2004 where the author presented a paper titled: "Troubled Times: Sustainable Development and Governance in the Age of Extremes”.

Abstract: 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. Pakistan Studies textbooks are particularly prone to the omissions, embellishments, and elisions that often characterize historical narratives designed for social studies classes. Discourses about Islam and its relationship to the Ideology of Pakistan comprise the majority of Pakistan Studies textbooks which say, "Namaz  prevents a Muslim from indulging in immoral and indecent acts." One textbook states that governmental officers should “be honest, impartial and devoted.  They should keep in view betterment of common people and should not act in a manner which may infringe the rights of others or may cause inconvenience to others.” This discourse does not tally with the tales that the students have heard about corruption and the hassles their parents have endured simply to pay a bill or collect a refund.  Several students complained that they felt cheated and pessimistic when they read these things. They were angry because they could not rectify their cognitive dissonance about corrupt officials and wealthy landholders and industrialists buying off court cases, with statements from their textbooks such as, “Islam does not approve that certain individuals may be considered above law.”

A textbook published by the Punjab Textbook Board states, "The Holy Prophet (PBUH) says that a nation which deviates from justice invites its doom and destruction".  With such a huge disparity between the ideal and the real, there is a great deal of fatalism apparent among the educated citizens and the school going youths concerning the state of the nation. Pakistan Studies textbooks are full of inherent contradictions. On one page the text brags about the modern banking system and on another page complains that interest, riba, is unIslamic. There is also a certain amount of self-loathing written into the Pakistan Studies textbooks, the politicians are depicted as inept and corrupt and the industrialists are described as pursuing "personal benefit even at the cost of national interest". 

Bouncing between the poles of conspiracy theory and threat from within, the textbooks portray Pakistan as a victim of Western ideological hegemony, threatened by the perpetual Machiavellian intentions of India's military and espionage machine, together with the internal failure of its politicians to effectively govern the country, coupled with the fact that the economy is in the hands of a totally corrupt class of elite business interests who have only enriched themselves at the cost of the development of the nation. Ironically, in textbooks intended to create patriotism and pride in the nation, the country is ridiculed and despised. All of these failures of the state and internal and international conspiracies could, according to the rhetoric in the textbooks, be countered by the application of more strictly Islamic practices.

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’a lasting 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 with the American ambassador and several other top brass generals on board the fatal flight. The casket in Zia’s mausoleum near the beautiful Faizl Mosque 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 military  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 madrassah  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.

Islamization is 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 Islamization as 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".  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" is based on Islamic nationalism. Islamization is 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 Islamize the 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 program 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-length sleeves 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 wala wants 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.  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 covering 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 made a 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.

Pervez Hoodbhoy and A.H. Nayyar published 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.”  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 the Pakistan Movement
4. An emphasis on ritualistic Islam, together with the rejection of interpretations of the religion and generation of communal antagonism

The broad expanse of South Asian history is a tabula rasa upon 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 Hoodbhoy explain, "The 'recasting' of Pakistani history [has been] used to 'endow the nation with a historic destiny'."  The 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 Ahamadis  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 made to 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 propagandistic tone 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. Benazir Bhutto was too preoccupied with remaining 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.  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.  

Teaching Cognitive Dissonance
 Discourses about Islam and its relationship to the Ideology of Pakistan comprise the majority of Pakistan Studies textbooks that delve at length on how Islam can create a fair and just nation,
In the eyes of a Muslim all human beings are equal and there is no distinction based on race or colour [. . . .] The rich or poor [are] all equal before law. A virtuous and pious man has precedence over others before Allah. 
This Pakistan Studies textbook goes on to say, "Namaz  prevents a Muslim from indulging in immoral and indecent acts." And regarding issues of justice, the 1999 edition of this Pakistan Studies textbook, which is used widely in Pakistan states, On official level (sic) all the officers and officials must perform their duties justly, i.e., they should be honest, impartial and devoted.  They should keep in view betterment of common people and should not act in a manner which may infringe the rights of others or may cause inconvenience to others.

How does this discourse tally with the tales that the students have heard about corruption and the hassles their parents have endured simply to pay a bill or collect a refund?  Several students in Pakistan complained that they felt cheated and pessimistic when they read these things. They were angry because they could not rectify their cognitive dissonance of what they hear about elected officials and wealthy landholders and industrialists buying off court cases lodged against them or simply not charged for known crimes, with statements from their textbooks such as, Every one should be equal before law and the law should be applied without any distinction or discrimination. [. . . ] Islam does not approve that certain individuals may be considered above law.

A textbook published by the Punjab Textbook Board states, "The Holy Prophet (PBUH) says that a nation which deviates from justice invites its doom and destruction"  (emphasis added).  With such a huge disparity between the ideal and the real, there is a great deal of fatalism apparent among the educated citizens and the school going youths concerning the state of the nation in Pakistan. Further compounding the students' distress and distancing them from either their religion or their nation-state, or both, are contradictory statements made in this Pakistan Studies book that "the enforcement of Islamic principles . . . does not approve dictatorship or the rule of man over man." Compared with the reality unfolding a few paragraphs later when the student is told uncritically that,
General Muhammad Ayub Khan captured power and abrogated the constitution of 1956 [...] dissolved the assemblies and ran the affairs of the country under Martial Law without any constitution.

 In Md. Sarwar’s Pakistan Studies a whole chapter is dedicated to “Islamization of Pakistan” with subtitles, “Islamization Under Zia,” “Hindrances to Islamization,” and “Complete Islamization is Our Goal”. Other themes and events in the history and culture of Pakistan are judged vis-à-vis their relationship and support of “complete Islamization”. Within this rhetoric are found dire warnings that Islam should be applied severely so that it can guard against degenerate Western influences, yet a few pages later the text encourages the students to embrace Western technological innovations in order to modernize the country. One part of the book complains that Muslims in British India lost out on economic opportunities because conservative religious forces rejected Western education yet a few pages later the authors are telling the students to use Islam to fend off the influences of Western education, eulogizing the efforts of conservative clerics who are the last hope of preventing the degeneration of the country through their desire to implement the Shari-a Law. This seems to be schizophrenic reasoning, but may reflect the inherent contradiction of British pedagogical constructs underlying and undermining post-colonial Islamized interpretations.

 The Sarwar textbook claims that Islam sees no differences and promotes unity among peoples while it also discriminates between Muslims and nonbelievers.  On page 120 the author states, The Islamic state, of course, discriminates between Muslim citizens and religious minorities and preserves their separate entity. Islam does not conceal the realities in the guise of artificialities or hypocrisy. By recognizing their distinct entity, Islamic state affords better protection to its religious minorities. Despite the fact that the role of certain religious minorities, especially the Hindus in East Pakistan, had not been praiseworthy, Pakistan ensured full protection to their rights under the Constitution. Rather the Hindu Community enjoyed privileged position in East Pakistan by virtue of is effective control over the economy and the media. It is to be noted that the Hindu representatives in the 1st Constituent Assembly of Pakistan employed delaying tactics in Constitution-making.

That this claim is exaggerated can be seen in the recent book by Allen McGrath, The Destruction of Democracy in Pakistan, in which the author, a lawyer, analyzes the efforts at constitution making in the first decade after independence before Iskandar Mizra dissolved the National Assembly. In the McGrath book the productive role D.N. Dutt, a Hindu from East Pakistan played in constitution making is mentioned. Yet, in Pakistan Studies textbooks, anti-Hindu rhetoric and the vilification of the Hindu community of East Pakistan are the standard fare. 

In this particular version of Pakistani history, which is the official version, General Zia-ul-Haq is portrayed as someone who "took concrete steps in the direction of Islamization." He is often portrayed as very pious and perhaps stitching caps alongside Aurangzeb. Though Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is generally criticized in the textbooks, General Zia escapes most criticism though he was the most autocratic of the four military rulers who have usurped the political process in Pakistan. Each time that martial law was declared in Pakistan, and the constitution aborted, placed in abeyance, or otherwise raped, textbooks describe it as a necessary repercussion responding to the rise of decadent secular values. Dr. Sarwar describes martial law as an inevitable solution stimulated by unIslamic forces, During the period under Zia's regime, social life developed a leaning towards simplicity. Due respect and reverence to religious people was accorded. The government patronized the religious institutions and liberally donated funds. 

This textbook and many like it, claim that there is a "network of conspiracies and intrigues" which is threatening the "Muslim world in the guise of elimination of militancy and fundamentalism." In this treatment Pakistan, under the guidance of General Zia, takes credit for the fall of the Soviet Union and lays claim to have created a situation in the modern world where Islamic revolutions can flourish and the vacuum left by the fall of the USSR will "be filled by the world of Islam." The Sarwar textbook continues, "The Western world has full perception of this phenomena, [which] accounts for the development of reactionary trends in that civilization." Concluding this section under the subheading “Global Changes,” the author seems to be preparing for Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations when he writes, The Muslim world has full capabilities to face the Western challenges provided Muslims are equipped with self-awareness and channelize their collective efforts for the well being of the Muslim Ummah. All evidences substantiate Muslim optimism indicating that the next century will glorify Islamic revolution with Pakistan performing a pivotal role.

 Pakistan Studies textbooks are full of inherent contradictions. On one page the text brags about the modern banking system and on another page complains that interest, riba, is unIslamic. There is also a certain amount of self-loathing written into the Pakistan Studies textbooks, the politicians are depicted as inept and corrupt and the industrialists are described as pursuing "personal benefit even at the cost of national interest". 

Bouncing between the poles of conspiracy theory and threat from within, the textbooks portray Pakistan as a victim of Western ideological hegemony, threatened by the perpetual Machiavellian intentions of India's military and espionage machine, together with the internal failure of its politicians to effectively govern the country, coupled with the fact that the economy is in the hands of a totally corrupt class of elite business interests who have only enriched themselves at the cost of the development of the nation. Ironically, in textbooks intended to create patriotism and pride in the nation, the country is ridiculed and despised. All of these failures of the state and internal and international conspiracies could, according to the rhetoric in the textbooks, be countered by the application of more strictly Islamic practices. In July of 1999, I spoke to several well-placed individuals who told me that they would welcome a Taliban type government in Pakistan so that the country could “finally achieve its birth right as a truly Islamic, corruption-free nation”. This is certainly not a majority opinion among the middle classes; however there is a large segment of society who thinks along these lines.

Most of the people I met in Pakistan in the late nineties were alarmed about the "Talibanization of the nation". I was told time and again “the CIA created the Taliban Frankenstein in Pakistan’s backyard, and then walked away, leaving the monster behind”. Some Pakistanis inspired by the politicized sermons of Mullah elites, vociferously called for a “Taliban type system” and are willing to die to Islamize the nation. This may be especially true among the poor, whose only access to education is in a crowded Madrassa where they learn that Sunni Islam is poised to take over the world of kafirs (non-believers) and apostates. These economically and emotionally deprived young men have been taught that a Taliban type system could overcome their poverty, their powerlessness and despair. Caught between conspiracies, corruption and the Holy Quran, they see no alternatives.

 When textbooks and clerics cry conspiracy and the majority of newspapers, particularly the Urdu press, misinform the people and sensationalize the issues; the tendency for Pakistanis to feel betrayed and persecuted is not surprising. During the 1971 war, newspapers in Pakistan told very little about the violent military crack down in Dhaka nor did they keep the people informed of the deteriorating strategic situation. The role of the Mukti Bahini  was practically unknown in the western wing of the country, and when defeat finally came, it was a devastating and unexpected shock that could only be explained by the treachery of Indira Gandhi, who is often quoted as saying, “We have sunk the Two-Nation Theory in the Bay of Bengal”. India remains a hyperbolic threat to Pakistan’s existence.

In the thirty years since the ‘fall of Dhaka” the government controlled curriculum still does not include a historically circumspect version of the causes of the civil war that dismembered the nation. It is no wonder that during and in the aftermath of the Kargil crisis in the summer of 1999, newspapers often ran stories referring to the occupation of the heights above Kargil as “revenge for 1971.” There is a chronic shortage of objective information available to the majority of Pakistani citizens that can adequately explain the actual events that led to the three wars with India. Kashmir in 1948, the war with India in 1965, and the Bangladesh War of Independence have become national metaphors  for betrayal within and a reminder of the constant threat looming from Hindu India. The split-up of the nation and the creation of Bangladesh remains a potent symbol of Pakistan’s disempowerment and a constant reminder of what will happen if the Muslim Ummah does not remain vigilant.

During the war-like situation in the summer of 1999 at the Line of Control near Kargil, the Pakistani government claimed that the Mujahideen were not physically supported by Pakistan, that they were indigenous Kashmiri freedom fighters. However, the presence of satellite television, the Internet, and newspapers which are now more connected to international media sources, offered the possibility of broader exposure than during the two previous wars fought over Kashmir. Perhaps there is at least one positive outcome of the tragic Kargil crisis where hundreds of young men lost their lives; in the aftermath there was an outpouring of newspaper and magazine articles in Pakistan that attempted to analyze the brinkmanship from various angles. Such critical reflexivity is essential in a civil society. Although some of the essays in Pakistani newspapers prophetically called for the military to take over the government in the wake of Nawaz Sharif’s sell out to the imperialist Clinton, most of the discussions were more circumspect and many authors looked at the Kargil debacle through a lens of history, trying to understand the cause of Pakistan's repeated failures arising from military brinkmanship. Many of the observations made after Kargil, such as the inadequacy of Pakistan’s international diplomatic missions, are interestingly, also cited in Pakistan Studies textbooks regarding India's perceived manipulation of world opinion during the 71 war and Pakistan's inability to counter it.

 Pakistani textbooks are particularly prone to historical narratives manipulated by omission, according to Avril Powell, professor of history at the University of London. History by erasure can have its long-term negative repercussions. Another example of this is the manner in which the Indo-Pak War of 1965 is discussed in Pakistani textbooks. In standard narrations of the 65 War manufactured for students and the general public, there is no mention of Operation Gibraltar, even after four decades. In fact, several university level history professors whom I interviewed claimed never to have heard of Operation Gibraltar and the repercussions of that ill-planned military adventurism which resulted in India's attack on Lahore. In Pakistani textbooks the story is told that “the Indian army, unprovoked, inexplicably attacked Lahore” and that “one Pakistani jawan (soldier) equals ten Indian soldiers”, who, upon seeing the fierce Pakistanis, “drop their banduks (rifles) and run away”. Many people in Pakistan still think like this, and several mentioned this assumed cowardice of the Indian army in discussions with me while the fighting was raging in Kargil. The nation is elated by the valiant victories on the battlefield, as reported in the newspapers, then shocked and dismayed when their country is humiliated at the negotiating table. Because they were not fully informed about the adventurism of their military leaders, they can only feel betrayed that somehow Pakistani politicians once again "grabbed diplomatic defeat from the jaws of military victory”.

 Operation Gibraltar, the 1999 debacle in Kargil, and especially the tragic lessons that could have been learned from the Bangladesh War are products of the same myopic processes. The Kargil crisis was a legacy of the lack of information that citizens have had about the real history of their country. The Kashmiri conflict has left a trail of denied incursions and undeclared wars. In 1948 the Pakistani army took an active role in the military action in Kashmir, and numerous historical accounts, such as Hodson’s The Great Divide, offer evidence that Jinnah was ready “to ’call the whole thing off’ if ‘India would withdraw’ its forces.”  In a letter to Mountbattan in late December 1948, Nehru wrote that the resources of Pakistan are being employed. . .[and] the invasion of Kashmir is not an accidental affair resulting from the fanaticism or exuberance of the tribesmen, but a well-organized business with the backing of the state.

Nehru added ominously, “The present objective is Kashmir. The next declared objective is Patiala, East Punjab and Delhi. ‘On to Delhi’ is the cry all over West Punjab.” 

You can email feedback to author yvetterosser@yahoo.com

1. prayer
2. Rizvi, Hassan Askri, Javed Iqbal, Ghulam Abid Khan.  Pakistan Studies for Secondary Classes, (Qamer, Lahore: Punjab Textbook Board, 1999), pp. 9-13.
3. This has been accomplished through the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), funded largely by the USA.
4. Religious schools attached to a masjid or mosque.
5. Thanks to Mir Zohair Husain, Department of Political Science, University of South Alabama, Mobile, for constructive comments regarding Zia’s use of the term “Islamization”.
6. Rosser, Yvette Claire, “Things That Go Bump in the Night: Is the Taliban Coming to Town?”--published in The Friday Times, March 13, 2001, Lahore, Pakistan: "[M]ost young men in Pakistan would rather marry an educated woman and work in the Info-Tech industry than fight the infidels. They would rather play cricket on the weekend in an empty lot than plot suicide missions into Kashmir. The average Pakistani is not a fundamentalist. Far more Pakistanis fear the militant Mullahs and their debilitating impact on society. Mullah jokes abound, but bitter laughter offers small reprieve. The vast majority of educated Pakistanis dream of a prosperous economy, democratic institutions, a safe future for their children—boys and girls. They want peace with India, peace with the world. They are secular and sophisticated. And they are sick of giving up everything—economic development, education, civic society--sacrificing everything for Kashmir. "Fifty years is long enough. Let’s get on with the business of nation-building.” Frustrated as they may be by the lack of infrastructure, the growing political clout of the militant fundamentalists is far more frightening. The gender-biased dogmatic rhetoric that revels in a culture of fatwas, hudood and blasphemy laws, the self-appointed sectarian clerics that depreciate diplomacy, the unemployed, well armed young men pouring out of the Deeni Madaris, hunting heretics in the neighborhood. . . scary indeed."
7. University Grants Commission directive, (Islamabad: Mutalliyah-i-Pakistan, Alama Iqbal Open University, 1983), pp. xi..
8. Hoodbhoy, Pervez and Nayyar, A.H. “Rewriting the History of Pakistan,” in Khan, Asghar, (ed.), Islam, Politics, and the State, (Zed Press, 1985), pp. 164.
9. Ibid pp.165.
10. ibid, pp. 176.
11. From Ziring, 1997: “As deep as . . .differences are in Pakistan [between Muslim Sunnis and Shias], they pale into relative insignificance in the juxtaposition of Sunni Muslim and the Ahmedis, who also consider themselves Muslims. The Ahmedis are the contemporary followers of the nineteenth-century personality, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad [. . .] they accept Ghulam Ahmad as a prophet. [. . . .] A Punjabi phenomenon, the Ahmedis, also known as Qadianis [. . .] assail the fundamental Islamic belief that the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is the last or seal of the prophets and that after him there can be no other prophets” (pp. 137). In Pakistan the Sunni Ulema demanded that the “Ahmedis be declared a non-Muslim minority  [. . . .] Viewed as a rebellious and divisive element within the body of Islam, both clerical and lay figures raised their voices against it, none more vehemently than the poet Iqbal, who wrote ‘it is in the interest of the (Islamic) solidarity that Islam cannot tolerate any rebellious group within its fold.” A “vituperative campaign against the Ahmedis” was launched just five years after the bloodletting birth of the nation. Riots tore apart Panjab in 1953 as the Ahmedi community was targeted and murdered, their property destroyed. New Ahmedi riots erupted in 1974 “after the National Assembly at Bhutto’s urging, declared Ahmedis to be non-Mulsims” (pp. 394). When General Zia came to power he “issued an order depriving the Ahmedi community, which during the Bhutto administration had been formally decertified as Muslims, from using any Islamic symbols or in any way leading people to believe that the community was connected with the Islamic faith. The more conservative members of the orthodox community had argued for even harsher penalties, insisting that the Ahmadis were heretics and hence, subject to the death penalty. Zia did not accept that extreme view, but the government was immediately challenged by sectarian strife” (pp. 477).

12. Social Studies Grade VII, (Jamshoro: Sindh Textbook Board, 1997).
13. Rabbani, and Sayyid, pp. 3.
14. prayer
15. Rizvi, Hassan Askri, Javed Iqbal, Ghulam Abid Khan.  Pakistan Studies for Secondary Classes, (Qamer, Lahore: Punjab Textbook Board, 1999), pp. 9-13.
16. ibid, pp. 65.
17. Sarwar, pp. 136.
18. Ibid, page 146.
19. The Mukti Bahini (Liberation  Army) were anti-Pakistani guerilla soldiers from East Bengal, supported and supplied by India. They spearheaded a nine month civil war which began when Pakistani troops staged a military crack down on March 26, 1971 and massacred thousands of Bengalis/East Pakistanis, including hundreds of students at Dhaka University. On December 16, 1971, Indian troops liberated Dhaka and the independent country of Bangladesh was created.
20. For example, a headline that ran in the Islamabad edition of the newspaper, The News, in June 1999, said, "Nawaz Sharif’s Policies are Turning Sindh into Another Bangladesh."
21. Hodson, H.V. The Great Divide, Britain-India-Pakistan, (1969, 1985, 1997 Jubilee Series--edition with a new introduction), (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 459.
22.  ibid, pp. 467.