Pakistani Textbooks Controversy

The Pakistani textbooks controversy relates to the reported inaccuracy of some Pakistani textbooks and the existence of historical revisionism in them. The content of Pakistan's official textbooks has often been criticized by several sources including many within Pakistan for sometimes promoting religious intolerance and Indophobia, leading to calls for curriculum reform.

According to Hussain Haqqani, only officially published textbooks are used in Pakistan's schools and colleges since the era of Ayub Khan. This is used by Pakistani government to create a standard narrative of Pakistan's history. During the rule of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq a "program of Islamization" of the country including the textbooks was started. General Zia's 1979 education policy stated that "the highest priority would be given to the revision of the curricula with a view to reorganizing the entire content around Islamic thought and giving education an ideological orientation so that Islamic ideology permeates the thinking of the younger generation and helps them with the necessary conviction and ability to refashion society according to Islamic tenets".

According to the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, since the 1970s Pakistan's school textbooks have systematically inculcated hatred towards India and Hindus through historical revisionism. There is no mention of Islamic conquests and conversion of Hindus. Many texts give an impression that ancient Indian heritage was not destroyed by Afghans and Turks but Muslim heritage was destroyed by Indians, which supposedly contradicts the theory of mainstream historians.

In a 1995 paper published in the International Journal of Middle East Studies, historian Ayesha Jalal stated that "Pakistan's history textbooks amongst the best available sources for assessing the nexus between power and bigotry in creative imaginings of a national past." She points out authors whose "expansive pan-Islamic imaginings" detect the beginnings of Pakistan in the birth of Islam on the Arabian peninsula. A Text Book of Pakistan Studies claims that Pakistan "came to be established for the first time when the Arabs under Mohammad bin Qasim occupied Sindh and Multan'; by the thirteenth century 'Pakistan had spread to include the whole of Northern India and Bengal' and then under the Khiljis, Pakistan moved further south-ward to include a greater part of Central India and the Deccan'. The spirit of Pakistan asserted itself', and under Aurangzeb the 'Pakistan spirit gathered in strength'; his death 'weakened the Pakistan spirit'." Jalal points out that even an acclaimed scholar like Jameel Jalibi questions the validity of a national history that seeks to "claim Pakistan's pre-Islamic past" in an attempt to compete with India's historic antiquity. K. Ali's two volume history designed for BA students traces the pre-history of the 'Indo-Pakistan' subcontinent to the Paleolithic Age and consistently refers to the post-1947 frontiers of Pakistan while discussing the Dravidians and the Aryans.

Anti-Indian sentiments, coupled with anti-Hindu prejudices have existed in Pakistan since its formation, alternated with military dictatorship, and India being a secular state with a civilian government. According to Tufts University professor Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, Indophobia in Pakistan increased with the ascendancy of the militant Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami under Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi. Indophobia, together with Anti-Hinduism and racist ideologies, such as the Martial Race theory, were the driving factors behind the re-writing of school textbooks in Pakistan (in both "secular" schools and Islamic madrassahs) in order to promote a biased and revisionist historiography of the Indian subcontinent that promulgated Indophobic and anti-Hindu prejudices. These narratives are combined with Islamist propaganda in the extensive revising of Pakistan's history. By propagating concepts such as jihad, the inferiority of non-Muslims, India's perceived ingrained enmity with Pakistan, etc., the textbook board publications used by all government schools promote an obscurantist mindset.

According to the historian Professor Mubarak Ali, textbook "reform" in Pakistan began with the introduction of Pakistan Studies and Islamic studies by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1971 into the national curriculum as a compulsory subject. Former military dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, under a general drive towards Islamization, started the process of historical revisionism in earnest and exploited this initiative. 'The Pakistani establishment taught their children right from the beginning that this state was built on the basis of religion - that's why they don't have tolerance for other religions and want to wipe-out all of them.'

According to Pakistani physicist, Pervez Hoodbhoy, the Islamist revisionism of Pakistan's schools began in 1976 when an act of parliament required all government and private schools (except those teaching the British O-levels from Grade 9) to follow a curriculum that includes learning outcomes for the federally approved Grade 5 social studies class such as: 'Acknowledge and identify forces that may be working against Pakistan,' 'Make speeches on Jihad,' 'Collect pictures of policemen, soldiers, and national guards,' and 'India's evil designs against Pakistan.'.

Likewise, Yvette Rosser criticizes Pakistani textbooks for propagating jingoist and irredentist beliefs about Pakistan's history and culture, and being negationist in its depiction of political Islam and the treatment of minorities in Pakistan, such as Hindus and Christians. Irredentism is manifested through claims of "eternal Pakistan" (despite the country being created from British India only in 1947), narrow and sectarian interpretation of Islam, downplaying the tolerant aspects of the religion and focusing on Islamic Fundamentalist interpretations (such as all banking being un-Islamic), and making accusations of dual loyalty on minority Hindus and Christians in Pakistan.
According to Pakistani professor Tariq Rahman, Pakistani textbooks cannot mention Hindus without calling them cunning, scheming, deceptive or something equally insulting. The textbooks ignore the pre-Islamic history of Pakistan except to put the Hindu predecessors in negative light.

Another Pakistani historian Khursheed Kamal Aziz similarly has criticized Pakistani history textbooks. He stated that textbooks were full of historical errors and suggested that mandatory study amounted to teaching "prescribed myths". After examining 66 textbooks used at various levels of study Aziz argued that the textbooks supported military rule in Pakistan, promoted hatred for Hindus, glorified wars and distorted the pre 1947 history of Pakistan.
A study by Iftikhar Ahmad of Long Island University published in Current Issues in Comparative Education in 2004 drew five conclusions from content analysis of the social studies textbooks in Pakistan.

First, the selection of material and their thematic sequence in the textbooks present Islam not simply as a belief system but a political ideology and a grand unifying worldview that must be accepted by all citizens.
Second, to sanctify Islamic ideology as an article of faith, the textbooks distort historical facts about the nation's cultural and political heritage.

Third, the textbooks offer a biased treatment of non-Muslim citizens in Pakistan.

Fourth, the main objective of the social studies textbooks on Pakistan studies, civics, and global studies, is to indoctrinate children for a romanticized Islamic state as conceptualized by Islamic theocrats.

Fifth, although the vocabulary in the textbooks underscores Islamic virtues, such as piety, obedience, and submission, little is mentioned about critical thinking, civic participation, or democratic values of freedom of speech, equality, and respect for cultural diversity.

A study by Nayyar & Salim of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute concluded in 2003 that there is an increasing trend where children are taught Pakistan Studies as a replacement for the teaching of history and geography as full fledged disciplines. Previously, children were taught the very early pre-Islamic history of South Asia and its contribution to rich cultural diversity of modern-day Pakistan. This long historical perspective of Pakistan is absent these Pakistan Studies textbooks. Instead, children are now taught that the history of Pakistan starts from the day the first Muslim set foot in India. The study reported that the textbooks also had a lot of gender-biased stereotypes and other perspectives that "encourage prejudice, bigotry and discrimination towards fellow Pakistanis and other nations, especially against religious minorities, as well as the omission of concepts ... that could encourage critical self awareness among students".

Rubina Saigol, a US educated expert, said "I have been arguing for the longest time that, in fact, our state system is the biggest Madrassah, we keep blaming madrassahs for everything and, of course, they are doing a lot of things I would disagree with. But the state ideologies of hate and a violent, negative nationalism are getting out there where madrassahs cannot hope to reach."

Referring to NCERT's extensive review of textbooks in India in 2004, Verghese considered the erosion of plural and democratic values in textbooks in India, and the distortion of history in Pakistan to imply the need for coordination between Bangladeshi, Indian, and Pakistani historians to produce a composite history of the Subcontinent as a common South Asian reader.

However, international scholars also warn that any attempt for educational reforms under international pressure or market demands should not overlook the specific expectations of the people at local levels.

Reform efforts
In 2011 Fazalur Rahim Marwat, the chairman of Textbook board of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa stated that reform of textbooks was being undertaken in the state. Marwat stated that previously, school books played a key role in spreading hatred against non-Muslims, particularly against Hindus and distorted the history. Such material had now been removed from the textbooks used in the state. Professor Marwat had previously blamed General Zia for "sowing seeds of discord in society on religious and ethnic lines by stuffing school curricula with material that promoted hatred now manifested in the shape of extremism, intolerance, militancy, sectarianism, dogmatism and fanaticism." In addition he stated "After the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 countless lessons and chapters were introduced that spread hatred among the students and portrayed India as the biggest enemy of the Muslims. That stuff should be done away with."

Sindh province has also made efforts to reform curricula.