Single-faith nation is an open invitation to Taliban

24 02 2009

Source: TOI

22 Feb 2009, 0000 hrs IST, M J Akbar

Breast-beating has its dangers. You could lacerate yourself while the assassin laughs all the way to the graveyard. The international lamentation
over the negotiated surrender of Swat in Pakistan to what might broadly be called the Taliban is high on moaning and low on illumination.

There is a symmetrical irony. Benazir Bhutto handed over Afghanistan to the Taliban. Her husband Asif Zardari might have laid the foundation stone of Talibanistan inside Pakistan by accepting Sufi Mohammad’s Tehrik-e-Nifz-e-Shariat Mohammadi as the law for the former princely state of Swat. This demand was first heard in November 1994, the month in which Kandahar fell to the Taliban.

Many questions demand answers. The Pakistani army has an estimated strength of 12,000 in the region of Swat. Why was it unable, or unwilling, to subdue an insurgent force of some 3,000? The Pakistani army is not a pushover. Why was it pushed over in Swat? Is the Pakistani soldier increasingly unwilling to confront an ideology it implicitly sympathises with? How much of such sympathy is shared by the middle-ranking officer, who entered the force during the seminal leadership of General Zia ul Haq? To what extent has Ziaism become the secret doctrine of sections of the Pakistani forces?

What price will Pakistan’s polity pay as the last civilian hope degenerates into a national heartbreak? The legacy of Benazir, the charismatic romantic, has been usurped by a semi-literate authoritarian who has seized executive power through a virtual coup against his own government. Zardari was elected to a ceremonial office, not an executive one. His principal achievement so far has been to make the era of Pervez Musharraf seem like a golden age. If she had been in charge, Benazir may have been able to mobilise her country’s youth by lifting the economy and offering a liberal horizon. Zardari’s ineffectual rule, wafting along compromise and mismanagement, can only create the space for a theocratic impulse that has been waiting to find its moment ever since Pakistan was born. Musharraf doubled the GDP of an insecure economy. Under Zardari, Pakistan is dwindling into a “basket case”, a term Henry Kissinger coined for the eastern half of united Pakistan. While Bangladesh is leaving that stigma behind, Pakistan is entering the vortex of the begging bowl.

Military chaos opened the door for the Taliban in Kabul. Could economic chaos open the door in Islamabad? Has Pakistan begun to realise that faith-based nationalism is not synonymous with peace?

The Frontier and North Punjab, the principal catchment areas of the Taliban, have had a Muslim majority for perhaps a thousand years. It is not widely known that Mahmud of Ghazni’s territories extended to what is roughly the line of the Indo-Pak border today. (This fact is not lost on terrorists who want to use Pakistan as a base from which to launch assaults on the heart of India.) But this area was never a single-faith entity. Hindus and later Sikhs created, along with Muslims, a dynamic shared culture that blossomed through partnership. The presence of the other also became an antidote to puritanism of any hue. The region was ruled successively by Muslims, Sikhs and Christians. No ruler, not even Ghazni, drove Hindus and Sikhs out. It was only after 1947 that the region became a single-faith hegemony, and from that point a breeding ground for theocratic militancy.

The power of a minority is rarely acknowledged by those who seek to turn it into an enemy. A minority is the yeast that enables the national flour to rise. Hindus and Sikhs were the yeast of the North West Frontier and Pakistani Punjab just as much as Indian Muslims are the yeast of Hindu-majority India. Their existence was a daily lesson in co-existence. Their absence has shifted the gears of social evolution and driven the people into rancid and arid territory.

Will the answers be more optimistic than the questions? That too remains a question.

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Hate literature fed from childhood: Pakistan

30 12 2008

Primers Of Hate

History or biology, Pakistani students get anti-India lessons in all their textbooks

AMIR MIR
Source: outlookindia

When Mohammad Qasim stepped out to participate in the declamation contest held to celebrate Pakistan’s Independence Day, the topic he was to speak on was: ‘Why Islam and Pakistan are integral to each other’. Instead, this Class XI student of Lahore’s Government Central Model School lashed out against the Hindus, giving vent to inexplicable anger and hatred. This was particularly shocking because the Hindu community, constituting an infinitesimal percentage of Pakistan’s population, hasn’t been an aspect of Qasim’s life. Asked to explain his outpouring in the contest, the 14-year-old boy said, “We hate Hindus because they are Hindustanis and the number one enemies of both Islam and Pakistan. We know it all through our history and Pakistan Studies books. We learn what happened years ago all the time at school.”

Qasim’s explanation illustrates vividly the inimical impact of school textbooks, where history is manipulated to foster national chauvinism, where knowledge becomes a vital tool in the construction of national identity, where the sense of nation is promoted through veritable lessons in bigotry, hatred and gross misrepresentation of history. The extracts (see box) culled out from textbooks taught in government schools demonstrates how the ruling establishment, under the aegis of President Pervez Musharraf, is misusing books to develop an anti-India, anti-Hindu mindset—and also fan sentiments against Christians, Jews and the West. The regime’s control over the education system is exercised through Lt Gen (retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi, who heads the federal education ministry. Head of the ISI between 1993 and 1995, Qazi supervised the recruitment of students from Pakistan’s madrassas for constituting the extremist Taliban militia.

These textbooks came under the scanner following a story in the Los Angeles Times highlighting the tilt against non-Muslims. “Thousands of Pakistani children learn from history books each year that Jews are tight-fisted moneylenders and Christians are vengeful conquerors,” the newspaper said. It expressed astonishment that such lessons are taught not in madrassas but in government schools of a country whose leader (Musharraf) is an ally of the US in the war against terror. The LA Times report prompted the US administration to voice its grave concern over the textbooks to Islamabad. US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told a news briefing last August, “The issue is a matter of serious concern for Washington and the Bush administration would like the Pakistani leadership to effectively address it.”

Minister Qazi subsequently claimed efforts were afoot to revise and reform the public school curriculum. But the gargantuan nature of the task can be illustrated through the mindset dominant in the Islamabad-based National Curriculum Wing (NCW). Functioning directly under Qazi’s ministry, the NCW sets the guidelines for the four provincial textbook boards which publish course material for government schools. The NCW issued a directive in 2002 laying out the following objectives: nurture in children a sense of Islamic identity and pride in being a Pakistani and regard Pakistan as an Islamic country and acquire deep love for it. Ignored was the possibility that a child in school could be non-Muslim and might feel alienated because textbooks equate the Pakistani with Muslim. Although the subject of Islam, or Islamiat, is compulsory only for Muslims, the directive awarded an extra 25 per cent marks to a non-Muslim student should he or she opt for the course. The 2002 directive was issued a month after then education minister Zubaida Jalal had directed the NCW to revise history books taught in public schools.

Scientist and educationist Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy feels the ongoing redefinition of education, first initiated under President Zia-ul-Haq, will have profound illiberal implications for Pakistan.”A new concept of education now prevails, the full impact of which will probably be felt when the present generation of schoolchildren attains maturity.”

Not only have the Pakistan rulers divorced education from liberal and secular ideals, they also view it as essential for Islamising society and forging a new national identity. Hoodbhoy explains, “Important steps have already been taken in this direction: enforcement of chador in educational institutions; organisation of congregational afternoon prayers during school hours; compulsory teaching of Arabic as a second language from Class VI onwards; introduction of reading the Quran as a matriculation requirement; alteration of the definition of literacy to include religious knowledge; establishment of an Islamic university in Islamabad; introduction of religious knowledge as a criterion for selecting teachers; and the revision of conventional subjects to emphasise Islamic values.”

Renowned historian Dr Mubarak Ali says the westernised liberal elite, which had inherited power from the British, had given to education a basically secular and modern character. “However, the self-seeking and opportunistic elite in independent Pakistan simply abandoned liberal values because of political and economic exigencies,” explains Dr Ali, adding that this trend has impacted adversely on the education system.

The debilitating role of the political class in Islamising the education system can best be illustrated through an example. In March 2004, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), the fundamentalist alliance of five religious parties, disrupted the National Assembly proceedings and staged a walkout claiming that a certain reference to jehad as well as other Quranic verses had been excluded from the new edition of a state-prescribed biology textbook. The MMA threatened to launch a protest movement if the Quranic verses were not reinstated. However, then education minister Zubaida Jalal clarified that no chapter or verses relating to jehad (holy war) or shahadat (martyrdom) had been deleted from textbooks, and that the particular verse referring to jehad had only been shifted from the biology textbook for intermediate students (Classes XI and XII, that is) to the matriculation level course (Class X). The education ministry never bothered to inquire—as most people familiar with the discipline of biology logically would—why there were references to jehad in the biology textbook in the first place.

The illiberal nature of Pakistan’s education system was brought out in pitiless detail by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Islamabad, in its report ‘The Subtle Subversion: The State of Curricula and Textbooks in Pakistan’. Authored jointly by A.H. Nayyar and Ahmed Salim, the 140-page SDPI report illustrates, through examples, how the education system is contributing to the culture of sectarianism, religious intolerance and violence.

Some of the important findings of the SDPI are: the current curriculum and textbooks are “impregnating young and impressionable minds with seeds of hatred” to serve a self-styled ideological straitjacket; substantial distortion of the nature and significance of actual events in Pakistan’s history; insensitivity to the existing religious diversity of the nation; promotion of perspectives that encourage prejudice, bigotry and discrimination towards fellow citizens, especially women and religious minorities and other nations; a glorification of war and the use of force; and incitement to militancy and violence, including encouragement of loaded concepts like jehad and martyrdom.

The SDPI report, however, also exposes America’s hypocrisy.Claiming that the concepts of jehad and martyrdom were incorporated into the Pakistani curricula after the start of the so-called Afghan jehad against the Soviet occupation troops, the SDPI report says, “At that point, it suited the US and its most allied of allies, Pakistan, to encourage and glorify the so-called mujahideen, or holy warriors, in the war against the Russians. An American institution of higher education was asked to formulate textbooks for Pakistani schools accordingly. The University of Nebraska at Omaha, which has a center for Afghan Studies, was subsequently tasked by the Central Intelligence Agency in the early eighties to rewrite textbooks for Afghan refugee children. The new textbooks included hate material even in arithmetic books. One question asked, ‘If a man has five bullets and two go into the heads of Russian soldiers, how many are left’?”

But the context changed dramatically post-9\11. A research thesis exposed in 2002 the role of Americans in writing pernicious textbooks. The SDPI report states, “Since the Soviets are no more, the mujahideen have not only mutated into Taliban but have also outlived their usefulness, the same American University (the University of Nebraska at Omaha) has been given an additional grant by the Bush administration to re-re-write textbooks, taking out material on jehad, etc.”

America’s hypocrisy apart, it is in Pakistan’s interest to delete from textbooks hate material and ensure today’s schoolchildren are groomed into liberal, democratic, secular Pakistanis, harbouring hatred for none and love for all.

magazine | Oct 10, 2005
‘Hindu, Enemy Of Islam’

These are extracts from government-sponsored textbooks approved by the National Curriculum Wing of the Federal Ministry of Education.

“Before the Arab conquest people were fed up with the teachings of Buddhists & Hindus.” “Before Islam people lived in untold misery.”

“European nations have been working during the past three centuries…to subjugate countries of the Muslim world.”


Class IV

  • The Muslims of Pakistan provided all facilities to the Hindus and the Sikhs who left for India. But the Hindus and the Sikhs looted the Muslims in India with both hands and they attacked their caravans, buses and railway trains. Therefore, about one million Muslims were martyred on their way to Pakistan.
  • The Hindus treated the ancient population of the Indus Valley very badly. They set fire to their houses and butchered them.
  • The religion of Hindus did not teach them good things, Hindus did not respect women.

Class V

  • After the war of 1965, India with the help of Hindus living in East Pakistan, incited the people of East Pakistan against West Pakistanis. In December 1971, the Indians themselves also attacked East Pakistan. As a result…East Pakistan separated from us. We should all receive military training so that we can foil the designs of the enemy in the future.
  • The Hindu has always been an enemy of Islam.

Class VI

  • In the middle of the city of Deebal (Sindh), there was a Hindu temple. There was a flag hoisted on top of it. The Hindus believed that as long as the flag kept flying, nobody could harm them. Mohd bin Qasim found out about this…. The Muslims began to catapult stones at the temple and at the flag, ultimately making it fall to the ground. The whole city became tumultuous and the Hindus lost heart. Some Muslims clambered up the walls of the temple and forced open the door. Qasim’s army entered the city and after conquering it, announced peace. The Muslims treated the vanquished so well many Hindus converted to Islam.
  • Before the Arab conquest the people were fed up with the teachings of Buddhists and Hindus.
  • The foundation of the Hindu setup was based on injustice and cruelty.
  • The Hindus who had always been opportunists cooperated with the British.
  • The Hindus used to please the goddess Kali by slaughtering people of other religions.

Class VII

  • Some Jewish tribes also lived in Arabia. They lent money to workers and peasants on high rates of interest and usurped their earnings. They held the whole society in their tight grip because of the ever-increasing compound interest.
  • History has no parallel to the extremely kind treatment of the Christians by the Muslims. Still the Christian kingdoms of Europe were constantly trying to gain control of Jerusalem. This was the cause of the Crusades.
  • European nations have been working during the past three centuries, through conspiracies or naked aggression, to subjugate countries of the Muslim world.

    w Hindus always desired to crush the Muslims as a nation. Several attempts were made by the Hindus to erase Muslim culture and civilisation.

  • The Hindus too wished to ruin Muslim civilisation and culture by destroying Urdu which has been closely associated with the Pakistan Movement.

Class VIII

  • During the Khilafat Movement Hindus and Muslims were completely united and like brothers and they started to cooperate and live in peaceful togetherness. But as soon as this movement ended, Hindu hatred of the Muslim re-emerged.
  • Before Islam people lived in untold misery all over the world.

Class IX

  • The Hindus and the Muslims…could not amalgamate each other’s way of life to become one nation. The main reason for this difference of cultures, civilisation and outlook was the religion of Islam which cannot be assimilated in any other system as it is based on the principle of…oneness of God….On the other hand, Hinduism is based on the concept of multiple Gods….There lies the difference between the Hindu and Muslim way of thinking.
  • In connivance with the (British) government the Hindus started communal riots and caused loss of life and property. At the time of prayers the Hindus tortured the Muslims by playing music in front of the mosques. Before the commencement of classes the students saluted the portrait of Mahatma Gandhi and Muslim students were also forced to do so.
  • Muslims promoted equality and social justice as against the division (created by) the (Hindu) caste system.

Class X

  • (The ideology of) Pakistan…was a revolt against the prevailing system of India in which Hindu nationalism was imposed on the Muslims….
  • Islam gives a message of peace and brotherhood…. There is no such concept in Hinduism. Moreover Islam preaches brotherhood, equality and justice…. On the other hand, the Hindu society is based on caste system which downgrades the entire mankind.
  • After the establishment of Pakistan the Hindus and Sikhs created a day of doom for the Muslims in East Punjab.
  • The Hindus were encouraged by the (British) government to force the Muslims to join the Congress.


(These extracts have been translated from Urdu which is the standard medium of instruction in government





BENAZIR AND INDIA: Francois Gautier

29 12 2007

She resorted to anti-Indianism to please voters (rediff.com) http://www.rediff.com/news/2007/dec/31gautier.htm

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday described her as “one of the outstanding leaders of our sub-continent, who always looked for reconciliation between India and Pakistan.”

It is a sad that a mother of three children was so brutally killed and we all mourn her terrible death. Nevertheless, truth must be told. For, as usual, what the press says is not exactly what happened. Firstly, under Bhutto, anti-Indian terrorism in the Kashmir region was fostered and increased. Benazir was also directly responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Kashmir. “She was instrumental in sponsoring jihad, openly inciting militants to intensify terrorism in India,” says Ajai Sahni, the executive director of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management. “I find it very difficult to discover a single element with her relationship to India that is positive and for the betterment of her country or the region”, he adds. Remember how she was shouting her slogans of azaadi, and exhorting the people of Kashmir to cut Jagmohan, then governor of the state, into pieces, as in “jag-jag, mo-mo, han-han”. She would say this while making chopping motions with her right hand as it moved from her left wrist to the elbow, leaving nobody in any doubt as to what she meant.

Secondly, under Benazir Bhutto, the Taliban formed and, helped by Pakistan’s intelligence service, swept across Afghanistan and later hosted Osama bin Laden. It is a bit of an irony that she may have been killed by the very people she helped foster if at all she was murdered.
Thirdly, she deliberately increased tension levels and then threatened India with a pre-emptive nuclear strike. The tension peaked when Benazir repeated her late father’s immortal boast of waging a thousand-year war against India and even Rajiv Gandhi was forced to mock her in Parliament, asking if those who talked of a thousand-year war could last even a thousand hours.
And fourthly, in her last speech before she died, she alluded to India as one of the threats Pakistan had to face, implying that if she was elected she would deal firmly with it. Then why is it that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh calls her a friend of India and that Indians mount candle light vigils in India Gate for her ?

I interviewed Benazir Bhutto twice, the last one as she was campaigning to be re-elected for a second term.

The first question I asked, was about Kashmir, as she was the one who had called for ‘Azad Kashmir’, a Kashmir free from India, which had triggered the ethnic cleansing of most Hindus of the Valley of Kashmir, 400.000 of them having to flee their ancestral land.

– You know, she answered, you have to understand the Pakistani point of view on Kashmir. If one goes by the logic of Partition, then at least the Kashmir valley, which is in great majority Muslim – and it should be emphasised that for long the Hindus Pandits in Kashmir exploited and dominated the Muslims, who are getting back at them today – should have reverted to Pakistan. But let us say that officially we want to help grant Kashmiris their right to self-determination

– That’s the only reason, I continued ?

– No, answered Benazir, it should be clear also that Pakistan never forgot the humiliating loss of Bangladesh at the hands of India, although India claims it only helped Bangladesh to gain its freedom in the face of what the Bangladeshis say was Pakistani genocide. Zia’s emergence was a result of that humiliation.

– But Zia hanged your father, I interrupted…

– Yes and I hate him, and God the Almighty already punished him for that, said Benazir (alluding to Zia’s death in a plane crash). But Zia did one thing right, he started the whole policy of proxy war by supporting the separatist movements in Punjab and Kashmir, as a way of getting back at India.

– What about Pakistan’ nuclear bomb, I asked?
-That’s my father’s work she said proudly. He realized, after having lost the 1965 and 1971wars with India, that both numerically and strategically, we can never beat India in a conventional conflict. Thus he initiated the programme by saying that “we will get the nuclear bomb, even if we have to eat grass”.

– But is it not a dangerous weapon if it falls in the hands of the fundamentalists of your country, I asked?
No such danger, Benazir answered. Anyway, it is not only a deterrent against India’s military conventional superiority and an answer to India’s own nuclear capability, but also the ultimate weapon to reassert Islam’s moral superiority.

– We in Europe are going to unite in a Common Market, why don’t Pakistan and India forget their differences and form some kind of confederation with other South Asia countries, instead of killing each other?
– Pakistan and India were never one country, answered the imperious lady. They were only kept together by force, whether by Mauryan, Moghul or British rule. Hindus have recognised the reality of Islam, and we needed our own country to feel free.

I was flabbergasted:
here was a lady educated in Oxford and Harvard, who mouthed such irrational statements. She spoke good English, was pretty, articulate and pleased the Press. But when in power, she had to resort to anti -Indianism to please her voters, her husband was known as Mr 10% and she was hounded out of power twice for incompetence and corruption. What then, Mr Manmohan Singh ? History will tell.

FranÁois Gautier