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Pakistan: Land Of Toxic Learning

Schools have been part of the inevitable Islamisation of Pakistan’s polity

by Khaled Ahmed, 6 May 2018

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The Indian Express, May 5, 2018

A girl from Pakistan has offered the best diagnostic of the ailing state and her work, Pakistan under Siege: Extremism, Society, and the State (Brookings), takes you into the guts of what has gone wrong. Madiha Afzal is a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution Washington DC, an adjunct assistant professor of global policy at Johns Hopkins SAIS and has been a consultant for the World Bank.

Under General Zia, the University Grants Commission ordered that textbooks were heretofore to demonstrate that “the basis of Pakistan is in the shared experience of a common religion and the Ideology of Pakistan, and the creation of a completely Islamised State”. Thus began the triumph of “certitude” that defeated “inquiry”.

Hafiz Saeed, a UN-sanctioned terrorist today, headed the Islamiat department at the University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore where he founded the terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba and brainwashed his students into jihad. His “charisma” caused some to become an “Islamic” gang that kidnapped the son of the murdered governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, on behalf of al Qaeda-supported militants hiding in Afghanistan. The message was: The governor had blasphemed by criticising the draconian anti-blasphemy law; therefore, his son must pay for it.

But the sinister teleology of the state was in evidence from the beginning with the Objectives Resolution — a pledge of people’s rule that laid down the blueprint of the state to come. The Hindu minister appointed by Jinnah had already run away to India on reading it. As the book narrates, then came General Ayub’s dictated “secular” constitution of 1962 that first removed “Islamic” from the official name of the state to make it simply Republic of Pakistan, only to reinstate the nomenclature bowing to theological pre-ordination.

Author Afzal has scanned school textbooks to find why Pakistanis become narrow-minded as they advance from Class 1 to Class 10. She has taken her team into schools and colleges, state-run and private, to contrast their curricula with the ones taught by seminaries (madrasas), functioning mostly outside state purview.

She discovers the one big difference between privately-run “O-level” schools and state-run ones: Ideology is present as per state edict, but the former adopt the rational mode of explication while the latter rely on emotion. As the closing of the Muslim mind proceeds, politicians like Imran Khan have sworn to do away with the “dual” system that creates “two nations”. They mean they will do away with the “rational-sequential” discourse of “English-medium” schools “still poisoning the Pakistani mind”.

The chapter devoted to PEW polls measuring the national mind finds the content of hatred rising against America. It is, in fact, a measure of the self-hatred of a state aligned with a “hypocrite superpower for the last 70 years”. One becomes scared too of the almost 30 per cent who refuse to answer the survey questionnaire.

The book makes the tedious job of examining a nation’s mind easy through clarity of style and direction of inquiry. Pakistan’s highly regarded ex-diplomat, Iqbal Akhund, in his recent memoir, refers to a much-admired Pakistani-born Parsi girl in America, Nergis Mavalvala, whose work had recently led to the confirmation of Einstein’s theory of gravitational waves. Among many expressions of praise there was also this: “This lady is not Muslim. She is not Pakistani, she living in a kafir country. Why we give appreciation to these sold-outs?”

The writer is consulting editor, Newsweek Pakistan


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