There is a strong case for revisiting Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s speech on August 11, 1947 to the first Constituent Assembly in Pakistan, the tapes of which India handed over to Pakistan Radio in September.
Some school textbooks in Pakistan have distorted with abandon the speech , according to a new study by Prof A H Nayyar titled “A Missed Opportunity: Continuing Flaws in the New Curriculum and Textbooks after Reforms.”
Jinnah had said, “You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan …. We are all citizens and equal citizens of one state… Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.”
The National Curriculum 2006 relegates Jinnah’s speech to a mere call for freedom of faith, writes Prof. Nayyar in his study for the Jinnah Institute which analysed the content of 27 Urdu textbooks and 30 English textbooks from class one to ten.
Textbook writers have depicted the Quaid’s words to only mean that in the new state, religious minorities will enjoy the same rights as the majority, not telling students that the Quaid didn’t want religion to have anything to do with the state.
The National Curriculum also inserted an ideological component to Pakistan’s foreign policy where none exists. For instance, Pakistan Studies for class ten says “In Pakistan, ideology and foreign policy are intertwined. Pakistan is an ideological state and is based on Islamic ideology.”
Authors have also been selective about historical facts. In describing the events of 1971, Prof. Nayyar says “Our textbooks put the entire blame on Hindus of East Pakistan, and never mention the atrocities committed by the Pakistani military and its collaborators.”
The textbooks based on the New Curriculum 2006, which came into force in 2012 due to various delays, suffers from three serious flaws, says Prof Nayyar. One, it violates the constitutional protection available to the country’s non-Muslim citizens; two, it demands a narration of ideological basis of the country and the history woven around it; and three, it adds content to the learning material that is contrary to fact.
The resulting learning is hugely problematic, he points out. These form the first step in telling non Muslims that this country is not theirs, the study says.