Monday, August 13, 2007

Teaching History: Pakistani Style

I stumbled upon the writings of Yvette Rosser on the way History is taught in Pakistan. I liked the writing very much. The article pinpoints the identity crisis Pakistan is havng as it seeks to distingush itself from India (an utterly foolish thing to do).

Denial and erasure are the primary tools of historiography as it is officially practiced in Pakistan. There is no room in the official historical narrative for questions or alternative points of view which is Nazariya Pakistan, the Ideology of Pakistan?devoted to a mono-perspectival religious orientation. There is no other correct way to view the historical record. (No wonder the madarasas churn out a steady stream of brainwashed fedayeen and jihadis)

In contemporary Pakistani textbooks the historical narrative is based on the Two Nation Theory. The story of the nation begins with the advent of Islam when Mohammed-bin-Qazm arrived in Sindh followed by Mahmud of Ghazni storming through the Khyber Pass, 16 times, bringing the Light of Islam to the infidels who converted en mass to escape the evil domination of the cruel Brahmins. Reviewing a selection of textbooks published since 1972 in Pakistan will verify the assumption that there is little or no discussion of the ancient cultures that have flowered in the land that is now Pakistan, such as Taxila and Mohenjo-Daro, though this lack seems to have been partly addressed in the very recent editions of several history textbooks published for Oxford-Cambridge elite schools.

In most textbooks, any mention of Hinduism is inevitably accompanied by derogatory critiques, and none of the greatness of Indic civilization is considered?not even the success of Chandragupta Maurya, who defeated, or at least frightened the invading army of Alexander the Great at the banks of the Beas River where it flows through the land that is now called Pakistan. These events are deemed meaningless since they are not about Muslim heroes. There is an elision in time between the moment Islam first arrived in Sindh and Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
This shortsighted approach to historiography was not always the case.

Pakistani nationalism is characterized by ironies and contractions. Its ideology and national mythos have not been substantiated by its historical realities. In the last sixty years the vision or ideal of Pakistan, as a secure homeland where the Muslims in the subcontinent could find justice and live in peace, has not been realized by the citizens. There is a shared experience of disappointment and dissatisfaction among the populace.....

Textbooks in Pakistan are the domain of distorted politics which have victimized the Social Studies curriculum. History by erasure can have its long-term negative repercussions. An 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 thirty years after the event. In fact, many university level history professors whom I interviewed had never 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 and inexplicably attacked Lahore and that one Pakistani jawan equals ten Indian soldiers, who, upon seeing the fierce Pakistanis, drop their banduks and run away. Many people in Pakistan still think like this, and several mentioned this assumed cowardice of the Indian army in recent discussions regarding the war-like situation 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....

to be continued....

What if....

I once read an interesting article 'What if Hitler had won WW-II?' It was an intriguing article. It got me thinking. What if India had remained United India and not the three pieces it is at present. Though Pakistan's creation is something I accept as fait accompli, I was tempted to think ' Hey what if India had remained United?'

I have always heard Pakistani politicians saying 'Muslims would have been 2nd class citizens in undivided India and woud have become slaves'. In fact reference to Hindus invariably has some insulting connotation. Pakistani textbooks completely deny large tracts of History (I will post in detail on this a little later). I am afraid I disagree with the assessment that Muslims would have been second class citizens at the receiving end.... To this end I wish to answer the Why part by quoting a recent article by renowned Pakistani columnist Irfan Husain.

He said recently in his column in the 'Dawn'

"all in all, my guess is that in economic terms, Pakistan has benefited from Partition. It is in the non-physical areas that our growth has remained stunted. Had the subcontinent not been divided into two (and later three) components, we would not all have squandered such vast resources on defence.With the trillions that have gone into the black hole of military budgets, the government could have doubled and tripled the expenditure on health, education, culture and sports.

As a confederating unit of India, the area today known as Pakistan would not have suffered from the identity crisis that has seen it position itself as an adjunct to the Middle East. This, and the exclusion of the army from political life, would have reduced the religious fervour that has brought the Taliban wolf to our door. Indeed, one of the factors fuelling the rise of extremism in Pakistan has been the perception of the existential threat that (Hindu) India poses to us......"

The best comes below (for which I appreciate Mr.Husain deeply)

"Living under a secular constitution would have made life a lot easier for our minorities. They would not have to live in fear under the Damocles sword of our iniquitous blasphemy laws, and would be equal citizens. Women, too, would have benefited, and not been subject to random prosecution as under Ziaul Haq’s infamous Hudood Ordinances. In the international arena, an undivided India would have long been a powerhouse. With around 1.5 billion people, it would have provided an even larger market for imported and locally produced goods.

Culturally, we would have benefited from much greater diversity than we have now. Pakistan is a monochromatic society where women have not been allowed to play their true role in society. By contrast, they are highly visible in all Indian cities. And with more exposure to literature and the arts, our cultural life would have been that much richer."

He debunks the theory that Muslims would have been 2nd class citizens...

"There is a perception that had Partition not taken place, Muslims would have been oppressed by the Hindu majority. But half a billion Muslims are not a small minority that can be kicked around. As it is, about 160 million Muslims still live in India.Similar numbers in the areas that constitute Bangladesh and Pakistan today would have ensured that Muslims carried substantial political clout. And had Indian Muslims not faced the kind of isolation caused by Partition, they would not be the marginalised community they are now.Politically, we would not have been subjugated by the army as we are today. As a result, parliament and the judiciary would have been functioning with far greater freedom than they have done here over the last six decades. Indeed, we would be a far freer people than we are.At the end of the day, there are going to be winners and losers. Through Partition, many people gained, while others lost out. Many fortunes were made as a direct result of the scams arising out of the purchase of property claims submitted by refugees. Thousands of well-off people, caught up in the stampede created by the riots of 1947, were made destitute. Other migrants prospered due to the lack of competition in the new state.

Of course, all these are highly speculative projections, and if I have offended readers on either side of the Great Divide, let me remind them that this is just a game. And everybody can play."

Well Said Mr.Husain well said.....