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....

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