The subversion of history

Here’s a list of mistakes and myths that textbooks in Pakistan have created along with the real facts. The ‘errors’ obviously have been serving significant political agendas. Though the revision of history was begun in the 1950’s but revisions during Zia’s rule drove a stake through the heart of  Pakistani history.

Pre-Partition:

“Although Pakistan was created in August 1947, yet except for its name, the present-day Pakistan has existed, as a more or less single entity, for centuries. Pakistan came to be established for the first time when the Arabs led by Muhammad-bin-Qasim occupied Sindh and Multan in the early years of the eighth century, and established Muslim rule in this part of the South-Asian Sub-continent. Pakistan under the Arabs comprised the Lower Indus Valley.”

And

“…. during the 11th century the Ghaznavid Empire comprised what is now Pakistan and Afghanistan. During the 12th century the Ghaznavids lost Afghanistan, and their rule came to be confined to Pakistan. … By the 13th century, Pakistan had spread to include the whole of Northern India and Bengal… Under the Khiljis Pakistan moved further Southward to include a greater part of Central India and the Deccan… Many Mongols accepted Islam. As such Pakistan remained safe for Islam… During the 16th century, ‘Hindustan’ disappeared and was completely absorbed in ‘Pakistan’… Under Aurangzeb the Pakistan spirit gathered in strength. This evoked the opposition of the Hindus… After the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, the process of the disintegration of Mughal Rule set in, and weakened the Pakistan Spirit… The shape of Pakistan in the 18th Century was thus more or less the same as it was under the Ghaznavids in the 11th century.”

(A Textbook of Pakistan Studies, compulsory, by M.D Zafar, Lahore, p.4)

It was only after the East Pakistan debacle in 1971 that we started distorting facts in order to discover our roots somewhere else instead of the rich Indus-Ganges civilization and laid the first brick of overemphasizing a ‘separate Pakistani Identity’ through textbooks, but roots can also be traced further back.

The Pakistani textbooks during 1950s and 1960s were not shy of describing in detail and at times in an appreciative manner the ancient Hindu history and culture. All the books started with the most ancient South Asian civilizations of Moen Jo Daro, Harappa and Gandhra, narrated in detail the indigenous mythologies without any element of denigration, recounted the grandeur of the early Hindu and Budhist kingdoms, etc. Some of them were even occasionally critical of the Muslim heroes also, as in the quotation below:

“We have a high regard for Mohammad bin Qasim. He laid the foundation for the Muslim rule in India. But the first brick of the foundation was defective. Therefore the structure erected on this foundation turned out to be defective and fragile, not destined to last long. Had Mohammad bin Qasim and the conquerors that followed relied less on sword to increase their numerical strength and more on preaching and other methods, we would have been spared the events because of which we are presently facing tribulations.”

There were few if any false stories regarding Muslim Kings and their conquests. Most interestingly, the history books in the early years of Pakistan were fair to modern Indian leaders and heroes like Mr. M. K. Gandhi. Book after book of that time was reverential to his personality, appreciated his politics and acknowledged his immense contribution to saving Muslims from carnage in the Hindu majority areas.

Starting with the Bhutto years and accelerating under the Islamized tutelage of General Zia-ul Haq, not only has the history of the subcontinent been distorted, but has also been vilified, mocked and transformed into a measure of what Pakistan is not. A renewed search for identity after the events of 1971, and Islamization of education can be identified as the impelling factors.

“The people of the sub-continent used to live in dark and small houses before the arrival of the Muslims. The places of worship were built in a way that light and air could not find a way into them. An idol of a god or goddess was put in a dark narrow room. The worshippers went inside the room one by one to worship it.”

“The Hindus treated the ancient population of the Indus valley very badly. They forcibly occupied their land. They set fire to their houses and butchered them. Those who escaped were forced to become slaves. After defeating the ancient people of the sub-continent the Hindus started fighting among themselves. They got divided into castes. They would not intermarry with others or eat with them… The Hindus did not believe in one God but worshipped the numerous idols in their temples.”

“Muslims and Hindus are completely different in their way of life, eating habits and dress. We worship in mosques. Our mosques are open, spacious, clean and well-lit. Hindus worship inside their temples. These temples are extremely narrow, enclosed and dark. Inside these the Hindus worship idols. Only one man at a time can enter these temples. On the other hand inside our mosques all the Muslims can pray to God together.”

(Social Studies for class V, Punjab Textbook Board, Lahore)

These passages act only to germinate hate. The objects of hate in Pakistani educational material are Hindus and India, reflecting both the perceived sense of insecurity from an ‘enemy’ country, and an attempt to define one’s national identity in relation to the ‘other’. The first serves the military and the second the political Islamists.

Curriculum documents state the following as the specific learning objectives that are achieved by the fallacious and inflammatory passages:

“[The child should be able to] understand the Hindu and Muslim differences and the resultant need for Pakistan” (Curriculum Document, Primary Education, Classes K-V, Integrated and Subject Based, National Bureau of Curriculum and Textbooks, Ministry of Education, Government of Pakistan, Islamabad, 1995, p 151).

“Hindu-Muslim Differences in Culture… India’s evil designs against Pakistan (the three wars with India)” ( National Curriculum, Social Studies for Classes I-V, Government of Pakistan, Ministry of Education, March 2002, p 35).

“Identify the events in relation to Hindu-Muslim differences, which laid the foundations for Pakistan” (National Curriculum, Social Studies for Classes I-V, Government of Pakistan, Ministry of Education, 2002, p 35).

In a chapter titled ‘A brief History and Ideology of Pakistan’ in a Civics textbook, history is immediately divided along communal lines by stating how badly the British treated the Muslims while they showered favours upon the Hindus.

This is stated without referring to several extraordinary favours that Muslims received, like separate electorate, partition of Bengal, special job quotas, etc.

The themes of the textbooks start with the projection of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan as a person who awakened Muslims to the needs of the modern times and laid the basis of Muslim nationalism and culminates in projecting the Quaid as a theocrat striving to enforce the Shariah.

Whole emphasis of our books is to show that it was a struggle, on the part of the Muslims, against an impending “Hindu domination” rather than a struggle of a people (Hindus, Muslims & others) against a colonizing power.

What is missing noticeably from this discussion is that there were many prominent Muslim nationalists such as Maulana Azad who were in the vanguard of the freedom struggle and were strongly opposed to the idea of partition. The Muslims are presented as a monolithic block. What is absent are the echoes of the other Muslim voices in the evolution of Muslim political nationalism. Many Muslims, including leading theologians, were opposed to Partition while many others were uninterested in it. Neither the Muslims nor the Hindus formed a homogeneous block.

Before Independence Urdu was the language of the masses in the northern part of South Asia and it still is.

Urdu became dominant because we were convinced that our own culture was either inferior or non-existent. The propaganda which had its beginnings with M Hussain Azad and Altaf Hali and others brought to the Punjab by the British to found the province’s school system now bore fruit. The Punjabi intelligentsia ensured the demise of their native tongue.

The common people of the Subcontinent this is said about were Madrasis, Bengalis, Maharashtrians, Sindhis, Pathans, Baluchis and Malabaris.

During the British rule all the Muslims of South Asia joined to form a political party, the All India Muslim League. The object of this party was to win independence from the British and create a separate country, Pakistan, for the Muslims.

At the time the Muslim League came together in 1906 it only promised to be loyal to the British government, to protect Muslim interests and make friends with the non-Muslims.

Iqbal, in collaboration with Sayyid Ameer Ali organized the London Muslim League. (Class 7 textbook)

There is no evidence in the papers of the All India Muslim League or the London Muslim League (LML), Iqbal was a member of the LML and also served on its committee, but that is all. He was not even an office bearer. Ameer Ali was the president, C.A. Latif vice-president.

In fact Iqbal was only a student when the LML was formed on May 6, 1909 and within four months of this he left for India. The wording implies that Iqbal was the founder and Ameer Ali a mere collaborator.

Iqbal was the first person to give the idea of Pakistan. In 1930, in his Allahabad Address, Iqbal demanded a separate state for Muslims. He demanded that Muslim majority regions of South Asia be declared an independent Muslim state and conceived of a separate Muslim state in the north-west and north-east of India where they were in majority.

Iqbal’s proposal amounted to this: the Punjab, NWFP, Sindh and Baluchistan should be merged to form one province of the proposed Indian federation. Nothing more than this was suggested. His own letter published in The Times on 12 October 1931 confirms this. He did not even refer to Bengal. His proposal was confined to the north-west of India.

Iqbal was not the first person to suggest the division of India on religious lines. According to K.K. Aziz, there were exactly 64 suggestions, vague and definitive, made between 1858 and 1929 (History of the Idea of Pakistan, Vol 3). Iqbal was also not the first person to make such a suggestion from a political platform. Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Khan demanded a separate country for the Muslims in his address as Chairman of the Reception committee delivered at the All India Khilafat Conference session held in Lahore on 31 December, 1929.

The All India Muslim League session at Allahabad didn’t even did not even pass any resolution on, for, or against his proposal. It ignored him completely and records of the official proceeding support this.

The Indian National Congress won the elections in 1937 by chance.

The Congress was at the time a 52 year old well functioning party and was expected to win. The score is as follows: Bengal Assembly 54/250, Bihar 91/152, Bombay, 87/175, UP 134/228, Punjab18/175, NWFP 19/50. In contrast Muslim League won 54 seats in Bengal, 18 in Bombay, 26 in UP, 2 in Punjab and none in NWFP, Bihar or Sindh.

Lahore Resolution was passed on 23rd March, 1940 in a meeting called by Quaid-e-Azam.

The proceeding opened on 22 March, speeches were made on the 22nd and 23. The resolution was passed on the 24th. All newspapers and compilations of facts and figures agree on this timetable of the All India Muslim League’s 27th annual session.

Gandhi is presented as a fundamentalist and extremist (‘Civics of Pakistan’, for class XI and XII).

Gandhi’s other side as a tolerant and peace loving leader is ignored. Tone is very anti-Gandhi; what is omitted unjustly is that Gandhi was killed by Hindu extremist groups for being too tolerant of the Muslims.

About Jinnah:

“The chapter should present the Ideology of Pakistan as enunciated by Quaid-i-Azam and should include relevant documented references” and “The Ideology of Pakistan be presented as an accepted reality, and be never subjected to discussion or dispute”

(Pakistan Studies Curriculum for Classes XI-XII, National Curriculum Committee, National Bureau of Curriculum and Textbooks, Islamabad 1986 and Urdu Curriculum for Classes IV and V, National Bureau of Curriculum and Textbooks, Ministry of Education, Government of Pakistan, Islamabad, March 2002)

“The Quaid-i-Azam never used the words ‘Ideology of Pakistan’

… For fifteen years after the establishment of Pakistan, the Ideology of Pakistan was not known to anybody until in 1962 a solitary member of the Jama’at-I-Islami used the words for the first time when the Political Parties Bill was being discussed. On this, Chaudhry Fazal Elahi, who has recently retired as President of Pakistan, rose from his seat and objected that the ‘Ideology of Pakistan’ shall have to be defined. The member who had proposed the original amendment replied that the ‘Ideology of Pakistan was Islam’” (Chief Justice Munir’s From Jinnah to Zia, 1979)

Furthermore, in his speech to the Constituent Assembly on 11 August, 1947, Jinnah’s views seem contrary to the ‘Ideology of Pakistan’: “We are starting with the fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state… we should keep that in front of us as our ideal, and you will find that in the 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 sense as citizens of the state. You may belong to any caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”

Thus the phrase Ideology of Pakistan had no historical basis in the Pakistan movement. It was coined much later by those political forces which needed it to sanctify their particular brand of politics, especially by those who had earlier been against the creation of Pakistan.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah earned a degree in law in England. In August 1947, a grateful nation made him Governor General of Pakistan.

Jinnah did not earn a degree in London, instead became a Barrister in 1896. The grateful nation did not make him Governor General through nomination or election. He selected himself for the office and was appointed by the British King.

Eminent personalities associated with the Pakistan movement, especially Jinnah and Iqbal, are presented as orthodox Muslims and any aspect of their thoughts and behaviour which does not conform to this image is suppressed.

The Ulema who had bitterly opposed the creation of Pakistan were turned into heroes of Pakistan movement. The Quaid-i-Azam was represented as a pious practicing Muslim.

Nowhere do the texts emphasize his highly liberal, democratic and tolerant worldview. His speech of 11th August 1947 to the Constituent Assembly in which he laid down the outlines of a democratic and secular Pakistan in which the state has no concern with the religion of its citizens and all irrespective of faith, are fully equal, finds no mention at any level. We also fail to mention the practical expression of this mindset in that the first Cabinet of the country that he founded had a Hindu as the Law Minister and an Ahmedi as the foreign minister. We do so presumably because it does not fit in with the fiction which we wish to perpetuate: that what he had conceived was an Islamic state and not simply a Muslim majority state. In the same vein all those non-Muslims who contributed to the educational, social and humanitarian development of what is now Pakistan are not to be found anywhere in our textbooks.

After 1947:

After the partition of the subcontinent the Hindus and Sikhs started a properly planned campaign of exploiting the Muslims generally in the whole of Bharat and particularly in East Punjab as a result of which the Hindu and Sikh enemies of mankind killed and dishonoured thousands, nay hundreds of thousands of women, children, the old and the young with extreme cruelty and heartlessness.

The partition story has also been described with self-serving half-truths. The authors of Mutala-i-Pakistan (class 9-10, NWFP Textbook Board, Peshawar) state that after the establishment of Pakistan the Hindus and Sikhs created a day of doom for the Muslims in East Punjab.

In yet another book: “While the Muslims provided all type of help to those wishing to leave Pakistan, the people of India committed cruelties against the Muslims (refugees). They would attack the buses, trucks and trains carrying the Muslim refugees and they were murdered and looted.”

The Hindus and Sikhs were not the only aggressors in the riots of 1947; Muslims also killed and raped and looted wherever they had the opportunity. Communal killing on a large scale took place in Rawalpindi n Feb-March 1947, termed as the rape of Rawalpindi and it was the work of Muslims, the Sikhs being victims.

In 1946, when all the people of NWFP were asked their opinion, all of them voted in favour of Pakistan.

If the reference is to the 1945-6 election the Congress won 30 seats out of 50, and Muslim League 17 in NWFP. Out of the 38 Muslim seats, Congress won 19 and Muslim League 17.

If the reference is to the July 1947 referendum, it is important to remember that the Congress and the Red Shirts boycotted the poll. The total electorate was 572,789, total votes cast were 292,118 (51% per cent).

Not a single woman is included in the social studies series on popular personalities. In the Urdu books, space has been conceded to two women only, Miss Fatima Jinnah and Begum Mohammad Ali. Their claim to eminence, is their relationship to men. Fatima Jinnah is depicted as the nurse, helpmate and support of her brother.

The fact that Fatima Jinnah was a candidate in a Presidential election is considered a matter not important enough to mention. What the writer felt more pertinent was that she always dressed ‘modestly’.

Presidential elections were held in Pakistan on 2 January 1965. There were two major parties contesting the election: the Convention Muslim League and the Combined Opposition Parties. The Combined Opposition Parties consisted of five major opposition parties. The opposition parties of Combined Opposition Parties were not united and did not possess any unity of thought and action. They were unable to select presidential candidates from amongst themselves; therefore they selected Fatima Jinnah as their candidate.

Armed with the wide-ranging constitutional powers of a President, he exercised complete control over all governmental machinery during elections. He utilized the state facilities as head of state, not as the President of the Convention Muslim League or a presidential candidate, and didn’t even hesitate to legislate on electoral maters.

Fatima Jinnah’s campaign however suffered from an unfair and unequal election campaign, poor finances, and indirect elections through the Basic Democracy System. Fatima Jinnah lost the election of 1965 and Ayub Khan was elected as the President of Pakistan.

1965 War and onwards:

On Sept 6th 1965, India invaded Pakistan (specifically Lahore). Once thrust into this battle, Pakistan came out to be victorious over its archrival.

India did attack Lahore on September 6th 1965, but it was not the one to force a war on Pakistan in the first place. It was Pakistan’s provocation in the form of Operation Gibralter that led India towards opening the Western front in Pakistan. Operation Gibralter began in May-June of 1965 to take Indian territory in Kashmir and create an insurgency and popular uprising in the region was frustrated.

By the end of the 3rd week of war, both countries had found themselves in a military stalemate. All of Pakistan’s offensive maneuvers were useless. Pakistan’s armed forces successfully defended Lahore–thanks, despite the failure of leadership at the top levels, but also due to the strategic position of the Banbwali-Ravi-Bedian Canal that formed a natural defense for Lahore.

In 1965, the Pakistan Army conquered several areas of India, and when India was on the point of being defeated she requested the United Nations to arrange a cease-fire.

There is no evidence whatsoever that India was on the point of being defeated by Pakistan or that it begged for peace or that it asked the United Nations to arrange a cease-fire. The war ended when the big powers intervened.

When the 1965 Constitution was made it was still not operative when it was abrogated. In 1971 the task of making a constitution was given to the constitution making committee of the country, and this committee unanimously approved a constitution in April 1973.

The 1965 Constitution was operative from 23rd March 1965 to 7 October 1958. The making of the 1973 constitution did not start in 1971 but in 1972.

In 1969 different political groups were making different demands. This silsilah of demands assumed the proportions of disorder. As a result the President and asked the Commander-in-Chief, Yahya Khan, to look after the administrative conditions. (Translated from Urdu, Allama Iqbal Open University, BA, Vol 1)

The prolonged, widespread, spontaneous and genuine and in later stages uncontrollable anti-Ayub campaign is dismissed by these vague details. The weaknesses of his rule are not listed or analysed. Ayub Khan broke the Constitution by handing over power to an army chief instead to the speaker of the national Assembly. We don’t know what happened in the last Ayub-Yahya meeting; the general impression is that the General put a pistol to the head of the Field Marshall.

The only contemporary heroes textbooks are told about are military heroes and the best leaders are the Generals like Ayub Khan and Zia-ul Haq.

It is not just the non-Muslim heroes and outstanding personalities who are conspicuous by their absence. Even more starkly evident is the fact that the contemporary heroes (heroines) of civil society, whether national or international, Muslim or non-Muslim, individuals or institutions, all are completely missing from our textbooks. There are no scientists, artists, social workers, journalists, statesmen mentioned. There is a silence as far as projecting the achievements of the civil society is concerned.

East Pakistan, or Bangladesh:

It was imprudent and mischievous of the people of East Pakistan to oppose Urdu as the national language

The 1947 decision to have one state covering both wings made a mockery of federalism and made East Pakistan indefensible; there were deep cultural differences between the two wings; the imposition of Urdu on the Bengali speaking population was unwise.

The Bengalis were deprived of political power, did not have adequate funds, had an unequal share in civil administration and no share in the army thus they were unfairly dependant on the West wing.  Geography and Bengali exclusion from the army made it clear that for security they were dependent on West Pakistan, and in 1971 their own army tried to conquer them.

The Hindu population of East Pakistan was disloyal; India engineered the riots and invaded East Pakistan. When conditions were ripe, India invaded East Pakistan which became Bangladesh.

Yahya Khan could not handle the situation and India’s role is exaggerated. It was expected that India would interfere. Even if India had not made a move, it is hard to imagine that the Pakistan army could have defeated the Bengalis, captured the province and maintained it hold in a state siege.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Zia-ul Haq:

Due to political disorder and the dictatorship of ZA Bhutto the country was at the brink of civil war. General Zia threw out the elected government in 1971.             There is considerable evidence that anti government agitation was engineered by Zia, or at least supported by him. The law and order situation never became impossible, similar things had happened earlier. The excuse of ‘civil war’ justified his views.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was a dictator, and his government had done nothing to satisfy public aspirations.

It is very difficult to substantiate or corroborate the charges that Bhutto was a dictator and that his government had done nothing for the people. He had many weaknesses was well; he was autocratic, intolerant of criticism and arrogant, and many of this policies were wrongly conceived or badly implemented. He was and elected leader of the majority party in the country and in the parliament. He was the most popular and charismatic figure since Jinnah.

The Nizam-i-Mustafa movement was a mass movement. The anti government agitation reflected the determination of the nation to have an Islamic Order implemented in the country. The coup was unavoidable and the right solution to the problem.

The Nizam-i-Mustafa movement was a minority movement. Many urban areas stayed quiet as the much of the countryside. The agitation in fact was a move against allegedly rigged elections, the demand for an Islamic Order was an afterthought aimed at winning the support of the uneducated masses.

“It was announced that elections will be held within 90 days and power handed over to the representatives of the masses, but the elections scheduled to held in 90 days were postponed for unavoidable reasons” (Mutala-i-Pakistan, Class 9 and 10, Punjab textbook board, Lahore)

The phrase “unavoidable reasons” takes the cake for writing history. Zia promised elections again and again and broke his promise each time. The only “unavoidable reason” was that he would lose power due to the lack of support of public opinion.

Zia honestly tried to enforce the Islamic system of government as had been promised by the Quaid-e-Azam to the nation. His Islamic ordinances finally achieved the real objective of the creation of Pakistan. He was chosen by destiny to be the person who achieved the distinction of implementing Islamic Law, and naturally deserves our ‘thanks and congratulations.’ (Textbooks aimed at class 9 to BA)

For Zia, the heart of the Islamic system comprised of penal laws which he enforced with unremitting vigour. Other Islamic injunctions about civilised society, a humane polity and an exploitation free economy were “honestly” ignored.

Quaid-e-Azam never promised that the state should be run by armed forces, that people live in fear and have no voice for criticism of the ruler, that women be beaten by the police, of that textbooks be banned under such an “Islamic” state.

According to K.K. Aziz, “If destiny chose Zia for the unique distinction of bringing Islamic laws to Pakistan, it must have been in a mood when it made the choice, and inebriate enough to mix up joke with disaster.”

Compiled from KK Aziz’s book The Murder of History, Vanguard 1994, and The Subtle Subversion: The State of Curricula and Textbooks in Pakistan by A.H. Nayyar and Ahmad Salim (eds.), Social Development Policy Institute, Islamabad 2003.

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5 thoughts on “The subversion of history”

  1. Somebody needs to get this information to the general public. The creation of an overzealous, rabid islamic identity begins right here.

  2. Extremely interesting reading with some very brave statements. The distortion of historical facts to impact on education is by no means restricted to the East.

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