How much do Pakistani school history textbooks differ from those in India, specific to the independence struggle, and even before …

Mudassir Ali
Jan 09, 2020 10:20 AM 0 Answers
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How much do Pakistani school history textbooks differ from those in India, specific to the independence struggle, and even before that?

Mudassir Ali
- Jan 09, 2020 10:20 AM

I did study Pakistan studies in school, which is a government mandated subject all students in Pakistan have to study. However, I went to a english speaking high school in Karachi, so I studied from english textbooks – I don’t know the ratios, but most Pakistani’s would have studied Pakistan history from a urdu textbook, and they are quite different.

Pakistan Studies is a mixture of history, geography sociology, and other bits of all the social sciences stirred together to make up this class intended to teach you about Pakistan, it’s history, land and people.

The Pakistan studies english textbooks, first of all, are mind-numbingly boring. So depending on the school and their teachers, what you end up learning will vary a lot depending on your school and even your teacher – since no one, the teacher or the students will pay too much attention to the textbook.

Some of the things which have stuck with me from the Pakistan studies class:

1) History starts in Arabia, just before Islam, where really bad people lived – until Mohammed came along and united them under Islam and made everything much better. One thing which is emphasized a lot is that before Mohammed the arabs were so bad they would bury their girl childs alive. By emphasized, I mean really emphasized – a good chunk of time is spent covering the various ways Arabs were bad, evil and even more evil before Mhd came along. As an aside, I wonder what an Arab would think if she read this description of her society from a Pakistani viewpoint.

Now, this is a bit strange as the mandatory Islamic studies class starts history from Adam and Eve, with Abraham, Jesus, Moses, just about every famous character from the Bible and the Koran are covered, all of which happened before the Mohammedan Islamic period.

This is basically ignored in Pakistan studies class – i.e there is no agricultural revolution, or Chinese civilization, or whatever else was happening before Islam. Ashoka is covered though, and the Rajputs.

2) There is a lot of emphasis on the Muslim figures – Pakistan history starts from Mhd Bin Qasim’s invasion of Sindh, bringing Islam to the subcontinent.

3) Between 3 and 4, Mhd Ghauri conducts his famous 17 expeditions into Hindu India, raiding temples and bringing the loot back home. It’s not clear what he has to do with Pakistan.

4) Stuff happens, then the Moghuls are drilled into your skull, with every battle and double cross covered in great detail. You don’t learn much as after a while all the battles blur into one big mess. I can tell you eons about the three battles of Panipat, though I don’t remember any of the context as context is not a part of Pakistan studies.

5) Ah, the British arrive and take over. This period has a lot of hand wringing of how the British did badly by the Muslims and favoured the Hindu’s.

6) 1857 – the war of Independence! Oh glorious day, where the Muslims refused to bite down on cartridges cooked up in pig fat and revolted, and were brutally put down by the evil white man. Indian soldiers, hindu and muslim alike, were stuffed down into wells 10x to a 100x for every Britisher they had stuffed down a well themselves.

After this point the British made sure to keep the Muslims out of high level government posts, and this is one of the key reasons why Muslims and Hindus needed partition, as the British installed this great divide by favoring the Hindu’s after 1857, besides the fact that the Muslims were the more martial race and so the British feared them more.

There is a bunch of details of how the British retaliated against the Indians, united for once as they suffer the wrath of their rulers. Once again, as they do everywhere, the textbook authors forget they are attempting to speak to teenagers and go into boring, boring detail and miss the forest for the trees. If they really wanted to paint the British as evil they could point to the occasional preventable famines the British presided over which killed millions, but it’s the personal stories they like.

7) World War II is here and independence must happen! Now we have excruciating detail about every little thing Jinnah and the Congress did. Gandhi makes many a appearance but it’s all legalese about his visits to England.

8) The bastard Mountbatten and Nehru – they plotted together to take Kashmir and a bunch of other lands too, which no in Pakistan even knows the name of anymore! Damn Mountbatten and Nehru and that bastard Radcliffee who drew the lines on the map giving Jinnah his ‘moth eaten country’. There isn’t much about Jinnah actually, besides being a brilliant lawyer who convinced the British to make him a country.

9) Jinnah dies, 1948. Pakistan is lost.

10) India and Pakistan went to a few wars, but, er, ah, we won, and thats all you need to know. What, you child, you there, you are asking about your aunt who used to be Pakistani but is now Bangladeshi? Child, if you don’t shut up you will be made to stand outside in the hot sun!

11) Ayub Khan did wonders for the country, built dams and what not, and Zial Haque brought the country once more to the right path by bringing back the Islam.

You might be wondering, what about all the propaganda about the evil Hindus? At least in english schools, catering to the elite and parts of the middle class, it’s really not there. There is definitely this embarrassed coverup of all the wars and loosing over half the country in ’71, but back in 1992-96 the english Pakistan Studies were no where as close to bad as the article I’ve linked to above talks about.

What does happen, is that an education in Pakistan completely ignores the fact that there is a very large country right next door. India is literally not mentioned except for the fact that Pakistan sorta went to war and beat them, and Mountbatten awarded Kashmir to the Indians and the super duper pathan tribes took back a third of it. There is nothing about the Indian people, land, culture or any common inheritance.

What I found really strange is that about 60% of Pakistani’s are Punjabis, and a good chunk of Punjab is in India, sharing a common language, food, culture and traditions, and most Pakistani’s have family in India – but the history books act like that is not possible. People literally grow up thinking their Indian relatives are ‘lost’ – like they sailed across the wide seas back in the 1600’s, never to be seen ever again.

Of course a lot of Indians and Pakistani’s do keep in touch with their cross border relatives – but those are the well off. The poor are indoctrinated to forget they exist. The visa issue means that strategy works out. For example, my grandmothers sister stayed back in India, and in the 2000’s when she was dying (at 91), my grandmother (87) in Pakistan was denied on a visa on the grounds that there is no occasion for her to visit, and if there was a real reason, like a funeral to attend she should reapply for a visa then.

There are a lot of these stories which reaffirm the impression thought in schools that Indians don’t want to see or mix with Pakistani’s. Of course, Pakistan does exactly the same thing regarding Indian visa’s.

Take of this what you may, Pakistan history varies widely across provinces, schools and income level.

Above aside, about half of Pakistan studies concentrates on teaching you about the actual land – which now, after a decade and a half of reading other books, I can summarize a few years of classes into: Pakistan has different soils in different regions, the rainfall varies, and there be mountains in the north and deserts to the west and east!

Really, you might scoff, but in years of learning Pakistan studies, more than half of the total subject time was spent teaching teenagers the difference between alluvial and some other types of soil, how rainfall aids in growing crops and deserts are bad for living in. And the very important point that you have variation in rainfall and soil quality. Pakistan studies textbook writers are literally obsessed with the land and boring the crap out of anyone stupid enough to actually read the textbooks.

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