State Sponsored Radicalization in Pakistan’s School Curriculum: Part 2 of 3

(contd from Part 1)


“Pakistani textbooks have preached falsehoods, hatred and bigotry. They have constructed most non-Muslims, especially Hindus, as evil and primordial enemies, glorified military dictatorships and omitted references to our great betrayal of the Bengali brothers and sisters who were the founders and owners of the Pakistan movement. It is time to correct these wrongs.”[1]



        The understanding and subsequent implementation of such directions was aimed at promoting a particular worldview in the minds of the children during their formative years, so as to enable the nation to progress on its chosen path. The path chosen was clear – towards more Islamization. It has manifested itself in various forms, with attendant effects on the state of the society today. Some of these are discussed in succeeding paragraphs.

Lack of Sensitivity to Religious Diversity of the Country

        In his first speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, MA Jinnah said, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”[2] With this statement, he promised a more or less secular country with a population that was majorly Muslim. As a result of this demography, culture and life of the majority found similar echoes in the early school curriculum. However, with the govt mandated process of Islamization of the 80s, curriculum underwent a redesign, depicting a monolithic image of Pakistan as an Islamic Republic, with little or no understanding of the ways of life of religious minorities / minority sects within Islam. This is buttressed by the fact that the following basic principle occurs repeatedly in Pakistani curriculum policy documents:-

            “In the teaching material, no concept of separation between the worldly and

the religious be given; rather all the material be presented from the Islamic

point of view.[3]

Following four themes emerge prominently in curricula in Pakistani school textbooks:-

(1)        Pakistan is for Muslims Alone.       The processes wherein Pakistani and Muslim identities are merged together commences quite early. An objective of the National Early Childhood Education curriculum, 2002 is “to nurture in children a sense of Islamic identity and pride in being Pakistani”[4] However, there is no mention of what is required to be taught to non Muslim students. Even ostensibly non-religious textbooks contain significant Islamic content, and they are used by Muslim and non-Muslim children alike. For example, in grade 3, 4, 5 and 6, Urdu-language social studies textbooks used in all the four provinces, lessons with Islamic content comprise about one-quarter of the total.[5] Religious minorities are often portrayed as inferior or second-class citizens who have been granted limited rights and privileges by generous Pakistani Muslims, for which they should be grateful, and to whom religious minorities should be subservient. The contributions of religious minorities towards the formation, development, and protection of Pakistan are also largely absent from the curriculum.[6]

(2)        Compulsory Teaching of Islamiat to All Students Irrespective of Their Faiths.    Another aspect of the above mentioned policy objective manifests itself in the form of compulsory learning of part of the Quran by students of all faiths, not as part of Islamiat curriculum, but of the compulsory subject, Urdu.[7] This in fact, constitutes a violation of fundamental rights of minorities as per Article 22(1) of the Constitution of Pakistan, that says:-

No person attending any educational institution shall be required to receive religious instruction, or take part in any religious ceremony, or attend religious worship, if such instruction, ceremony or worship relates to a religion other than his own.

(3)        Ideology of Pakistan.        MA Jinnah never used the words ‘Ideology of Pakistan’ in his lifetime. It was only in 1962 that a member of Jamaat-i-Islami, Maulvi Abdul Bari used this term for the first time when the political parties bill was under discussion. Chaudhry Fazal Ilahi, who later became President of Pakistan, objected to this construct and asked what he meant by this. On this the member who had moved the bill said, “Ideology of Pakistan is Islam.” Nobody raised any question or sought explanation and the bill under discussion was passed.[8] This ideology was at complete variance with that espoused by Jinnah in his 11 Aug, 1947 speech. Regardless, the curriculum documents mandate that pupils be taught the ideology of Pakistan as espoused by Jinnah, Identify concepts relating to Pakistan’s ideology in the pronouncements of Allama Iqbal and Quaid-e-Azam.”[9] In Classes XI – XII, the same curriculum states the desired learning outcome as Students will be able to describe Islam as the ideological base of Pakistan.”[10]

(4)       Hate Material.           Together, the above mentioned factors create a sense of ‘exclusiveness’ in the students at a very young age. With the stage thus set, the curriculum goes about infusing a sense of hatred towards India and Hindus in the impressionable minds. This fits in perfectly with the stated policy of perpetual enmity with India and the ideology of Pakistan coupled with the Two Nation Theory that led to the creation of Pakistan in the first place. The following excerpts from Pakistani school textbooks illustrate a method in madness wherein the Nation State is actively feeding wrong information to its children, leading to a radicalized society[11]:-

(i)         Hindus worship in temples which are very narrow and dark places, where they worship idols. Only one person can enter the temple at a time. In our mosques, on the other hand, all Muslims can say their prayers together.

(ii)        This division of men [among Aryans] into different castes is the worst example of tyranny in the history of the world. In course of time the Aryans began to be called the Hindus

(iii)       The Hindus lived in small and dark houses. Child marriage was common in those days. Women were assigned a low position in society. In case the husband of a woman died, she was burnt alive with his dead body. This was called ‘sati’. The killing of shudras was not punished, but the murder of a Brahman was a serious crime.

(iv)       Hindus thought that there was no country other than India, nor any people other than the Indians, nor did anyone else possess any knowledge. 

(v)        Hindus very cunningly succeeded in making the British believe that the Muslims were solely responsible for the [1857] rebellion.

(vi)       The Quaid saw through the machinations of the Hindus.

(vii)      The religion of the Hindus did not teach them good things. The Hindus did not respect women.

(viii)     The Hindus always desired to crush the Muslims as a nation. Several attempts were made by the Hindus to erase the Muslim culture and civilization. Hindi-Urdu controversy, shudhi and sangathan movements are the most glaring examples of the ignoble Hindu mentality.

(ix)       The caste system of the Hindus had made the life of the common people miserable. They were treated like animals. Nobody could claim equality with Brahmins. 

(x)        The Hindus who have always been opportunists cooperated with the English

(xi)       The Hindus praised the British rule and its blessings in their speeches. The Hindus had the upper hand in the Congress and they established good relations with the British. This party tried its best to safeguard the interests of the Hindus. Gradually it became purely a Hindu organization. Most of the Hindu leaders of the Congress were not prepared to tolerate the presence of the Muslims in the sub-continent. They demanded that the Muslims should either embrace Hinduism or leave the country. The party was so close to the Government that it would not let the Government do any work as would be of benefit to the Muslims. The partition of Bengal can be quoted as an example. 

(xii)      The British confiscated all lands [from the Muslims] and gave them to Hindus [This is stated despite the fact that all the large feudal lords in the part that later formed Pakistan were Muslims]

(xiii)     Hindus declared the Congress rule as the Hindu rule, and started to unleash terror on Muslims 

(xiv)     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

(xv)      The Hindus in Pakistan were treated very nicely when they were migrating as opposed to the inhuman treatment meted out to the Muslim migrants from India. 

(xvi)     After 1965 war India conspired with the Hindus of Bengal and succeeded in spreading hate among the Bengalis about West Pakistan and finally attacked on East Pakistan in December 71, thus causing the breakup of East and West Pakistan

(xvii)    Hindu has always been an enemy of Islam 

Historical Omissions

            “When petty officials carry the brief of writing history as victory, the imaginings of power can discard the stray ‘truths’ of pure inspiration and pretend to monopolize the enterprise of creativity. A sort of selective amnesia descends which can be resisted and breached but never quite dissipated.”[12]

        Having been created on the premise that Muslims were a different nation from Hindus, Pakistan faced a unique challenge – that of its identity. If Pakistanis were not Hindus, then what were they. Did their religion make them Arabs, or even Persians who were their immediate neighbours? But when they looked towards their Western neighbours, they found no similarities, be it in terms of language, culture, diet or even physical appearances. Yet, they could not acknowledge a common ancestry with a ‘Hindu’ India. Thus was complicated the onerous task of writing Pakistan’s history for its children to study.

        It is common to hear that Pakistan’s history, as per its textbooks, commences from 712 AD, when Mohd bin Qasim invaded Sindh. Almost all of history before that is either ignored, or glossed over. The lands that comprise Pakistan today find mention in the epic of Mahabharat, however this is not taught to the children who live on those lands. Neither are they told that their lands were once part of the mighty Mauryan empire.

        As a result of these omissions, the children of Pakistan grow up without any knowledge of their glorious heritage. Instead, they end up with a bigoted view of the region they live in which, coupled with the falsehoods being fed to them in other subjects, makes for a dangerous mix. When they encounter the world outside and realize it is at a variance with beliefs instilled in them, they either withdraw further into their exclusivist shells, or become disillusioned and unanchored.

Glorification of Armed Forces

        World over, govts use education as a means to assist in the process of nation building. However, Pakistan is a different case in that for much of its history it has been directly ruled by its military. Even the periods of civil rule saw the military retain a significant say in critical affairs of the govt. Add to this the fact that the Pakistani military’s record on battlefield is not much to talk about, and one can put into perspective the glorification of the armed forces being fed to the children of Pakistan from very young age.

        This process of glorifying the military commenced shortly after the 1965 war and gathered pace after the 1971 debacle. When Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto took over the Govt, the military was highly demoralized, its public image was very low and people had lost faith in its ability to defend the country. The Bhutto era curriculum is thus filled with war heroes, military values and the glorification of the army and its valiant exploits in the 1948 and 1965 wars with India.[13] In fact, Bhutto went so far as to introduce a two year course titled Fundamentals of War and Defence of Pakistan for Classes XI and XII respectively.[14] The process further intensified as Islam was added ‘to support the state‘s own militaristic policies in such a way that it appeared to the reader that Pakistan, the Pakistan movement, Pakistan‘s wars with India, the Kashmir issue were all connected not only with Pakistani nationalism but with Islam itself.’[15]


(Coming up in Part 3: Effects on Pakistani Society)

[1] Rumi, Raza. ‘Our Textbooks and the Lies They Teach’: The Express Tribune, 14 Apr 2011

[2] Jinnah, MA. 11 Aug 1947.

[3] Sareen, Sushant. ‘The Jihad Factory: Pakistan’s Islamic Revolution in the Making.’ Pp 32

[4] National Early Childhood Education Curriculum (NECEC), Ministry of Education, Government of Pakistan,

March 2002, page 4

[5] Mirin, Amir. ‘How Pakistan Pumps In Hatred Through Textbooks.’, 16 Nov 2011, Rediff

[6] ibid

[7] ibid

[8] Chaudhary, BY. ‘The Quaid and the Ideology of Pakistan.’, 16 Aug 2009, ‘The Dawn’

[9] National Curriculum for Pakistan Studies, Grades IX-X, 2006, page 2.

[10] National Curriculum for Advanced Pakistan Studies, Grades XI-XII, 2010, page 16.

[11] Rafiqui, Asim. ‘The Hindus Live In Small And Dark Houses Or Finding The Roots Of War In Textbooks – The Pakistan Episode’.

[12] Jalal, Ayesha. ‘Conjuring Pakistan: History as Official Imagining.’ Pp 5.

[13] Sabri, Zahra. ‘A Textbook Case’. 19 Mar 2015, ‘Herald’.

[14] ibid

[15] Rahman, Tariq PhD. ‘Denizens of Alien Worlds’. Pp 26

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