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

This is the concluding part of a three part blog series. Links to the first two parts are as under:-

Part 1

Part 2


        The rapid descent into chaos of Pakistan as a nation is amply documented. However, most of the times people make the mistake of putting the blame squarely on the education imparted in the Madrassas in the country, not realizing that public school education is equally to blame. The failed Times Square bomber in May 2010, Faisal Shahzad was the son of Air Vice Marshal Baharul Haq of the PAF and did his early schooling in Pakistan.[1]

        A subtle subversion of the generations post 1971 has already happened and will take a lot of effort to be undone. That is, however, beyond the scope of this blog post. As regards the current school going generation too, the situation is bad, but salvageable with concerted effort. In words of Mr Karamat Ali, the executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, “I have heard of cases where Muslim students ask non-Muslim high achievers: Why don’t you convert to our religion? And it is not just Muslims and Hindus, but also Shias who are given this treatment. This is because of the horrifying myths about people of other faiths that we fill our children with.”[2]

        With a force feeding of religion in school curriculum despite the country’s constitution specifically forbidding it (as discussed in Part 1), the effect has been twofold. Firstly, it has resulted in a youth which has undergone subtle religious indoctrination at behest of its own govt for its own particular agenda, at times dictated by religious parties in the govt; and secondly, this has come at the cost of other, more relevant issues that the pupils might have been taught instead, in order to take their nation on the path of development and assimilation in the larger comity of nations.

Attempts at Reform

            ‘In the latest Class 10 Pakistan Studies textbook for Punjab, the section on the Musharraf years discusses his policy of ‘enlightenment’. The book states that “Musharraf changed the curriculum and tried to make it enlightened”. And earlier in that paragraph: “President Musharraf had also tried to introduce enlightenment in his country (like Ataturk in Turkey) but the religious people of Pakistan made it a failure.” Ironic that the textbook itself acknowledges the failure of the curriculum reform, given that it ostensibly follows the new 2006 curriculum.’[3]

        There continue to be many within Pakistan who are aware of the challenges posed by their school curriculum, and have made numerous attempts to reform the same. However, for most part, their attempts have failed on account of the inherent resistance by the clergy, sometimes from within the govt. During the early years of Musharraf regime, attempts were made to moderate the curriculum and subject matter experts approached for the same. One of the many changes made to the curriculum was the definition of the word ‘jehad’. Textbooks of the time defined it as ‘holy war against infidels’. This was changed to ‘fighting evils inside oneself’, a definition much closer to its actual meaning. The change was, however, short lived, and Musharraf had to bow to the diktats of the religious parties on whose support his govt was in power.[4]

        In 2006, Pakistan finally revised its curricula guidelines, removing a lot of negatives, while retaining others. However, new textbooks in conformity with the new guidelines have still not been created and published.[5] In fact, a review of curriculum indicated that more than doubled since the last time they were revised. For example, some 30 Grade 5 to 10 textbooks published in Punjab,  examined in 2009, were found to have 12 instances of biased material that could be considered “hate content.”  In 2012, the textbooks underwent a curriculum revision. After another review, the total number of quantifiable instances of questionable or factually incorrect material went up to 33.[6] In fact, in 2004 the Information Minister of the Govt of Pakistan was forced to apologise to the religious parties in the National Assemby after the Education Minister questioned the relevance of verses glorifying Jihad in Class XI Biology textbooks.[7] Such is the uphill battle that faces curriculum reform in Pakistan.


        Awakening vs continued descent into chaos – these are the only two choices left for Pakistan now with respect to its school curriculum. As has been demonstrated earlier during the Musharraf refime, even if a correct choice is made, implementing it would mean overcoming the baggage of continued Islamization and radicalization that has been the norm in Pakistan over the past five decades. This is a matter which should equally concern India, since much of the bile is directed against it, including in the guise of Hindus.

        The real worry for India is that the current education system of Pakistan will continue to churn out young adults who will view India as a hegemon with the sole aim of subjugating Pakistan and its people. Over the past years, many generations have already been moulded by the system and are today in positions of influence wherein their individual / collective actions ensure continued enmity between India and Pakistan. Such a mind set can’t be reformed overnight. We must find a way to engage the Govt of Pakistan and encourage it to take corrective action at the earliest if there is ever to be any hope of a lasting India – Pakistan peace.

[1] Schapiro, Rich. ‘Times Square bomb suspect Faisal Shahzad ‘was just a normal dude’ before making neighbors suspicious.’ 05 May, 2010, ‘Daily News’.

[2] Usman, Mashal. ‘Pakistan: Bias in the textbooks and education – report on a meeting in Karachi’. 19 Mar 2013, ‘South Asia Citizens Web’.

[3] Afzal, Madiha. ‘A Failed Curriculum Reform’. 16 Jan 2014, Brookings.

[4] Siddiqui, Taha. ‘Pakistan textbooks raise debate about curriculum of hate’. 28 Feb 2013. CS Monitor.

[5] Bandow, Doug. ‘The Problem of Pakistan: Teaching Intolerance and Violence.’  09 Jan 2012, CATO Institute.

[6] Siddiqui, Taha. ‘Pakistan textbooks raise debate about curriculum of hate’. 28 Feb 2013. CS Monitor.

[7] ‘Govt Apologises Over Remarks in NA.’ 13 Mar 2004, ‘The Dawn’.

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