Pakistan People’s Party promised in its 2013 manifesto to include Quaid-e-Azam’s August 11, 1947, Speech in Sindh’s curriculum.
What is the need to include Quaid-e-Azam’s 11 August speech in the curricula? The liberal intelligentsia predominantly maintains that Pakistan’s school books promote bigoted mindset against minority religions. The main reason remains that Pakistan was achieved on the basis of religion, hence dissociating Islam from its identity almost seems impossible. The Hindus have been painted as a nation that wanted to distort the identity of the Muslims so that they remain submissive to the Hindu majority. The following research adds to this widely held belief.
After the Taliban attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar on Dec 2014, resulting in the loss of 141 lives, including 132 students, a policy change was envisaged by the government to tackle extremism, and a 20-point National Action Plan was formed. The idea behind the creation of NAP was to discourage religious extremism and to provide a counter-narrative to promote religious harmony in the country, saying an “end to religious extremism and [the] protection of minorities will be ensured.” However, a report by Pakistan’s National Commission for Justice and Peace, “Freedom from Suffocating Education,” claims that no curriculum reforms have been adopted at the school level, aside from the production of a few booklets.
This was supported by other findings of a report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which concluded: “The trend toward a more biased curriculum towards religious minorities is accelerating. These grossly generalized and stereotypical portrayals of religious minority communities signal that they are untrustworthy, religiously inferior, and ideologically scheming and intolerant.”
The NCJP report (in Urdu), which focused on textbooks used in the 2015-16 school year, noted that “hate material” previously identified had not been removed from the curriculum. It also pointed out that Pakistan’s Sindh Assembly had failed to keep its promise to include the complete text of “Father of the Nation” Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s speech of 11 Aug. 1947, in which he said:
“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or 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.” Only “a small portion of the speech” is included in textbooks, the report noted.
The NCJP study also questioned policymakers on this subject, saying: “If Ethics can be a substitute for religious studies for non-Muslim students, then why can not it be equally beneficial for Muslim students?”
Meanwhile, in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the conservative Jamaat-e-Islami party has censored contents from primary school textbooks, such as pictures of unveiled females or any depictions of the Christian faith.
The NCJP study cited several passages from books, which are given below:
- The Punjab Textbook Board’s Class III (ages 7-8) book on Urdu teaches that Islam is “superior” to all other religions.
- The Sindh Textbook Board’s Class VII (ages 11-12) book on Islamic Studies teaches: “Most of the [other] religions of the world claim equality, but they never act on it.”
- The Punjab Board’s Islamic Studies textbook for Class VIII (ages 12-13) reads: “Honesty for non-Muslims is merely a business strategy, while for Muslims it is a matter of faith.”
- For Class VI (ages 10-11), the Punjab Board’s Islamic Studies book says: “For the person who is not in financial need, is not governed by a tyrant and still does not perform [the pilgrimage to Mecca], it does not make a difference whether he dies as a Christian or a Jew.”
- The Punjab Board’s Class VI book on Islamic Studies says: “Though being a student, you cannot practically participate in jihad, but you may provide financial support for jihad.”
- The Punjab Board Class V (ages 9-10) Social Studies book says: “Religion plays a significant role in promoting national harmony. If the entire population believes in one religion, then it encourages nationalism and promotes national harmony.”
- “The better a Muslim we become, the better a citizen we prove to be,” says the Punjab Board’s Class IV (ages 8-9) book on Urdu.
Sharmila Farooqi, member of Sindh Assembly for PPP, told Truth Tracker that her party had been the vanguard of social reform and that the government had introduced many progressive bills in the assembly to bring change in the attitude of people for other communities. She, however, regretted that only a portion of Quaid’s speech and not the entire speech had so far been included in the textbooks. However, she was hopeful that if they had come that far than going forward and putting the whole perspective of Quaid’s views about minorities in Pakistan would not be too far.
Fawad Chaudhry, a leading spokesperson of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, said that education has never been the priority of any government of Pakistan. He further added that our children had been fed to develop a unique mind that remains submissive and enslaved to the ruling elite for which instilling hatred is perhaps the best way to gain the desired results. He agreed that the speech by the Quaid should be made part of the curriculum and a sense of equality and brotherhood among all the religious class should be inculcated. He argued that Quaid’s speech is about religious harmony and not an anathema to Islamic values.
Kamila Hyat, the writer, and analyst told Truth Tracker that the speech made by Mr. Jinnah on AUG 11 1947 had been placed out of reach of people. The original audio has vanished from archives, promises to restore it to textbooks have not been delivered on by governments. The speech could help reframe mind-set in a country where intolerance has taken an enormous toll on lives. It’s restoration, alongside other steps to build harmony, is then a matter of tremendous urgency.
The Sindh government has failed to include the Quaid’s August 11 speech in the Sindh Curriculum. Therefore the promise stands broken.