Will Pakistan continue to be a country where Ahmedis and Shia Muslims will continue to be slaughtered, where Sikhs are prevented from entering their places of praying, where shrines of patron saints are destroyed by suicide bombers, or where a common man go out to work and ends up end on the street. Or will it be a country where religious pluralism, as was envisioned by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founding father, would flourish?
To many, the crucial question remains same. Why is Pakistan filled with such intolerance?
I: State Educational Curriculum
Human rights experts blame the twisted religious teachings and hate material in textbooks responsible for prevalent unrest in the country. Moreover, experts pinpoint that incorporating the concept of religion in wars was the biggest mistake; and that its effects won’t wear off that easily.
“Before the arrival of cable TV in 2001, my school going daughter thought Hindus are demons. We grew up learning that our faiths will fade if we eat with non-Muslims. Such ideologies will not help us anymore”, says a concerned rights based activist.
Imagine sitting in a class room of an ordinary Pakistani public school where the teacher reads from the book out aloud: “Caravans that were on the way to Pakistan were attacked by Hindus and Sikhs. Not a single Muslim was left alive in trains coming to Pakistan.”
This is highly misleading information to be imparted to under-fifteen years of age children.
Across Pakistan, government-sanctioned school textbooks contain blatantly anti-religious-minority material. Abdul Hameed Nayyar, a well-known historian and activist, says “it is time to abolish all such hate material from text books as these try to create and define Pakistan in a narrow sense, of having just an Islamic identity. Whereas in reality, Pakistan is much more.”
Why does Pakistan’s curriculum contain hate material?
To answer this, we need to go back to partition 1947. This current curriculum came into use following the end of colonial rule and bitter break with India, which was considered an enemy. Later, during the rule of Gen. Zial ul-Haq, the curriculum was further radicalized, introducing the Soviet war in Afghanistan as “a new front for jihad.” His vision was to Islamize Pakistan, inspired by we-know-whose- strict interpretation of Islam.
The curriculum was amended under such patronages highlighting the extreme vision about Dhimmis or non-Muslims; it is embarrassing to note that it contains many excerpts citing Hindus as “gangsters” and Christians as “violent crusaders.”
II: Terrorism and Economic Failures
Out of 180 million populations, three quarters of Pakistanis live in abject poverty and are disheartened by the inaction of the government to improve their lives at any level. Pakistan spends less than 2.5 per cent of its gross domestic product on education. Almost half of Pakistan’s population is illiterate and only a third of all Pakistanis have spent less than two years at school. In many areas no government-funded schools exist and only the rich can afford an education.
In others areas, Islamic schools called madrassas (another evil genius of Gen Zia with patronage of S.A and U.S.A) operate but are controlled by religious extremists. These though no longer officially linked to terrorism, still serve as the only source of a free education in a country where a ten-year old is forced to sell his body to eat a meal instead of having a dream to become a doctor when he grows up.
With the spilling U.S led “war on terror” and repeated military crack downs on madrassas, the reality has been exposed. Reportedly, many Pakistani parents now keep their children at home in place of sending them to madrassas. But in the end, those children remain illiterate.
The rotting governance in the country is also responsible for becoming a state increasingly under the influence of extremists. This is not a thought that keeps me calm. Almost all tired and tested political parties continue playing their promise cards that stay undelivered.
A nation that could have had a great future is slowly crumbling at the hands of growing terrorism. Leader of Pakistan’s political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan blames this on Pakistan’s support for the war on terror, stating it has created a perception by ordinary Pakistanis that the government is a “puppet of the U.S.” Armed Forces. The U.S led drone attacks have also assisted in this perception, that non-Muslims are enemies.
The future would look brighter if for one; Pakistan would focus on solving its internal mess in particular restructuring its educational curriculum with specific emphasis on interfaith harmony, peace and unity. Additionally, the State must deliver its promise of free school education for its children, considering it has ratified most international conventions.
There is still no overall political or military strategy to combat Islamic extremism, but in classical idiotic fashion, there is overtly solidarity for Palestine.
Seriously? It breaks my heart and boils my blood truly….. Pakistanis are getting killed around the block on a daily basis, but we are to chant slogans for Palestine. Truly, such cruel negligence of a nation’s people could only happen in my homeland, Pakistan.
Then, moving on political leadership has to change. For now, there is much resistance to the extremists from political leaders. But, because of either fear or opportunism, there isn’t. All this has to go.
Its time to save Pakistan now, it is time to get back on the track of sanity.
The right hour has come to save Pakistan from ‘Talibanization’s radical Islam otherwise this obsessive love affair will destroy us all.