PFS 3: Education

Chapter 3


Through the 1950s and 1960s, Pakistan was believed to be a leading light among developing nations, and the unquestioned technological leader among “Islamic nations”

A closer look at the facts suggests that this was only an impression created by the fortuitous alliance between the suave, English speaking Pakistani elite and the post world war superpower, the United States of America, and the world’s most powerful media apparatus that came with the US.

Development and technology require education. Most people who take education for granted tend to forget the highly organized and civilized system that needs to be set up for an underdeveloped nation to build up a group of educated citizens who can serve as the pioneers of development.

For example, imagine a small town or village that needs a school. A building is required, with electricity for light bulbs. Teachers are needed and for this the teacher himself must be educated - a separate education system must exist to have a supply of teachers. The people of the village or town need to understand the value of sending their children to be educated in school as opposed to keeping them at home for help in the fields or other work.

The low literacy rate in Pakistan is an indicator of the facts that these fundamental investments have been ignored or sidelined for decades. The precise manner in which lack of education and a runaway increase in population affects a country needs to be understood by leaders in power. But it appears that a series of Pakistani leaders have never really understood how the twin facts of population explosion and lack of education feed upon each other leading to the population-illiteracy cycle getting worse at a faster and faster rate as time passes, making it increasingly difficult to catch up.

A report on reforming education in Pakistan on NBC said (10):

Two years ago, the Pakistani government tried to estimate how many schools it would take to handle the 8 million kids of primary age not in class now. “The numbers that came up is 8,500 primary schools. That’s the kind of numbers we needed two years earlier. They can become 10,000 in 2004, maybe more,” said Zubaida Jalal, Pakistan’s minister for education.

In the 20th century, rapid advances in the development and application of vaccination of people against killer diseases like smallpox and diphtheria led to a significant reduction in the number of children dying from these diseases. Effective means were developed to reduce complications and deaths during pregnancy and childbirth, and simple treatments were devised to save lives in cases of deadly killer diarrheas. Until these developments occurred, populations in many countries remained relatively stable, because the number of people dying was approximately equal to the number of babies being born. But once these scientific changes affected human society, populations began to rise rapidly. The UNFPA has recognized this and says in a report on Pakistan:

The major contributing factor to population growth has been the sustained gap between low mortality and high fertility levels for the last three decades or so. As a result, Pakistan has today a very young population structure, with 43 per cent below the age of 15 and 63 per cent below the age of 25.

Populations grow by what is called “geometric progression”. That means that if a population of 1 million people doubles to 2 million in ten years, it will double to 4 million in a further ten years, and then become 8 million in ten more years and so on. In fifty years, a population of 1 million can increase to 32 million. If the original 1 million people lived in a poor, developing country that is barely able to feed and provide employment for 1 million people, it will have to look after 32 million people just fifty years later. Unless a great deal of money and effort is put into planning for population growth such as food production, healthcare and education, a rapid rise in population typically leads to more hunger, more poverty, more diseases from malnutrition and more unemployment. That means more people who are unhappy and have reason to be angry.

This is exactly what is happening in Pakistan (11, 12). The population has increased by 50 million people in the last 15 years and the number of poor has doubled.

All these extra people have to have food and opportunities for employment, and they need to be educated regarding the importance of birth control and family planning, since that is essential for slowing down the population explosion.

Unfortunately Pakistan’s leaders have never put in the required amount of money and effort into education of the Pakistani masses. Generations of Pakistanis have been born into poverty and deprivation without the knowledge or the means to slow down population growth or earn a living though a modern job from a modernizing economy.

A report in the San Francisco Chronicle (13) in Oct 2002 on the state of education in Pakistan states:

According to government statistics for this year, the literacy rate is 49 percent overall, 61.3 for men and 36.8 for women .. putting Pakistan among the 20 least literate countries, according to World Bank’s World Development Index. A government study commissioned last year demonstrated a clear cause-and- effect relationship between the lack of basic education and increasing poverty.

A study of education in Pakistan reveals many reasons to be concerned, and few reasons to be happy.

The state of education in Pakistan was described by Raymond Bonner in the New York Times on 31st March 2002:

Pakistan’s literacy rate ranks below that of countries like Haiti, Rwanda and Sudan, according to the most recent United Nations Development Program report... Pakistan’s most recent budget sets aside $107 million for education, compared with $2 billion for the military.

Madrassa education in Pakistan:

Over large areas of Pakistan, the lack of schools was made up to some extent by madrassas or Islamic schools. Madrassas exist in all nations with a Muslim population, but what is taught in a madrassa can vary significantly depending on the country and government. The madrassas of Pakistan have played a prominent role in making Pakistan the unstable, recessed theocratic state that it is today. Columnist ABS Jafri wrote in the Dawn (14): Sindh province we have more than a quarter of a million students in the religious Madaris. In Karachi alone there are well over 226,000 children in these religious seminaries.. In the whole of the province there are only 1,500 middle schools. Compare this with 869 Madaris in Karachi alone.

Nadeem Iqbal, writing for the Asia Times reported (15):

Currently there are some one million to 1.7 million students enrolled in madrassas in Pakistan, most of them between the ages of five to 18 and from poor families.

According to Dr. Tariq Rahman, Professor of Linguistics and South Asian Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan had only 137 madrassas in 1947. Dr. Rahman writes of Pakistani madrassas (16):

In 1950 there were 210 of them while in 1971 they increased to 563. Nowadays there are at least 7000 of them.

After the 1971 war of liberation of Bangladesh, the process of making Pakistanis more Islamic, the so called Islamization of Pakistan was given impetus. It was initiated by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and the Pakistani General Zia ul Haq who removed Bhutto in a coup and later hanged him, accelerated the process. The exact number of madrassas cannot be known because of the lack of registration or census.

Analyst Alexei Alexiev writes (17):

While no official nation-wide study of these madrassas exists, estimates of their overall number range between 10,000 and 20,000; unregistered seminaries may add another 10,000 to the total. As for the number of students, here the estimate ranges from a conservative half-million to over 2 million. (By comparison, some 1.9 million Pakistani children reportedly attended primary schools in 2002.)

In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, and this gave the US an opportunity to utilize its Cold War alliance with Pakistan to battle the Soviet invasion. The US pumped in large amounts of money and arms into Pakistan, much of it channeled via Saudi Arabia. The Saudi connection enabled the setting up of a vast number of madrassas in Pakistan. Because of the great poverty and lack of schools in Pakistan, madrassas were a natural attraction for the average Pakistani, as being schools that adhered to Islamic values while feeding and housing students, and taking over the burden of looking after one or more sons from a large, poor and ill-fed Pakistani family.

Pamela Constable, a columnist for the Washington Post wrote on 20th September 2001 (18), just days after the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York:

In recent years, however, a number of religious parties and groups have been rapidly gaining influence throughout Pakistani society. Based in thousands of mosques and Islamic academies called madrassas, they spread their message in part by offering services, especially low-cost education, that millions of poor Pakistani families cannot obtain any other way.

The name madrassa merely connotes a school. Aijazz Ahmed wrote about madrassas in the Asia Times (19) in January 2003:

Madrassas were introduced about 300 years ago on the Indian subcontinent by then Muslim monarchs and rulers to produce a bureaucracy capable of running the day-to-day affairs of state, especially in terms of financial and legal issues, according to the wishes and pleasure of the king.

Ahmed continues:

Professor Dr Manzoor, a renowned scholar, writer and researcher, comments that nowadays many madrassas have taken an unfortunate direction. “The new role of the madrassas and [the influence] of religious elements has added nothing but hatred against non-Muslims and different sects of Islam. Although some major schools produced better results and play their role for religious harmony, many inject the poison of extremism, sectarianism and ignorance and have become a source of increasing ignorance and religious intolerance in Pakistani society.”

At the best of times, the normal curriculum in madrassas did not offer a well rounded education that included maths, science and information technology. The subjects were frozen 300 years ago, and included logic, Arabic literature and grammar, and Koranic teachings.

But during the Cold War, the number of madrassas burgeoned rapidly and tens of thousands were set up offering only a narrow interpretation of Islam in which young people were indoctrinated into the concept of a violent jihad against unbelievers, and taught to believe that death on the battlefield fighting against the enemies of Islam such as the Soviet Union would ensure eternal paradise for the Islamic fighters.

The preparation of young men for jihad and death in the battlefield was surely very useful and convenient to provide an endless supply of soldiers to fight in Afghanistan, and such fighters under the name Taliban took over when the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan. But even after this, the madrassas that had supplied all these fanatical men did not close down, and indeed could not be closed down. The curriculum teaching jihad did not change either. Having nowhere else to go, thousands of madrassa trained students in Pakistan collected up, ready for jihad in any part of the world, including Kashmir, Bosnia, Chechnya, the Philippines, Indonesia, Palestine, Iraq and Turkey.

Pamela Constable wrote in the Washington Post:

During the 1980s, some radical Sunni groups in Pakistan sent young men to fight in Afghanistan against Soviet occupation, and many members of the Taliban graduated from their madrassas. More recently, a...number of Islamic students have been sent to fight against Indian troops in Kashmir.

In addition, Pakistan columnist Khaled Ahmed wrote in the Friday Times in November 21-27, 2003:

What better example than the one found in Pakistan whose private armies interfered in Central Asia and China with public acclaim? Let’s take a look at the Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami, Pakistan’s biggest jihadi militia headquartered in Kandahar before it was scattered by the Americans. The Harkat was one of the militias boasting international linkages. It called itself ‘the second line of defence of all Muslim states’ and was active in Arakan in Burma, and Bangladesh, with well organised seminaries in Karachi, Chechnya, Sinkiang, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Its fund-raising was largely from Pakistan, but an additional source was its activity of selling weapons to other militias

Schools in Pakistan:

Education in Pakistani schools outside of madrassas is not available to most Pakistanis. But even in the few schools that exist, the curriculum is deeply flawed. The following quotes are taken from an in depth study of what Pakistani school children are being taught in a compilation entitled The Subtle Subversion - The State of Curricula and Textbooks in Pakistan by A.H. Nayyar and Ahmed Salim (20):

Madrassas are not the only institutions breeding hate, intolerance, a distorted world view, etc. The educational material in the government run schools do much more than madrassas. The textbooks tell lies, create hate, incite for jehad and shahadat, and much more.

...children are now taught that the history of Pakistan starts from the day the first Muslim set foot in India.

History and Pakistan studies textbooks rarely mention the ancient and non-controversial cultures of the Indus valley (Moenjodaro, Harrappa and Kot Diji), and completely bypass the entire Buddhist and Hindu periods of history. They suddenly jump to the advent of Mohammed bin Qasim in India and treat it as the beginning of history... this structuring is to make children regard the Muslim part of the history as the .. most significant part.’

From about 1972 onwards, history taught in Pakistan was detached from history as we know it.

Quoting further from the Nayyar and Salim report:

Four themes emerge most strongly..

  1. ... Pakistan is for Muslims alone;
  2. ... Islamiat is to be forcibly taught to all the students, whatever their faith, including a compulsory reading of Qur’an;
  3. that Ideology of Pakistan is to be internalized as faith, and hate be created against Hindus and India;
  4. and students are to be urged to take the path of Jehad and Shahadat (martrydom).

Associated with the insistence on the Ideology of Pakistan has been an essential component of hate against India and the Hindus...the existence of Pakistan is defined only in relation to Hindus, and hence the Hindus have to be painted as black as possible.

Curriculum documents ask the following as the specific learning objectives:

The child should be able to understand the Hindu and Muslim differences...India’s evil designs against Pakistan ..Hindu has always been an enemy of Islam.

The class II Urdu book has a lesson on “Our Country”, the first sentences of which read: Our country is Pakistan. ...Pakistan is an Islamic country. Here Muslims live. Muslims believe in the unity of Allah. They do good deeds.

The Class 6 book says: Who am I? I am a Muslim. I am a are a Muslim and your religion is Islam.

A book lists “Acchi baten” (good deeds). Among them: “Good people are those who read the Qur’an and teach the Qur’an to others” implying that those of another faith cannot be good people.

Other things taught in state school texts:

After the partition of the subcontinent the Hindus and Sikhs started a properly planned campaign of exploiting the Muslims... as a result of which the Hindu and Sikh enemies of mankind killed and dishonoured thousands, nay hundreds of thousands of women, children, the old and the young with extreme cruelty and heartlessness.

And Pakistani children are taught about war as follows:

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto introduced a full two-year course on ‘Fundamentals of War’ and ‘Defence of Pakistan’ for class XI and XII respectively. In the ‘Fundamentals of War’ themes like objects and causes, conduct, nature, modern weapons, operations, principles ethics, the means short of war and modern Warfare were thoroughly discussed. ...The subject of hate in Pakistani educational material is Hindu and India, reflecting both the perceived sense of insecurity from an ‘enemy’ country, and an attempt to define one’s national identity in relation to the ‘other’. The first serves the military and the second the political Islamists.

In another article on Pakistani education AH Nayyar wrote (21):

The class 4 text book states: The religion of the Hindus did not teach them good things—Hindus did not respect women...

Another book tells the students:

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.

For another, the Hindus as a monolith were always cunning, scheming, and conspiring to deprive the Muslims of their due rights.. 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


If the Hindus had any national aspirations then these were clearly a sign of their prejudices, while if the Muslim kings and invaders plundered Hindu temples then presumably they did so with very noble intentions.

The experience of colonialism is described in a textbook as a British-Hindu conspiracy: The British joined forces with the Hindus to bring harm to the Muslims. Muslims tried in every way to maintain good relations with the British and Hindus, but they did not allow it to be so.

Regarding history as taught to Pakistani children Kamila Hyat wrote in the Jang in August 2003 (22):

.. the terrible events that led to the breaking away of East Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh are never mentioned...

Members of the generation who grew up after 1971 often have no idea at all of what issues underpinned the civil war or why it took place. The genocide committed in the territory that now constitutes Bangladesh .. are hardly ever discussed or even spoken off on passing within the Pakistan of today.

Pervez Hoodbhoy, a Pakistani scientist writes (23):

At the completion of Class-V, the child should be able to...

“Make speeches on Jehad and Shahadat”

“Understand Hindu-Muslim differences and the resultant need for Pakistan.”

“India’s evil designs against Pakistan.”

Hoodbhoy goes on to say in the same article:

A moronic, incompetent, self-obsessed, corrupt, and ideologically charged education bureaucracy today squarely blocks Pakistan’s entry into the 21st century.

It is clear from this that it is not only the madrassas that offer a curriculum of hatred to Pakistani children. Even children who study in Pakistani state schools imbibe a curriculum of discrimination and hate.

The real worry in having such a faulty educational system that actively encourages hatred is that millions of Pakistani children are growing up to be adults thinking that India and Indians exist to subjugate Muslims and should be hated for that. There seems to be no way in which a child in Pakistan can grow up without fearing or hating India in particular and non-Muslims in general. This mindset cannot be wiped out overnight. The problem is so serious that the Pakistani government must be engaged and encouraged to change the curriculum in Pakistani schools. It is surprising that faults in an education system that may have such great an impact on Indian-Pakistani relations in future are not being addressed at all at the highest governmental level in India.

Meanwhile, in the first sign that a glimmering of realization of the consequences of a curriculum of hate, an acknowledgment of the existence of a biased curriculum and a call for change was made by Pakistani Federal Minister for Education Ms Zobaida Jalal in a statement published in the Pakistan Tribune online in March 2004 (24):

a committee has been constituted to work out recommendations for deletion of material from curricula which is aimed at fomenting hatred against India adding that the committee will submit its recommendations within a month. Several social organizations have raised objection that hatred is fanned against India through the curricula of educational institutions in Pakistan. Government has set up a committee to look into the matter and send its recommendations within a month

But such change cannot come easily in Pakistan. More than half of Pakistan’s population of nearly 170 million are thirty years old or younger and have been exposed to a hate-India curriculum from childhood. As a result these people are likely to form a strong body of anti-India, anti-Hindu opinion for decades to come. Besides there is strong opposition to change. In a sternly worded reaction to the idea of reform of the hate curriculum, the influential director of the Pakistan Institute of Strategic Studies, Dr. Shireen Mazari accused the authors of the report on Pakistan’s biased school books as being biased and having been written for the handsome payment the authors received (25):

Dr. Mazari, commenting on the Nayyar report said:

…the authors take exception to the fact that the present curriculum documents suggest that children should be able to understand the Hindu-Muslim differences and the need for the creation of Pakistan. The authors’ warped logic is that knowing the differences breeds hatred! So one should really do away with inculcating the rationale behind the struggle for Pakistan! Of course, there is no doubt that some of the texts do denigrate the Hindus but this should not be a pretext for not creating an awareness of the differences that led to the creation of Pakistan.

In the same article, Dr. Mazari dismissed criticism of madrassas as having an anti-Islam motive - a time honored diversion used by the Pakistani elite to deflect criticism (see chapter 8). Dr. Mazari’s words:

“Also, with the madrassahs now a central target of the West, Islam seems to have also become fair game.

With influential Pakistanis opposing change in the curriculum, efforts at change are in serious danger of being quashed even before they commence.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Shiv ji, please offer us a PDF link so it can be uploaded to scribd or kindle. It's easy to spread the word.

Good stuff. Enjoy your posts on BRF.