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Murderers of history

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    Murderers of history

    This is how we tell lies to our new generation. Where Shahbuddin Ghauri a murderer and plunderer is treated as a hero with missiles named under his name. Osama bin Laden is Pakistan's hero while Gandhi, Porous, Prithviraj Chauhan are villians because they are "Hindus".

    Murderers of history: Suroosh Irfani

    A political culture of violence spawned by an intolerant interpretation of Islam and a distorted view of history lies at the heart of Pakistan's slide into a terrorist society, of which recent sectarian killings are the latest example. Indeed, the blurring of boundaries between terrorism and Islam that we are witnessing today is the logical outcome of an opportunistic use of religion and politics by successive governments and political groups over the last 50 years. And even though such opportunism has spelled the twin disasters of Pakistan's breakup in 1971 and subversion of the nation's institutions by former dictator Zia's Islamisation, there seems little that we have learned from these national catastrophes.

    Indeed, the self-righteous distortion underpinning our interpretation of Pakistan's breakup and glorification of narco-religious terrorism instituted by General Zia has made falsehood a foundation of our sense of history and national identity.

    Consequently, confusion, terror and outright lies have become intrinsic to a discourse of power bereft of a sense of authenticity and self-esteem. Small wonder that democracy and electoral politics notwithstanding, our leaders hanker for Washington's blessings for self-validation and legitimacy, even as they pander to the whims of religio-political parties and the blackmail of homegrown armed terrorist groups.

    Such a state of affairs makes it imperative to take serious note of KK Aziz's ground breaking analysis of "the falsehoods and plain lies" that have a share in shaping a Pakistani subjectivity in the name of ideological education being imparted in schools and colleges. Entitled "The Murder of History" (Vanguard: 1993), Aziz's study is in fact a white paper cataloguing the lies, bigotry and bias that successive governments have systematically passed on through tailored courses and textbooks on history and Pakistan studies. The hundreds of examples and extracts that the author cites from some 65 textbooks and helpbooks are a disturbing testament of the ignorance, hatred and prejudice that has gone into shaping our cultural self.

    For example, a book on Pakistan studies for intermediate students gives the following account of the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war, after making it clear that East Pakistan's secession was brought about "with the connivance of major powers":

    "In the 1971 war, the Pakistan armed forces created new records of bravery, and the Indian forces were defeated everywhere…The Hindus of East Pakistan engineered anti-Urdu demonstrations during Jinnah's time and at last the federal politicians accepted the humiliating situation and declared Bengali a second national language. This movement sowed the seeds of hatred".(p53)

    As Aziz rightly comments, if in 1971 the Indians were beaten everywhere, why did the victorious Pakistan Army surrender to India in Dhaka? Moreover, why was it humiliating for the government of Pakistan to accept Bengali as a second language? Demography, democracy and morality dictated that Bengali should be made the national language of the country.

    Aziz also cites extensive passages from a "prized" textbook on Pakistan studies designed by a special committee of distinguished professors and research directors headed by a vice chancellor as a compulsory course introduced in all colleges, both Urdu and English medium. These passages make a tragic reading of the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of an intelligentsia whose personal bias, ignorance and opportunism have been allowed to pass on as 'history'.

    For example, this prized creation of Zia's regime lists Maulana Mahmood Hassan and Maulana Maudoodi among "the founders of the ideology of Pakistan", without mentioning that they were opposed to the Muslim League, or that Maudoodi was against the creation of Pakistan. Also, the discussion on Muslim revival in India completely ignores the Muslims of Bengal, even though they spearheaded the movements of Muslim revival in the subcontinent.

    Such a sectarian outlook of history is also extended to the NWFP where the Khudai Khidmatgars are not even mentioned. The Unionist Party in Punjab is dubbed as a party of "big land holders (which) created a spirit of hatred in the province"--never mind if Allama Iqbal and many other prominent Muslims (who were not landlords) were among the founders of this party.

    Fabrications are also extended in describing the importance of Urdu. A helpbook for class-IX students, whose author is described by the publisher as "a poet of Islam of which the country is proud," has this to say about Urdu: "The special feature of Urdu is that it is spoken not only in every nook and corner of South Asia, but people who know and understand it are found in the whole world…Urdu is the only language which has no equal in the world. The fact is that even English and French languages are losing their popularity and importance before the Urdu language." (p39)

    Even if the shocking contents of Aziz's book have so far failed to "shake every reader and throw every parent into a panic", it might be worth our while to reflect on the author's concluding note: "What our children are being told are not even half-truths or exaggerations…they are falsehoods and pious frauds. A moment to ponder, dear reader, a moment to ponder, and to mourn the death of what we profess to live by--Haq, the truth, which is the first teaching of Islam". (p145)

    Even so, as KK Aziz's somber study shows, the most tragic tamasha of all is the one we are collectively enacting as defenders of ignorance and murderers of history, even as we are poised on the brink of a new century.