What is the most blatant lie taught through Pakistan textbooks?


Nationalism and patriotism in Pakistan are contested subjects. What makes us Pakistanis and what is it that makes us love our land and nation?


The answers to these questions vary widely depending on who is being asked. A large part of our national identity stems from our sense of history and culture that are deeply rooted in the land and in the legacy of the region’s ancient civilisations. Religion has also played a big part in making us what we are today. But the picture general history textbooks paint for us does not portray the various facets of our identity.
Instead it offers quite a convoluted description of who we are. The distortion of historical facts has in turn played a quintessential role in manipulating our sense of self. What’s ironic is that the boldest fallacies in these books are about the events that are still in our living memory.

Herald invited writers and commentators, well versed in history, to share their answers to what they believe is the most blatant lie taught through Pakistan history textbooks.


The fundamental divide between Hindus and Muslims


The most blatant lie in Pakistan Studies textbooks is the idea that Pakistan was formed solely because of a fundamental conflict between Hindus and Muslims. This idea bases itself on the notion of a civilisational divide between monolithic Hindu and Muslim identities, which simply did not exist.

The stress on religion ignored other factors that could cut across both identities. For instance, a Muslim from most of South India had far more in common, because of his regionally specific culture and language, with Hindus in this area than the Muslims in the north of the Subcontinent.

Similarly, the division of the historical narrative into a ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’ period, aside from the ironic fact that this was actually instituted by the British, glosses over the reality that Islamic empires also fought each other for power. After all, Babar had to defeat Ibrahim Lodhi, and thus, the Delhi Sultanate, for the Mughal period to begin.

Therefore, power and empire building often trumped this religious identity, that textbooks claim, can be traced linearly right to the formation of Pakistan.

These textbooks tend to have snapshot descriptions of the contempt with which the two religious communities treated one another. This is specifically highlighted in descriptions of the Congress ministries formed after the elections of 1937.

Other factors that contributed historically to these shows of religious ‘contempt’ in South Asian history are often ignored. Indeed, Richard Eaton’s classic study of temple desecrations shows that in almost all cases where Hindu temples were ransacked, it was for political or economic reasons.

In most cases, it was because the Muslim ruler was punishing an insubordinate Hindu official. Otherwise, the Mughals protected such temples. Jumping ahead, this sort of inter-communal cooperation aimed at maintaining political control could also be seen in the Unionist Party, which was in power in Punjab all the way up until 1946.

As Pakistan was formed barely a year later, the notion that its formation was based on a long-standing and fundamental conflict between Hindus and Muslims is deeply problematic.


Eulogising leaders


In his preface to the Muqaddimah, Ibn Khaldun warned of seven mistakes that he thought historians often committed. One of the seven is “the common desire to gain favour of those of high ranks, by praising them, by spreading their fame.”

This particular mistake, or lie rather, has plagued history writing for school texts in Pakistan since the 1950s and has been used as a political tool to project successive rulers – whether civilian or military – in a eulogistic format.

Moreover, another mindless inaccuracy is the absence of the ‘other’, where India and Congress are needlessly ignored and a one-sided version of history is deemed necessary for creating a nationalistic mindset.

This gap continues in the historical narrative for school students post-partition. Hence, some of the most blatant lies and subversion of historical facts exist in the textbooks mandated by the federal and provincial textbook boards.

Furthermore, maligning the ‘enemy’ is done quite overtly and mindlessly in official history school texts which, unfortunately, is also the case with some Indian school texts documented by discerning authors on both sides of the border.

Most nation states during the 19th and 20th centuries used official versions of history in order to create a homogenous and nationalistic identity. Pakistan’s first education minister, Fazalur Rehman, set up the Historical Society of Pakistan in 1948 so that history for the new nation could be rewritten in a fair and balanced manner using authentic and reliable sources.

Successive governments did not further this goal and history written for schools in Pakistan became the victim of fossilised textbook boards ratifying the work of unethical and unscholarly authors for public school consumption. Vested interests continue to triumph despite the open door policy since 2004 for private publishers to bid for quality textbooks.


Excluding and manipulating historical periods


The most blatant lie in textbook accounts of Pakistan’s history is by virtue of omission, which is in effect the denial of our multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious past. It is a common complaint that Pakistan’s history is taught as if it began with the conquest of Sindh by the Umayyad army, led by the young General, Muhammad bin Qasim in 711 AD.

Most textbooks in Sindh at least do mention Moenjodaro and the Indus Valley civilisation, but it is not discussed in a meaningful way and there is no discussion about its extent and culture. Important periods and events during subsequent centuries are also skimmed over, like the Aryan civilisation which introduced its powerful social system and epic poetry (Mahabharata in which Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa play important roles), the Brahmin religion, a thousand years of Buddhism with its universities and the Gandharan civilisation which was spread throughout present day Pakistan.

No students of Pakistani schools can tell us that Pakistan was once part of the empires of Cyrus the Great and Darius of the Achaemenid Dynasty and later of the Sassanian Empire with the legendary rule of Naushirwan, “the Just”. Similarly, hardly anyone would be aware that Asoka whose capital was in Pataliputra in the east of the subcontinent also counted Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab as part of his domain.

The result of these omissions is disastrous on the minds of the youth in Pakistan. Instead of seeing themselves as heirs of many civilisations, they acquire a narrow, one-dimensional view of the world. This is contradicted by what they subsequently see in this global world of information technology and shared knowledge. That this is also in direct contravention of Islamic teachings does not occur to the perpetrators of a lopsided curriculum in our schools.

The first assertion in the Holy Quran is Iqra bi Ism I Rabik [and no restrictions are put on the acquisition of knowledge].

Instead, we have bans on books, digital platforms such as YouTube and even newspapers in this Islamic Republic of Pakistan.


The other view


To say a large part of Pakistan’s history is shared with India would be stating the obvious. Yet it is this period of both our histories, or the portrayal of such, that is tampered with the most and has been used as a political tool by either side. The Herald invited renowned Indian historian and currently a Jawaharlal Nehru Fellow, Mushirul Hasan, to give his take on the lies taught through textbooks on both sides of the border.

History is only of use for its lessons, and it is the duty of the historian to see that they are properly taught. Very few in the subcontinent heed this advice. Both in India and Pakistan the intellectual climate has thrown the historical profession into disarray.

Such is the power and influence of the polemicists that a growing number of people are abandoning the quest for an objective approach. With the recent appointment of a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-oriented Chairman of the Indian Council for Historical Research, liberal and secular historians are worried about the future of their discipline.

The diversity of approaches has been the hallmark of Indian historiography. As a result, the making of Pakistan and its evolution as a nation state is interpreted differently in various quarters.

The ghosts of partition was put to rest and not exhumed for frequent post-mortems. Moreover, the liberal-left historians did not repudiate the idea of Pakistan. On the contrary, they criticised the Congress stalwarts for failing to guide the movements they initiated away from the forces of reactionary communalism.

This was true of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Ram Manohar Lohia, the Socialist leader. The Maulana, in particular, charged Nehru for jettisoning the plan for a Congress-Muslim coalition in 1937 and the prospect of an enduring Hindu-Muslim partnership.

Tara Chand’s three-volume History of the Freedom Movement in India held its ground until the Janata government decided, in 1977, to rewrite the secular textbook. With the establishment of the BJP-led government in October 1999, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-RSS combination began its subversion of academia through its time-tested method of infiltration and rewriting of textbooks and ‘fine-tuning’ of curricula.

Saffronisation of education will breed fanaticism, heighten caste and communitarian consciousness, and stifle the natural inclination of a student to cultivate a balanced and cautious judgement. Increasingly, it may be difficult for some of us to establish historical truths or to defend the cult of objective historical inquiry.

As the radical currents are being swept aside by the winds of right-wing discourse, it is pertinent to recall the Saidian (Edward Said) dictum that “nothing disfigures the intellectuals’ public performance as much trimming, careful silence, patriotic bluster, and retrospective of self-dramatising prophecy.”

The story in Pakistan runs on different lines. Starting with I.H. Qureshi and Aziz Ahmad, scholars in our neighbours have tenaciously adhered to the belief that the creation of the Muslim nation was the culmination of a ‘natural’ process.

They have pressed into service the ‘two-nation’ theory to define nationality in purely Islamic terms. In the process, they have turned a blind eye to the syncretic and composite trajectory of Indian society, which began with Mohammad Iqbal’s memorable lines Ae Aab-e-Rood-e-Ganga! Woh Din Hain Yaad Tujh Ko? Utra Tere Kinare Jab Karwan Humara [Oh, waters of the river Ganges! Do you remember those days? Those days when our caravan halted on your bank?].

The same poet talked of “Naya Shiwala”, a temple of peace and goodwill. Again, the same poet gave lessons of religious understanding and tolerance in yet another poet.

Sadly, these thoughts are hardly reflected in our textbooks. We don’t emphasise the virtue of living with diversity and sharing social and cultural inheritances. We don’t introduce our students to the vibrant legacy of Kabir, Guru Nanak, Akbar, and Dara Shikoh. Instead, we dwell on the imaginarykufr-o-imaan ki jung, on the destruction of temples and forcible conversions. Increasingly, young students are introduced to the Islamist or the Hindutva world views that have caused incalculable damage to State and civil society.

Saadat Hasan Manto described an existentialist reality – the separation of people living on both sides who had a long history of cultural and social contact – and the paradoxical character of borders being a metaphor of the ambiguities of nation-building. He offered, without saying so, a way of correcting the distortions inherent in state-centered national histories.

Ayesha Jalal is right in pointing out that as “old orthodoxies recede before the flood of fresh historical evidence and earlier certitudes are overturned by newly detected contradictions”, this is the time to heal “the multiple fractures which turned the promised dawn of freedom into a painful moment of separation”.

In the words of the poet Ali Sardar Jafri:

Tum aao gulshan-e-Lahore se chaman bardosh, Hum Aayein subh-e-Benaras ki roshni le kar, Himalaya ke hawaaon ki taazigi le kar, aur uss ke baad yeh poochein ke kaun dushaman hai? .. [You come forward with flowers from the Garden of Lahore, We bring to you the light and radiance of the morning of Benaras, The freshness of the winds of Himalayas, And then we ask who the enemy is?].


Wars with India


The most blatant lies in Pakistani history textbooks are about the events that are still in our living memory. Among the many examples, the three given below are about the wars of 1965 and 1971, and the partition carnage of 1947. The reason for the falsehood lies in our distorted view of nationalism. Rather than letting children learn from our historical mistakes, we show them a false picture. Thus we are doomed to repeat these mistakes generation after generation.

The following excerpt regarding the 1965 war is taken from fifth grade reading material published by the NWFP Textbook Board, Peshawar in 2002 — “The Pakistan Army conquered several areas of India, and when India was at the verge of being defeated she ran to the United Nations to beg for a cease-fire. Magnanimously, thereafter, Pakistan returned all the conquered territories to India.”

The Punjab Textbook Board published the following text on the causes for the separation of East Pakistan in 1993 for secondary classes — “There were a large number of Hindus in East Pakistan. They had never truly accepted Pakistan. A large number of them were teachers in schools and colleges.

They continued creating a negative impression among students. No importance was attached to explaining the ideology of Pakistan to the younger generation.

The Hindus sent a substantial part of their earnings to Bharat, thus adversely affecting the economy of the province. Some political leaders encouraged provincialism for selfish gains. They went around depicting the central Government and (the then) West Pakistan as enemy and exploiter. Political aims were thus achieved at the cost of national unity.”

“While the Muslims provided all sorts of help to those non-Muslims desiring to leave Pakistan [during partition], people of India committed atrocities against Muslims trying to migrate to Pakistan. They would attack the buses, trucks and trains carrying the Muslim refugees and murder and loot them.” The latter excerpt was taken from an intermediate classes textbook — Civics of Pakistan, 2000.

Some more examples of totally contorted and misleading, yet ingenious and amusing, narrations of the history of Pakistan can be extracted from a single text, A Textbook of Pakistan Studies by M. D. Zafar.

“Pakistan came to be established for the first time when the Arabs led by Muhammad bin Qasim occupied Sindh and Multan. Pakistan under the Arabs comprised the Lower Indus Valley.”

“During the 11th century the Ghaznavid Empire comprised what is now Pakistan and Afghanistan. During the 12th century the Ghaznavids lost Afghanistan and their rule came to be confined to Pakistan”.

“By the 13th century Pakistan had spread to include the whole of Northern India and Bengal. Under the Khiljis Pakistan moved further South to include a greater part of Central India and the Deccan”.

“During the 16th century, ‘Hindustan’ disappeared and was completely absorbed in ‘Pakistan”.

“Shah Waliullah appealed to Ahmad Shah Durrani of Afghanistan and ‘Pakistan’ to come to the rescue of the Muslims of Mughal India, and save them from the tyrannies of the Marhattas…”

“In the Pakistan territories where a Sikh state had come to be established, the Muslims were denied freedom of religion.”

“Thus by the middle of the 19th century both Pakistan and Hindustan ceased to exist; instead British India came into being. Although Pakistan was created in August 1947, yet except for its name, the present-day Pakistan has existed, as a more or less single entity for centuries.”


Pakistan was made for Muslims


The most blatant lie that covers page after page of history textbooks is that Pakistan was created for the promotion and propagation of religion. In fact, when the Muslim League was established in Dhaka in 1906, one of the foremost principles was the creation of loyalty to the British rulers and to promote greater understanding between Muslims and the British government.

The idea of religion barely entered the discourse of the Muslim League until the elections of 1937, when the League lost elections and the Congress won decisively. It was at that time that religious nationalism was invoked vigorously to create a feeling of unity among the Muslims of Uttar Pardesh (UP), Bengal and Punjab in order to provide the League an ideational basis of support.

Pakistan was mainly created for the protection and promotion of the class interests of the landed aristocracy which formed the League. The meeting at which the League was formed was attended mainly by the landed elite which feared that if the British left India and representative government was established, the traditional power of the loyal Muslim aristocracy would erode, especially since the class composition of the Congress reflected the educated urban and rural middle classes seeking upward mobility and a share in political power.

The peasant movement in Bengal was mobilised for purely political purposes since its aims and ideology conflicted radically with those of the landed aristocracy.

The urban educated middle classes of UP which joined the League later and enunciated the Hindu-Muslim difference argument in 1940, eschewed Muslim nationalism soon after independence because it had outlived its political use. The nature of the state outlined by the educated urban class in 1947 was based on a pluralistic vision of a state based on religious and citizenship equality.

Stop celebrating Sadiq Khan’s victory, Pakistan, you have no right to celebrate

Sadiq Khan is now the mayor of London. There are countless reasons to celebrate this feat. On a personal level, it is indeed a great achievement for someone who was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His father was a Pakistan immigrant and a bus driver who brought up Sadiq and his siblings in a council property. Imagine the son of that particular immigrant getting elected by a record mandate in London; it’s a truly superb moment. Congratulations to him for a truly remarkable victory.

But can every Pakistani and every Muslim personally feel proud over the appointment of the new mayor’s triumph?

I feel a louder word of applause and appreciation is due for the exemplarily tolerant and accepting people of London, a clear separation of the state from religion and the rule of law founded on equality and meritocracy. His victory substantiates the fact that anyone from any race and religion can hold an esteemed public office through a due democratic process. Last Thursday’s election is only one such example.

The timing of his selection is tremendous since religious extremists are busy tarnishing the image of Islam, Islamophobia is on a steep rise and uneasiness towards Islam has witnessed a gradual increase.

British Muslims, especially Pakistani expats, are rejoicing a rare moment of pride. Alongside the sentiments of accomplishment, some would think it is everyone’s right to vie for public office and to indeed become part of the democratic process; a fundamental right that no one can deprive them of.

Indeed, that is a common thought, or is it?

Well, the worth of this fundamental right, that most of us take for granted, dawns even brighter upon us when we read the following notice by the Election Commission of Pakistan,

“…Ordered vide its letter No. F.1(6)/2001-Cord dated 17 January, 2007 that the competent authority has been pleased to decide that separate supplementary lists of draft electoral rolls for Ahmadis/Qadianis for the electoral areas concerned…”.

Being a ‘competent authority’ when they are ‘pleased’ to separate voting lists for an already persecuted community in Pakistan. A few days ago, Pakistan’s Parliament hailed the extraordinary success of a ‘Pakistani’ who made the country proud. I deem Pakistan’s Parliament and its people celebrating Sadiq Khan’s victory rather hypocritical. Why do we want the best for ourselves and do not mind if others are deprived of even the basics? Why do we only scream when we are in the line of fire? Why can we happily see our own law usurping the rights of others?

In Pakistan, Ahmadis can cast their votes for federal, provincial and local elections but only on the condition that they must declare themselves as non-Muslim. This is something that no Ahmadi’s conscience consents to; and every Ahmadi of eligible voting age does so at the cost of foregoing the very right that millions of Pakistani Muslims in several non-Muslim countries enjoy without a spec of discrimination.

Imagine what would have happened if Muslims were denied to vote in London?

In UK, all the people have one vote which carries the same value. Their vote knows no religion, class or colour.

Scores have been booked for being allegedly disrespectful to religious personages of utmost reverence under Pakistan’s blasphemy law. On the other hand, revered leaders and practices of different faiths and sects are not just derided openly, but laws of the land condone such acts. It is not just Ahmadis now, but several Christians, Hindus and even Shias who have experienced despicable torture and murder. Properties of minorities are unsafe and it seems that the growing intolerance is increasingly legitimising the looting and ransacking of moveable as well as immoveable assets of these defenceless citizens of Pakistan.

Dalits of Mirpurkhas should not need to fight for their rights, nor should it be only Christians who must worry about saving historic church buildings in Lahore; rather every Muslim should do his utmost in protecting every oppressed person and his place of worship.

How many religious leaders regularly quote countless Quranic verses in defence of all religions and their places of worship in Pakistani mosques? The Holy Quran even instructs Muslims to protect places of worship of all religions. The Holy Quran legitimises only those wars that are in self-defence and for the protection of people of all faiths and their places of worship.

I do not know whether Pakistanis should take pride in saying that a person of ‘Pakistani’ descent has ascended to an esteemed public office in London. The one thing that defines this mayoral election result is the victory for equality, a fundamental teaching of Islam which the West puts to practice. Let us not even bring the name of Pakistan into it, or else critics will simply mock our naivety.

The repercussions for those classified as minorities such as Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus and other people in Pakistan are both psychological and physical. To be honest, I have a problem with using the word minority; shouldn’t every citizen of any country have the same rights as those of another?

Let us all celebrate this election through which a Muslim has won over a Jew in a predominantly Christian country; in a city which is truly a melting pot of all great religions, beliefs, no-beliefs, cultures and ethnicities. Do we not want to emulate, what brings peoples together rather than what divides mankind? Do we want to carry on turning a blind eye to what is in fact the golden thread of Islamic system of equity and justice, which others have employed to seamlessly sew their societal and political fabric?

I hope all those Muslims relishing the fruits of a just democracy start feeling equally passionate about their own countries to let common sense prevail and for its lawmakers to pass laws which are lawful and give a fair chance to all.

Do you think Pakistan would ever elect a Christian, Hindu or Ahmadi prime minister?

5 steps closer to being successful

Why have some people been so successful in their lives, but not others?

Sometimes even the most brilliant and highly accomplished people fail to understand why they succeed. After in-depth research, it has been found that successful people reach their goals not because of who they are, but because of what they do.

Here are the five things that extraordinary people do differently, which make them so accomplished.

1) Set goals that are specific and measurable

Always set yourself goals which can be measured and are also specific. For example, ‘lose 10 pounds’ is more specific and measurable than ‘lose some weight’, because it gives you a clear objective to achieve and also an idea of what success looks like. Such goals keep you motivated until you get there – since you clearly know what you want to achieve.

Moreover, clearly define the exact steps that need to be taken to reach your goal. Just promising that you will ‘work hard’ or ‘eat less’ is too vague—be clear and precise.

“I’ll work from 10am to 7pm on weekdays,” tells you what you need to do precisely.

2) Monitor your progress periodically

Efforts made while trying to achieve success requires stringent, honest, and regular monitoring of your progress.

If you cannot determine how are you are doing then you cannot adjust your plans or your strategies accordingly. Track your progress frequently – depending on the goal you set for yourself you may do weekly, monthly, or quarterly tracking.

3) Have a positive and optimistic attitude

All of us want to be successful. However, for some reason we are all attracted to and can be easily drawn to the negative side.

Therefore engage in lots of positive thinking when setting your goals – about how likely you are to achieve them.

Always believe in your ability to succeed.

This is extremely helpful for creating and sustaining your motivation. Almost all goals requiretime, planning, effort, and persistence in order to achieve them. Therefore stay positive and stay on track.

4) Focus on becoming great rather than just good

Believing in your ability to achieve success is crucial.

Many of us believe that our IQ and personality cannot be changed – that no matter what we do, we won’t improve. As a result, we do not focus on developing and acquiring new skills, instead we choose to focus on proving ourselves.

Fortunately, the belief in fixed personality and intelligence is completely wrong.

Abilities of all kinds can be changed, learned, or acquired. You just need to believe that you can change – this thought will allow you to make better choices and help you reach your objectives. People who are motivated and persistent on becoming great, rather than just good, appreciate the journey as much as the final destination.

5) Develop your willpower

Willpower is the willingness to stick to long-term goals and to persist even in times of difficulty. People with willpower are likely to obtain more education in their lifetime, earn higher grades.

Even if you do not have the willpower, there is something you can do about it. People who lack it think that they just don’t have the ability to become successful. To build willpower, take on a challenge that requires you to do something you’d honestly rather not do. As I mentioned earlier, planning, persistence, and strategies make you successful.

After reading this I hope you will be in a better position to identify your earlier mistakes. Now your task is to use that experience and this knowledge to your advantage.

Remember, you don’t need to be a born genius with innate abilities in order to become successful. It’s never what you are, but what you do.

Yes, President Obama, Pakistan will remain in turmoil thanks to you guys

Most analysts explain politics through the chessboard analogy. Let’s delve into it for a basic understanding, even though the analogy is self-explanatory. The chessboard lays out 16 pieces, eight special and eight simple (read infantry/grunts/poor youth from rural backgrounds/cannon fodder – take your pick). The aim of the game is to save your king and kill the opponent’s king and the analogy is that all politics is akin to the moves played out on a chessboard.

I am, however, inclined to believe that this analogy no longer holds true, even though it still does give us a rudimentary idea of what we understand of political strategy. The most glaring omissions are of course alliances and drones (akin to a child stealing a piece from your opponent). However, there is one phenomenon in realistic politics which does not and perhaps cannot be played out on a chessboard and that is the creation of our own boogeymen.

No matter how good you are at it, one would never allow their opponent to spawn grey coloured knights or start off with 24 pieces.

The Boogeymen

After reading a news piece on Barack Obama’s last State of the Union address, I began to wonder why he was asking congress for authorisation to use military force against ISIS. Maybe he needs to kill his boogeymen, much like George Bush did after 9/11 and the senior Bush did in 1991. (It was Saddam Hussain who was shaking hands with Donald Rumsfeld in 1983 during the Iran-Iraq war. Just in case people don’t remember Rumsfeld said Saddam was ‘our kind of guy’). Obama also mentioned that Pakistan and Afghanistan would face decades of turmoil.

Thank you for telling that to a Karachiite Mr Obama, as if we bloody well didn’t know it already.

I thoroughly enjoy it when world leaders nonchalantly talk about Pakistan. How they feign understanding the dynamics of our country and the region when they really don’t know much about it. And of course when they ominously foretell our future, while being delusional about their own.

Obama needs to be asked why his country keeps clandestinely supporting the terrorists it claims to be fighting. The Soviet-Afghan war and the subsequent aftermath is an example and now Syria is the latest. The US has been covertly and overtly funding, training and arming terrorists around the world for decades (Hillary Clinton’s interview). When these mercenaries stopped receiving funds, they turned on their masters and of course the War on Terror (terror to stop all terror) narrative ensues.

Let’s face it, if you keep ‘Black Mambas’ as pets and then stop feeding them, you ought to own a fridge full of anti-venom.

Just a few days ago, The New York Times ran a long piece on the ‘special relationship’ between the CIA and Saudi Arabia, and how they created the world’s worst nemesis, the ISIS. The article also outlines how other countries including Qatar, Jordan and Turkey were also actively involved in this process, all in the name of removing Bashar al Assad from power. Fast forward a couple of years and now Obama is asking congress for troops and Saudi Arabia has formed a coalition to fight terrorism.

Well if these countries were so wary of terrorism and cared about the world so much, they should not have set up the largest factories of terrorism churning out pseudo-religious mercenaries by the hour.

The Soviet-Afghan War

Since we, as Pakistanis, are more concerned with our territory, let’s discuss our American jihadi history and its fallout.

The Soviet-Afghan war is a prime example of creating demons and trying to kill them once they have grown too big to handle. The war had started on a simple enough premise – the Soviets had entered Afghanistan to help Afghan communists in their struggle for power. I think everyone above the age of 25 knows what followed.

The world showered Afghan mujahideen with money, high-tech weaponry, training and logistical support only to create an elusive and dangerous enemy for themselves. Pakistan was at the forefront of this cooperation as it spearheaded the operations within Afghanistan by smuggling every item on the wish list through their lengthy and porous border. Pakistan not only supplied them every material support possible, but also provided highly motivated fighters for the cause.

These fighters were recruited through rigorous preaching and indoctrination and the most obvious targets were the students of various madrassas spread all over the country. With the influx of millions of dollars, the propaganda machine spewed a twisted version of political Islam to the youth geared towards motivating them to fight the Soviets.

The religious clique was the most mobilised and viewed the situation in Afghanistan as a holy war pitting the ill-equipped but brave mujahideen against the mighty Godless soviet superpower. Western interest, most predominantly American interest, was aroused due to the psychology and politics of the Cold War which was catalysed by their defeat at the hands of the communists in Vietnam and the capitulation of the Shah of Iran to the Islamic Revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini.

With funding from the Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE along with the US, the religious parties propagandised the war not only for a heavenly motive but also for a substantial payday. CIA’s Operation Cyclone, aimed at funding and arming the mujahideen remains one of its most costly and lengthy operations to date where the funding began with $20-30 million per year in 1980 and rose to $630 million per year in 1987.

This figure doubled as the amount was being matched dollar for dollar by Saudi Arabia. The influence of extremist religious parties rose to an all-time high within Pakistan as they partnered with the Pakistani military establishment under the leadership of the zealous General Ziaul Haq.

To top it off, the Americans colluded with some of the most vicious and bloodthirsty groups they could find to fight the Soviets. There have been several analyses by journalists and academics alike, who have highlighted this simple but devastating fact.

I don’t think we really need to discuss ‘Tim Osman’ or Osama bin Laden and his relationship with the CIA. You can of course watch Charlie Wilson’s War for some insight and see Tom Hanks in action.

The problem of course was taking care of these motivated and battle hardened militants after the war was over (not to mention the three million refugees). We were dumped high and dry by the US as soon as the Soviets packed for home.

According to some estimates, we were leftover with 100,000 fully armed and functional‘jihadis’ at the end of the war. With nowhere left to go, the fight came home.

Our Kashmir experiments provided a brief engagement to the jihadis but they proved to be short lived as the world shunned us for the same reasons it loved us for, during the 80s. With drugs and Kalashnikovs in our streets, we were now stuck in our own hell.

Pakistan’s security future

Frankly speaking, Obama is right in one aspect. We are going to be stuck in this mess for years, no thanks to the American establishment and our very own Ziaul Haq. How long we choose to stay in this purgatory phase is up to us.

The Pakistani ‘establishment’ has finally realised two things and has decided to act upon them (thank God).

Firstly, we need to dump our pro-American policy and get with the New World Order where predominantly China and partly, a resurgent Russia are calling the shots at the world’s political stage. The Americans and the British have dirtied their hands so much in their own muck that certain countries are literally using hand sanitisers after shaking hands with them.

Europe is still bound by NATO but it will break free or run the risk of being engulfed in flames like Paris was a while back.

Pakistan has, with the signing of the CPEC agreements and not so secretly, handing overGwadar to the Chinese (from pro-American hands), ushered in a new age of cooperation with China. A Chinese diplomat rightly said that Pakistan has become China’s Israel.

The army has renewed contacts with the Russians and a deal for four ‘Hind’ helicopters is underway. According to some sources, a visit by comrade Vladmir Putin is also on the cards. If he does visit, which is now only a matter of time, another nail will be driven in America’s political coffin.

Given all of this headway the second realisation is only natural. Pakistan needs to get rid of its pet ‘Black Mambas’. Zarb-e-Azb has made great inroads into the lands of the Taliban but it is not the martial front but the political front that needs to be realigned. The politicians who have harboured and used these terrorists are still trying, one way or another, to protect them from annihilation.

Sometimes it is talks, sometimes it is lack of evidence or just a miraculous change of heart, the excuses never cease.

When the political establishment cannot get rid of the Red Mosque cleric, who spews anti-state rhetoric inside the capital city nearly every day, what else do I need to say that we don’t already know or understand?

At the end of it all, Pakistan will have to make the hard choices and take the road never travelled. We will have to destroy these pseudo-religious mercenaries and get rid of all the factories that spawn them. We will have to cull their political representation in our assemblies and resist their religiously worded blackmail. Freedom of speech should not mean freedom to kill. Pakistan’s fight is the not only a country’s fight but is also in a way the fight for the roots of Islam. I guess it is the common people and not anyone else, who will decide what the outcome will be.

Dr Abdus Salam and all the wrong choices Pakistan made

What does it take to be a genius?

The other day this thought struck me. Is it the environment that nurtures the genius or does nature simply endow certain individuals with a special gene? Maybe both propositions have merits of their own, but for the time being, let’s drop the latter. Let’s suppose there are no chosen ones, there are no saviours.

The idea of saviours arises when we start to believe in pseudo-science and seek miracles to solve our problems. But mind it, Aladdin’s lamp or magic wands don’t exist in the practical world. The only magic that works is the labour of hands at the end of one’s own arms and the thinking brain in one’s own head.

The third-world countries need the same magic for their socio-economic development; self-reliance, hard work and stimulating intellectual environment. Mix these ingredients and a successful society will develop. Pakistan, I regret, still misses these elements, and hence, is still far from being developed.

On 29th January 2016, at the 90th birthday of the first noble laureate of Pakistan, Dr Abdus Salam, it would be wise to take a look at his life and to introspect what wrong choices we made.

Salam was a genius for the world, nonetheless a discarded one in his own country. Born in a village near Jhang on January 29, 1926, he studied in an ordinary Urdu medium school that lacked furniture. He belonged to a lower-middle class family. His house had no electricity, or any other basic facilities. His circumstances were challenging, yet they never served as an excuse.

The fact that he scored the highest marks ever recorded for the matriculation examination at the age of 14 and published his first research paper at the age of 17 indicated his gifted potential. But who, at that time, could have imagined that this young prodigy would have received the most prestigious Nobel Prize in Physics for his contribution to the unification theory.

Dr Abdus Salam recieves the Nobel Prize for Physics from King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden on December 10, 1979. Photo: ahmadiyyapost.blogspot.com

The list of awards and honours which he received and his contribution to Pakistan need a separate volume. Some of his services, for instance, include working as the science advisor for President Ayub Khan to lay the infrastructure of science in Pakistan. He persuaded him to acquire Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP) – the first commercial nuclear reactor of Pakistan. He served as a founding director of Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO), worked for the establishment of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and The Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (PINSTECH). Not to mention that he mentored the scientist who designed the atomic bomb for Pakistan.

Not only was his unification theory a touchstone of modern physics, he also laid the pioneering work for the discovery of Higgs boson (referred to as the God-particle) in 2012 which happens to be the most important discovery in Physics in the last four decades. This discovery took place at the Large Hadron Collider established at CERN, a European organisation for nuclear research.

Last year on July 31st, Pakistan became the first non-European country to become an associate member of CERN. In his recent visit to CERN, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif hailed the contribution of Pakistani scientists, and also paid tribute to Salam calling him the pride of the country.

This statement, however, couldn’t wash out the stain of guilt that the subsequent governments of Pakistan and the entire nation still carry. While the entire world applauded him, Salam was never regarded as a hero in his own country. He’s considered the opposite – a traitor.

What we did to Salam is shameful to say the least. When he returned to Pakistan after receiving the Nobel Prize, no one received him at the airport. Right wing propaganda concocted conspiracy theories to accuse him of nuclear espionage. When he was invited to Quaid-e-Azam University for his lecture, he was threatened by the fundamentalist students. Ziaul Haq refused to endorse the candidature of Salam as a Director General of UNESCO even though Salam visited nearly 30 countries in 1987 and gained their support. In 1988, the then Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, refused to meet him after making him wait for two days in a hotel. Similarly, Nawaz Sharif, in his first term of premiership, conveniently ignored Salam while mentioning the distinguished alumni of Government College, Lahore while addressing its convocation. Had Salam given up his Pakistani nationality, he would have easily avoided such humiliations, but he remained a Pakistani national until his last breath.

Salam’s biggest failure was not some personal tragedy – a person of his stature with generosity of spirit could forgive personal sufferings. His agony was due to a far bigger tragedy. Salam dreamt of establishing an international research centre in Pakistan for third-world physicists. He wanted to stop the brain-drain, but no government showed interest. He ended up setting up the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy that was later renamed the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics.

All of this took a toll on him, and in last years of his life, he became the victim of a neurological disorder and was confined to a wheelchair. He died in Oxford, England on November 21, 1996. He was buried in Pakistan on his request. No government official attended his funeral. His misery didn’t end with his death. The epitaph of his tombstone was defaced as a final disgrace to remove the word ‘Muslim’ from it.

Defaced tombstone on Dr Abdus Salam’s grave. Photo: Aziz Bilal

If we look back in history, the Mongols invaded Baghdad and demolished Baitul Hikmah, a centre of excellence during the Islamic Golden Age. Ibn-e-Rushd was exiled and his books were burnt. When Europe found the light to get out of the Dark Ages, the Muslim world lost its way. And now the country where Salam was banned from delivering his lectures in universities is witnessing terrorism in those very educational institutes.

I again seek your attention towards the dilemma that I mentioned in the start: What does it take to be a genius in any society?

There are no chosen ones, there are no saviours.

For socio-economic development, self-reliance, hard work and a stimulating intellectual environment is required. Where there is no such environment, there are no scholars, there are no intellectuals and there are no heroes. Even if someone, like Salam, somehow manages to prove his talent, he would not be treated as a hero. He would be shunned.

On the 90th birthday of Dr Abdus Salam. The best way to wish him is to let freedom of religion and intellectual thought prevail in the country.

What if Allama Iqbal had remained an Ahmadi?

Sir Chaudhry Muhammad Zafarullah Khan was one of the leading founding fathers of Pakistan. You know, the Pakistan Resolution that our national struggle was based on? He drafted it. He was the first foreign minister of Pakistan. He was known for his eloquent representation of Pakistan at the United Nations and is the only Pakistani to have served as the President of the United Nations General Assembly, and that of the International Court of Justice in Hague.

While working in international diplomacy, Sir Zafarullah Khan’s tireless advocacy for the freedom of Arab states and for the resolution of the Kashmir and Palestine issues is well known.

The King of Jordan, His Majesty the Late King Hussein bin Talal, invited Mr Khan to his palace in 1953 and awarded him the highest honour in his Kingdom for Mr Khan’s heroic and courageous fight for the cause of Palestine.

When he passed away, the King paid him a personal tribute in these words:

“He was indeed a champion of the Arab cause and his ceaseless efforts whether among the Muslim and non-aligned countries or at the International Court of Justice will remain for ever a shining example of a great man truly dedicated to our faith and civilisation.” (Review of Religions Sept/Oct 1986, page 6)

Paying tribute to his bold stance on Palestine, the Iraqi Foreign Minister at the time, Mr Muhammad Fadhel al-Jamali, said:

“In fact, it was not possible for any Arab, however capable and competent he may be, to serve the cause of Palestine in a manner in which this distinguished and great man dedicated himself. We expect from all Arabs and followers of Islam that they will never forget this great Muslim fighter. After Palestine, the services of this man for the independence of Libya also deserve admiration. In the United Nations, his struggle for the rights of Arabs formed the basis of firm and lasting friendship between us.” (Al-Sabah Oct 10, 1985)

Many other world leaders expressed similar sentiment and hailed him as a hero of the Arab world and of human rights in general. King Faisal al Saud’s letter is also worth reading in this regard.

Sir Zafarullah Khan was also a prolific author on Islam and human rights.

Think for a minute. Is there anyone who comes close to his achievements for a progressive Pakistan and a free and empowered Muslim world in general? Yet, he is rarely mentioned in Pakistani textbooks, and unfortunately not even acknowledged as the founding father that he was. And we all know why – he was an Ahmadi.

Now consider this:

What if Sir Zafarullah Khan had left the Ahmadi community just as Sir Muhammad Iqbal did? Today, he would have been the shining star of right-wing Pakistan. Chapters in Pakistani textbooks would have been dedicated to his work. There would have been endless songs singing his praise, and every time the state of the Muslim world was discussed, he would have been presented as an icon, a flag bearer of our rights and freedoms. Mullahs would have been heads over heels in love with him. He would have been declared the saviour of the Ummah. Every Pakistan – young and old – would have been celebrating his legacy like no other.

And now consider this.

What if Sir Allama Iqbal had remained an Ahmadi?

For those who do not know, Allama Iqbal joined the Ahmadi community at the hands of its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, in 1897. He is known to have said,

“If you want to see Islam alive in this age, you must visit Qadian.”

He considered the founder of the Ahmadi community as the most prolific theologian in the Muslim world. Sometime after the demise of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Allama Iqbal left the Ahmadi community. It is not clear exactly when, but he continued to be in close contact with the Ahmadi leadership till at least 1931, when he vouched for the Ahmadi Khalifa as the most able person to lead as the first president of the newly founded all-India Kashmir Committee. His parents and elder brother remained Ahmadis.

Back to the question – what if Allama Iqbal remained an Ahmadi?

Today, he would have been absolutely no one.

He would have been abused and ridiculed by mullahs and right-wing Pakistan. Instead of the eagle, his symbol would probably have been the snake – out to bite the Ummah, out to hurt the Muslims, an agent of the western imperialist powers. And much proof – like his knighthood and his poems in reverence of the British rule and the Queen – would have been found, tailored and then floated around.

While official books would probably only have dedicated a one-liner to his role in the Pakistani Movement, there would have been no shortage of books in the market condemning him and his work. He would have made the perfect poster boy for a ‘British agent out to destroy the Ummah’ – sound familiar?

And this is our tragedy.

We are fond of reading history with glasses coloured in religious prejudice and intellectual dishonesty. We do not honour people for their services, as much as we do for their perceived proximity with us on the religious spectrum.

This is just one of the numerous examples of how our religious biases have influenced the history taught to us in Pakistani schools and media.

But while we continue to commit crimes against our own selves by distorting the history, the truth is like the sun; it does not remain hidden for long, and it shines even brighter in this age of global connection and information. I am certain, a few generations down, we will be forced to embrace intellectual honesty and honour Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan for the real superhero that he was. For in celebrating a shining star, we do the star no honour, we honour ourselves.

So, to answer the question, what if Allama Iqbal remained Ahmadi and Zafarullah Khan did not? Zafarullah Khan would have been our Iqbal today and Iqbal our Zafarullah Khan.

Jinnah’s letter to Pakistan: Who do I hold accountable?

My precious,

Where do I begin?

Where do I end?

68 years ago, you two breathed your first I remember it like it was yesterday. It wasn’t ideal. They thought you two wouldn’t be able to make it, but you did. I was such a proud father – the effort, the commitment, the resolve, it all had finally paid off.

After the euphoria died down, it was time to snap back to reality. The challenges ahead were steep, but both of you had my unwavering support. My health was giving up on me and I knew I did not have a lot of time. But I wasn’t worried – the people close to me knew how dearly I loved my daughters and they promised to look after both as their own when I’m gone. I begged them to hold both of you till you can walk, and then give you the confidence to run and subsequently fly. They promised they would.

But they lied.

They thought I wouldn’t know. They thought I wasn’t aware. But I was watching all along, cursing myself for the wretched people I left you two with. The very same people I called my friends. The very same people I trusted with the greatest creation of my life. I hoped this was just a bad lot, I hoped the next one would be better. But alas, I hoped in vain.

From the moment I was gone, they moulded your upbringing to suit their selfish ambitions, sowing the seeds of division inside both of you.  I wanted both of you to be the best of friends, tackle the hardships and then come out strong together. I wanted you to grow up as enlightened, tolerant children that celebrate the diversity and welcome the uniformity around them.

But they divided you on every possible level, pushing the poison of hatred deep between your sister’s veins. For 24 straight years, you got what you wanted and your sister just stood in the corner, watching on in anticipation, hoping that something would come her way too. But it never did. Eventually, things reached a stage where your sister could not take it any longer and she cut off all ties in 1971. And who could blame her?

I died all over again that night. My own two daughters, divided permanently.

I hoped that this would be a lesson for your future caregivers. They had abandoned your sister, but surely they would not make the same mistakes again by abandoning you too. But they did, and the way they went about it was steeped in manners that would even shame the vilest creatures that walk this earth.

They were there for you when you had something in store for them. When you didn’t, they turned a blind eye, only to promise their love and affection for you again, when you were covered in diamonds and jewels. The abuse you suffered defied all sense of rationality, covering stories that are considered objectionable even in barbaric societies.

Instead of separating religion and state, they turned it into one inseparable blob. Instead of celebrating regional and ethnic diversity, they suppressed it by focusing on national identity. Instead of using finance as a way of eliminating inequality, they used it as a tool to accumulate personal wealth. Instead of investing in education, they invested in the military. Instead of improving healthcare, they developed means to produce poisonous medicines. Instead of promoting women rights, they strengthened the patriarchal structure of the society. Instead of empowering minorities, they constitutionally made them second-class citizens. Instead of using resources to get our own house in order, they focused on engaging in proxy wars with our neighbours.

But who do I blame?

Who do I hold accountable?

Where do I search for answers?

The Khaki pseudo-deities in Rawalpindi?

The opportunistic feudals in Larkana?

The smiling dictators in Raiwind?

The megalomaniacs at nine-zero or that fascist in Bani Gala?

Is there no end to the horror story that they have turned you into?

I died a long time back, but I go through the pain over and over again, when I look at what has become of the only daughter I have remaining.

Today, I wish you happy birthday, much like every August 14, for the last 67 years.

But is this really a day of celebration?

I pray and hope that you have many more, but every passing year, the strength of my hope becomes thinner.

Your Father,

Muhammad Ali Jinnah