LAHORE: The provincial government has decided to screen all the books being taught or used at the higher education institutions (HEIs) in Punjab to vet them for ‘objectionable’ material and to register FIRs against those found guilty.
In this regard, committees will be constituted in all districts of the province that will evaluate the written material being taught in colleges. Additionally, Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) will also request the academic council of universities to do the same at varsity-level.
A meeting to constitute the committees was held under the Punjab Higher Education Department (HED) and the terms of reference (TORs) for the committees were decided. Furthermore, it was decided that each committee would furnish its report within 30 days and necessary action would be taken afterwards.
When contacted, an official who also attended the meeting, dispelled the perception that the committees were constituted because of the sit-ins and demands made by religious groups.
He said, “The issue came to light when a member of the Sikh community wrote a letter to Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and complained about a derogatory chapter about his community in a book. The meeting was held in light of that complaint and the committees would vet books for hate material against all of the communities in the country.”
According to the minutes of the meeting, a copy of which was available with The Express Tribune, the participants of the meeting were briefed about hate material in books, textbooks, supplementary reading material, helping reading material, notes etc.
Public Instruction (Colleges), Punjab Director, according to the decisions taken in the meeting, was made the focal person who had been assigned to personally monitor the progress of the whole process. He was also given the task to sensitise public through advertisements and press releases in newspapers on the issue and the government’s position on it.
To vet the material, it was decided that committees would be constituted in all subjects, especially Islamiat, Urdu, Pak Studies, History, Geography and Political Science and subject experts – senior professors of relevant subjects – would evaluate each book.
Education (Colleges) Deputy Director, at each district would head the respective committee and submit a consolidated report to the Public Instruction (Colleges), Punjab director along with recommendations.
According to the TORs for the committees, “Each Subject Book Review Committee will thoroughly undergo through the contents of all books, textbooks, reference books, supplementary reading material, notes etc being taught/used in public and private sector universities, colleges and institutions and furnish its observations about anything repugnant to the injunctions of Islam and prejudicial to the integrity of defence or security of Pakistan, public order or morality contained in the books. Each committee shall recommend a set of standard textbooks, reference books, supplementary reading material and notes which are not in contravention to injunctions of Islam and prejudicial to the integrity of defence or security of Pakistan, public order or morality.”
The meeting also decided that a draft FIR for hate material against offenders would be prepared by both Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board (PCTB) and DPI (Colleges), Punjab that would be vetted by the Internal Security Wing of the Home Department to ‘ensure sustainability of cases’.
The document further said, “Copies of FIRs registered by the PCTB will be forwarded to DPI (Colleges), Punjab, Lahore to discuss the FIRs with Home Department & Prosecution Department and if required, he may appear as party in FIRs/cases”.
Additionally, it was decided that PHEC chairperson in consultation with DPI (Colleges), Punjab would forward a consolidated proposal for continuous monitoring of hate material, if any, in books.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2017.