The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) have been pushing the provincial government to reverse changes made to school textbooks under the previous ANP-led regime and now both religious parties have upped the ante with public outbursts.
The renewed focus started earlier this month following a statement by JI’s provincial ameer Professor Muhammad Ibrahim Khan. On September 2, while addressing a gathering in Lakki Marwat, Khan castigated the provincial government for its failure to remove ‘objectionable lessons’ from the curriculum. The party warned it would not allow the ruling government to perform if its desired changes were not made. He said the previous government replaced Islamic topics and personalities with Ranjit Singh, Raja Dahir and Abdul Ghaffar Khan.
Ever since, Professor Ibrahim has led an onslaught against the PTI government, which inherited the changes made by the previous regime. Khan pointed out that reversing curriculum changes was part of the power-sharing deal between JI and the PTI.
Curriculum reforms began at the federal level in 2006 when the General (retd) Pervez Musharraf regime implemented its National Textbook and Learning Material Policy and Plan of Action. When education fell under provincial control through the 18th Amendment, the then K-P government led by ANP reviewed the curriculum and added chapters on local heroes. Also included in the syllabus were lessons on human rights and tolerance, while hate material and harsh sentiments against non-Muslims were removed.
Joining the bandwagon
Following JI’s outburst, JUI-F has also jumped into the fray with its provincial ameer Maulana Gul Naseeb Khan decrying the previous government’s actions. The party’s K-P spokesperson Jalil Jan said JUI-F would launch province-wide protests against the killing of one of its leaders in Hangu and the changes to the school curriculum.
Government and JI representatives reportedly met on at least nine occasions to resolve the issue and there were initial indications that both parties somewhat managed to bridge the gap.
In a meeting on Thursday, reportedly nearly all of JI’s demands were met. The three main changes demanded by the religious party included the expulsion of lessons about Ghani Khan, Bacha Khan, Ranjit Singh and Raja Dahir, the removal of pictures of women with their heads uncovered and the inclusion of Quranic verses in chemistry, physics and biology if these were relevant to the subjects.
Insiders said the education department only disagreed to the demand of removing lessons about Bacha Khan.
A senior educationist, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, expressed his dismay over the campaign.
He said religious parties were blowing things out of proportion and using it for political gains. The educationist added that a curriculum review was a continuing process and should be done every three to four years. He dispelled the impression that some lessons were removed, elaborating that a curriculum review replaces existing textbooks with new ones. He claimed the previous review replaced entire books of 2002 as a whole.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 27th, 2014.