Malala, again

Published: November 13, 2015
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The writer teaches at IT University Lahore and is the author of A Princely Affair: The Accession and Integration of the Princely States of Pakistan, 1947-55. He tweets at @BangashYK.

The writer teaches at IT University Lahore and is the author of A Princely Affair: The Accession and Integration of the Princely States of Pakistan, 1947-55. He tweets at @BangashYK.

A few days ago, the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation (APPSF) released a book called, I am not Malala, I am a Muslim, I am a Pakistani. The president of the said organisation, Mirza Kashif Ali, noted that “the book is written with the aim to reveal the truth and counter anti-Islamic propaganda and expose the nefarious designs of anti-Islam forces”. The president further argued that “Malala is a darling of the West and Shiv Sena, the same people who created al Qaeda and the Islamic State, have created Malala.”

I must say, I have nothing but ‘admiration’ for the president of the 173,000-member strong organisation. He has clearly shown how the ‘educated’ class in Pakistan can be myopic, idiotic and senseless — and then we wonder why education, despite a proliferation of schools in recent years, is in such a dismal state in Pakistan. We then wonder why Pakistan is in such a sorry state, when the people who want to destroy the country and drag it into the abyss of conspiracy theories and make-believe scenarios, still carry the day. Pakistanis indeed are their own worst enemies.

They say history repeats itself. And indeed it does, else I would be out of a job. Back in the 1970s we booted out our first Nobel Prize winner because he was an Ahmadi. But Dr Abdus Salam was a physicist, but then perhaps, Physics can be Ahmadi too. And now it is Malala’s turn, our second Nobel Prize winner. It is as if a lot of us knew that people are going to turn against her simply because she has been recognised by the world. We have a wonderful penchant for blasting Pakistanis who have world recognition, be it Malala or Dr Salam or even Sir Zafrullah Khan, who the Quaid-e-Azam personally invited to become the first foreign minister of Pakistan, who the Muslim countries chose as their spokesman on Palestine in 1948, but who was again chased out of the country because of his religion — only to become the President of the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Our loss, their gain. Mediocrity is perhaps our mantra; if you are mediocre, corrupt or insane, we will love you; if you are not any of these things, we will spout vitriol against you.

The book published by the APPSF shows how deep the rot is. If the owners of private schools in large parts of Pakistan can support and endorse such delusional ideas and vitriol, then this country is certainly headed for a catastrophe. For a long time I had been weary of the singular focus on curriculum reform. Yes, that is important but after that we must move towards teacher training and, as evident from this incident, school-owner training. The textbooks might be completely fine — and I carried out a study of the history and social studies textbooks of the Punjab Textbook Board last year and found them to be much improved — but until and unless the ethos of the school in which they are taught does not foster rational thinking and common sense, then nothing will change. I still remember a principal/owner of a very posh school in Lahore commenting in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks that they must have been the work of the Israelis since they are simply evil. Why blame the students then if their teachers — those who are supposed to ‘know’ — are such conspiracy theorists?

Over the last few months, some people in Pakistan have been sadistically enjoying the growing intolerance in India. While they are forgetting that India is a democracy and that this too will pass, one thing which really differentiates us from India is that there are still people in that country who react, something which still gives hope to people there. After the 1980s, it seems that we have run out of steam. Now, rarely does civil society react in the ways it used to under Zia. However, now is a chance: let the 173,000 schools which are a part of the APPSF resign their memberships in protest. Let other schools denounce the book and support the cause of real education. Let private schools show that they are not just there for accruing profits, and that they are actually interested in advancing knowledge and education. The battle for the children of Pakistan, the education of Pakistan, is raging — let us not lose it.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2015.

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Reader Comments (22)

  • bigsaf
    Nov 13, 2015 - 11:29PM

    This culture of rightwing delusional conspiracy theories, which only serves to deny their own community’s or nation’s culpability, is just retarded. It highlights the lack of critical thinking and the reason for the backward educational environment that fails to curb societal ills in all forms, from corruption to extremism. Recommend

  • curious2
    Nov 14, 2015 - 12:27AM

    Spot on!Recommend

  • Naeemullah khan dawar
    Nov 14, 2015 - 3:50AM

    Well written. The Pakistani society needs revolutionary steps but unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to appear in the near future. The state government has not owned or appreciated the noble prize winners rather I would say that the very creation of the state is responsible for all conspiracy theories. The powerful institutions of the state are to be blamed who has brainwashed its citizens by not telling the truth and fabricating history… How can we expect these educational institutions to polish students nd to make them critical if the very discourse nd narrative of the state is still based on religious nd political hatred???Recommend

  • NAN
    Nov 14, 2015 - 4:34AM

    Why bring India in to this? They are in big trouble and no, they are not reacting enough! And yes, we are reacting – we reacted after Peshawar tragedy big time, our supreme court reacted against Qadri, our PM is openly embracing minorities. Our liberals like you need to learn how to make consensus and push back against this lunatic president of school federation instead of drooling over India – impressed by their superiority. Recommend

  • Arifq
    Nov 14, 2015 - 11:08AM

    We are all Malala!!! North Korea here we comeRecommend

  • JSM
    Nov 14, 2015 - 11:53AM

    @NAN:
    I agree- bringing India into this is embarrassing.Recommend

  • Ali S
    Nov 14, 2015 - 1:07PM

    As disappointed as I am by this, it’s not surprising. The urban middle classes in Pakistan – who despite claiming to be educated, living modern lifestyles and being reasonably aware of global issues – remain to have a reactionary, myopic and paranoid outlook on most issues, especially where religion or politics is concerned. We keep saying the educated youth are the future of Pakistan, but I think in reality it’s a pretty bleak future unless a new, progressive way of thinking is actively promoted.

    The author’s suggestion – that the schools that are members of such an association should resign from their membership – is a good suggestion but let’s face it, it’s never going to happen, not over a book against someone most so-called educated people in the country are hatefully jealous of.Recommend

  • Iqbal
    Nov 14, 2015 - 1:27PM

    @JSM: Better we face and accept embarrassment, even if it appears humiliating. We can atleast reform ourselves. Of what use is it to be like an ostrich?Recommend

  • Farhan
    Nov 14, 2015 - 2:52PM

    All agreed but not Malala Recommend

  • Jawad U Rahman
    Nov 14, 2015 - 4:21PM

    The battle is already lost. The resolution condemning Malala and supporting this polemic was unanimous. How many parents will withdraw their kids from such academies of hate and obscurantism? Probably none.Recommend

  • Brian Felt
    Nov 14, 2015 - 5:37PM

    Thanks to Malala Foundatin, Girls in Pakistan can finally go to school now.
    Instead of being grateful for providing the females in the country with education, Pakistani are rejecting and disrespecting the founder of their female education system. No wonder that country is such a mess, they have no respect for their leaders.Recommend

  • Babbarsher Khan
    Nov 14, 2015 - 7:16PM

    Ours is a classic case of mass intellectual deficiency caused by very bad history, social studies and related courses in schools of our land of the pure. We are racing towards medieval mindset collectively, very tragic state of affair indeed. Recommend

  • Romm
    Nov 14, 2015 - 10:02PM

    This Gentleman has nothing to Sell other than India.
    During the course of research, if we start advocating a certain scholar or particular school of thought, considering it biblical , without analysing dissenting view, such advocacy is called verbosity.
    Listeing opposite logic and acceptence of expression of contrary views is the essence of Analytical reasearch and essence of democracy.
    Unfortunately Writers like Mr Bangash represent the group of Pseudos, who love calling disenting voices, idiotic, Myopic and senseless, which speaks their vanity and crude mentality. Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Nov 15, 2015 - 4:39AM

    @Romm:

    This Gentleman has nothing to Sell other than India.

    For him the grass is always greener in the neighbours garden than his own. He is an expatriot Indian.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • PAK FA
    Nov 15, 2015 - 1:25PM

    @Rex Minor:
    He is Bangash not Cheema, Garewal, Lone, Barelwi or Lakhnavi. Bangashs come from???????Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Nov 15, 2015 - 7:24PM

    @PAK FA:
    @Rex Minor:
    He is Bangash not Cheema, Garewal, Lone, Barelwi or Lakhnavi. Bangashs come from???????

    Then familiarize yourself with Pakistan history; the Bangash tribe were the supporters of Bacha Khan and his congress cortades who did not approve the TNT referandum!

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • PAK FA
    Nov 15, 2015 - 8:25PM

    @Rex Minor:
    Being expatriate indian and followers of Bacha Khan are not Synonymous. .. lol…Recommend

  • romm
    Nov 15, 2015 - 8:56PM

    @Rex Minor:
    Reading your comments reminds me Nazi Propoganda machine… however Nazis became the victims of their own propoganda….
    Area of influence of Ghaffar kHan was northern districts of Swat, Charsada…Mardan… and to some extent peshawar.
    Bangashs come from southern districts of KPK and areas around Orakzai, Thal and Kohat Division which has never been under the influence Bacha khan.
    By the way I come from Karak district.Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Nov 15, 2015 - 10:07PM

    @romm:

    Reading your comments reminds me Nazi Propoganda machine… however Nazis became the victims of their own propoganda….
    Area of influence of Ghaffar kHan was northern districts of Swat, Charsada…Mardan… and to some extent peshawar.
    Bangashs come from sohuthern districts of KPK and areas around Orakzai, Thal and Kohat Division which has never been under the influence Bacha khan.
    By the way I come from Karak district.

    Is this why the congress movement led by Khan Brothers formed the majority Government in the former North West Frontier province? This is not to say that every member from the Bangash tribe per say was in love with the congress party but the muslim league was relatively unknown in the province at that time.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • observer
    Nov 15, 2015 - 10:44PM

    And Aakar Patel wants us to believe that Indians are distorting history.

    Can you make Aakar Patel read this please?Recommend

  • Concerned Bangash
    Nov 16, 2015 - 7:10AM

    @Rex Minor:
    The father of Mr Yaqoob Khan Bangash was in the Muslim League and participated actively in the Pakistan Movement, being even shot in the process. He was decorated by the Federal Government, and the provincial governments of KPK and Punjab for his services to Pakistan.Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Nov 16, 2015 - 5:22PM

    @Concerned Bangash:

    We have a saying; let us leave the church in the village. There is no denial that there have been great number of notable members of the Bangash tribe who were honoured and titled by the colonialists for their loyalty and services and this did not stop after the creation of Pakistan.
    Fact is also that the author in his articles tend to show his biased side in favour of India and not always for the right reasons, giving the perception of acting to promote Indian image.

    I am a foreigner and have no interest to promote Indian or Pakistan image and try not to show my bias towards any one. There is nothing personal and should not be taken as personal, it is all an academic exercise and exchange of opinions, after all the authhor is an academia and has earned the Phd.

    Rex MinorRecommend

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