By Dr Mohammad Taqi
November 06, 2014
Jihadist terror has struck again, claiming 60 innocent lives at the Wagah border near Lahore. While Jundallah and Jamaat ul Ahrar — two reincarnations or splinter groups of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — were quick to claim credit for the heinous act, there was a third entity blaming the assault squarely on India. The former director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), General Hamid Gul, who is practically a fixture at religio-jihadist parties’ gatherings, was on television pointing a finger at India and its intelligence agency, RAW. The former general obviously did not produce a shred of evidence supporting his assertion but was successful in dividing public opinion at a critical juncture when unity in opposing and condemning jihadist terrorism was badly needed. Whether it is the massacre of Christians at the All Saints Church in Peshawar, slaughter of the Shia Hazara or the Baloch nationalists and Zikris or the attack that just about killed the young Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, it is always the elusive foreign hand that is blamed. When such tough times call for deep introspection, individuals like General Hamid Gul steer the narrative to intangible, unseen and thus impossible to counter forces. It simply never fails. These confusion-sowing characters keep returning like a bad penny just when intense focus is needed to rally against terrorism.
Years after General Hamid Gul’s retirement, a politician is said to have asked him, “General Sahib Aap Asl Mein Kab Retire Hon Gey?” (When will you actually retire?) One does wonder when exactly this jihadist general will hang up his boots. In fact, another ex-ISI chief, General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, seems to be following in General Gul’s footsteps. The antics and utterances of these retired generals, including berating the civilian leaders and labelling them traitors, do however provide an extremely useful insight into how disastrously delusional the mindset of at least some of the retired brass is. After all, these fine men do not go cuckoo suddenly after retirement. It is inconceivable that another former ISI chief, General Javed Nasir, would have abruptly joined the Islamist evangelist Tablighi Jamaat right after leaving service. Officers like the late Colonel Ameer Sultan Tarar, aka Colonel Imam, became indoctrinated on the job. Ironically, Tarar was assassinated by the TTP whose antecedents he had helped sire. Scores of Islamised officers, including generals, and the rank and file does actually seem to believe both that India is out to dismember Pakistan and that they and their jihadist proxies — with divine help — are the bulwark against this impending disaster. Contrary to the popular belief that General Zia ul Haq started the Islamisation of the services and society, this delusional thinking has been the formal cornerstone of the Pakistani security establishment’s both inward and outward view at least since General Ayub Khan’s era.
The Pakistan army portrayed India as a regional hegemon out to destroy the “citadel of Islam”, even when Nehruvian India was following a clear pacifist policy. Seeking not just parity with India but actually undoing or at least consistently undermining it became the mantra of the Pakistani security establishment. The problem with this insane raison d’être was that with the huge disparity in size and resources between the two countries, Pakistan was simply not going to get its wish. This is where Ayub Khan decided to impart massive doses of a concocted ideology that was equal parts religion, myths, wishful thinking and plain deception. Ayub Khan not only muzzled the free press but also appropriated the education sector a good 20 years before General Ziaul Haq came along. As A H Nayyar and Ahmad Salim had noted in their 2003 report, ‘The subtle subversion: the state of curricula and textbooks in Pakistan’, Ayub Khan promulgated a National Education Policy in 1959 and, in subsequent years, revised the primary and secondary curricula in which “much emphasis was laid on Islamic studies and religious education”.
The rather liberal history, civics and geography courses taught in Pakistan up until Ayub Khan’s era were rolled into a single subject that came to be known as Social Studies. The subject called Deeniyat (study of religions) became Islamiat (Islamic Studies) under the western-financed dictatorship of Ayub Khan. After his 1977 coup d’état, Zia ul Haq simply took it a step further and rechristened Social Studies as Pakistan Studies. Zia, however, made it a point that Pakistan Studies and Islamiat were taught all the way through bachelors level, including in professional colleges. He also inducted Arabic as a mandatory subject at the middle school level. Several generations have grown up on this unhealthy, revisionist diet of myths, half-truths and flat out lying fed at the secular schools, not madrasas (seminaries). This heady mixture of divine and temporal took a massive toll on the students’ objective analysis and critical thinking capabilities. Conspiracy mongering is not Pakistan’s national pastime for no reason.
A bizarre superiority complex anchored in Islamo-Arab origins, not much different from Adolf Hitler’s superior Aryan race theory, is inculcated among children right from the kindergarten level. But when the stark reality remains that there is little to show for success or the alleged war victories over what the curricula describe as the “inferior Hindu Baniya” (petty trader), self-inflicted disasters are rationalised by blaming them on the ‘conniving Hindus’. Over the years Jews, US citizens, Afghans and Iranians have been added to the list of those ‘conspiring’ against the land of the pure. Critical thinking has been stunted so irreparably that no one bothers to question why these ‘conspirators’ that have over 10,000 years of history between them be so scared of a 67-year-old country that has yet to contribute anything significant to humanity. The academic subversion that has gone on in Pakistan is black and blatant propaganda bordering on fascism.
There is absolutely nothing subtle about this travesty of education. Unfortunately, it will not end soon. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa coalition government of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) has just recently decided to undo the textbook revisions done during the outgoing Awami National Party (ANP) government. The ANP-implemented changes were not really earth shattering but they certainly were baby steps towards sanity that still did not go down well with the PTI-JI obscurantist duo. Pakistan undoubtedly has to fight jihadist terrorism like that perpetrated at Wagah but, unless it chooses to revise and revisit the bigotry, hate, xenophobia, militant jingoism and jihadist dogma taught in its educational institutions, it risks falling further into the extremism abyss. The PTI-JI-style academic suicide attacks will turn out to be more lethal than any terrorist assault; they must be countered lest another generation is lost to Jihadism.