Pakistan Studies was introduced in the national curriculum as a compulsory subject in 1972 by the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Over the decades, these books, that are regularly taught at all Pakistani schools and colleges, have gradually evolved into becoming one-dimensional manuals of how to become, believe and behave like a ‘true Pakistani.’
Though the content in these books pretends to be of historical nature, it is anything but.
It’s a monologue broken into various chapters about how the state of Pakistan sees, understands and explains the country’s history, society and culture - and the students are expected to believe it wholesale.
Many detractors have even gone on to call it an indoctrination tool.
It was introduced as a compulsory subject (almost in a panic) by the Bhutto regime soon after the country lost a war with India in 1971 and consequently its eastern wing (East Pakistan).
Pakistan had come into being in 1947 on the back of what its founders called the ‘Two Nation Theory.’
The Theory was culled from the 19th Century writings of modernist Muslim reformists in India who, after the collapse of the Muslim Empire in South Asia, began to explain the region’s Muslims as a separate political, cultural, and, of course, religious entity (especially compared to the Hindu majority of India).
This scholarly nuance, inspired by the ideas of the nation-state introduced by the British Colonialists, gradually evolved into becoming a pursuit to prepare a well-educated and resourceful Muslim middle-class in the region.
Eventually, with the help from sections of the Muslim landed elite in India, the emerging Muslim middle-classes turned the idea into a movement for a separate Muslim homeland comprised of those areas where the Muslims were in a majority in India.
This is what we, today, understand to be the ‘Pakistan Movement.’
However, when the country’s founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah - a western-educated lawyer and head of the All India Muslim League (AIML) - navigated the Movement towards finally reaching its main goal of carving out a separate Muslim homeland in South Asia, he was soon faced with an awkward fact: There were more Muslims in India than there were in the newly created Muslim-majority country of Pakistan.
Jinnah was conscious of this fact when he delivered his first major address to the country’s Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947.
Though during the Movement some factions of his party had tweaked the Two Nation Theory to also mean that the Muslims of India desired an Islamic State, Jinnah was quick to see the contradiction in this claim, simply because more Muslims had either been left behind in India or refused to migrate to Pakistan.
Islam during the Movement was largely used as an ethnic card to furnish and flex the separate nationhood claims of the Muslims. It was never used as a theological roadmap to construct an Islamic State in South Asia.
In his August 11 speech, Jinnah clearly declared that in Pakistan the state will have nothing to do with matters of the faith and Pakistan was supposed to become a democratic Muslim-majority nation state.
He went on to add: ‘ … you will find that in course of time (in Pakistan) Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims; not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.’
Some extraordinary circumstances (World War II, the receding of British Colonialism and rising tensions between the Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities in India) had combined to hand Jinnah a Muslim-majority country that had fewer Muslims compared to those who stayed behind in India.
Within this Muslim community were various sects and sub-sects with their own understanding and interpretations of the faith.
Then, the country also had multiple ethnicities, cultures and languages - some of them being more ancient than Islam itself!
Keeping all this in mind, Jinnah’s speech made good sense and exhibited a remarkable understanding of the complexities that his new country had inherited.
But it seems many of his close colleagues were still in the Movement mode.
A number of League members thought that with his August 11 speech, Jinnah was being a bit too hasty in discarding the Islamic factor from the new equation and opting to explain the new country as a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Muslim-majority state.
So soon after Jinnah’s speech, an attempt was made by these leaders to censor the draft of the speech that was to be published in the newspapers.
It was only when the then editor of Dawn newspaper, Altaf Hussain, threatened to take the issue directly to Jinnah that the League leaders relented and the full text of the speech was published.
Jinnah died in 1948 leaving behind a huge leadership vacuum in a country that had apparently appeared on the map a lot sooner than it was anticipated to.
The leadership of the founding party, the Muslim League, was mostly made up of Punjab’s landed gentry and Mohajir (Urdu-speaking) bourgeoisie elite.