STB pledges to fix textbook ‘mistake’ after MQM-P protest

Published February 4, 2020
Migrants from East Pakistan after it became Bangladesh were called “escapees” in social studies books, not Pakistanis. — Dawn/file
Migrants from East Pakistan after it became Bangladesh were called “escapees” in social studies books, not Pakistanis. — Dawn/file

KARACHI: Just days after the protest by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and warning from the opposition party in Sindh of protest, the Sindh Textbook Board (STB) on Monday admitted “the mistake on its part” while designing Grade VII book of social studies which called the migrants from East Pakistan after it became Bangladesh “escapees”, not Pakistanis, and pledged that it would be fixed in the next edition.

The STB’s assurance attracted appreciation from the MQM-P but the party was not ready to accept it as “a mistake” but a deliberate attempt by the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to divide the province on ethnic and urban-rural lines. The STB, on the other hand, said that it had not only decided to remove the controversial content but also recommended action against the author of the particular chapter.

“We have written to the education secretary, briefing him on the background of the episode and recent action by the board,” said chairman of the Sindh Textbook Board Agha Sohail Ahmed. “We would be removing the content in question in our next edition. Similarly, in our correspondence with the secretary, we have also recommended action against the author of that chapter. It’s up to the authorities what action they order for the author.”

He said the authors of textbooks were mostly hired for particular jobs and they were not regular employees of the STB. After the chapters were written, he said, the text was sent to experts for approval before finalising the draft and then it was sent for printing. He said the Grade VII book of social studies was sent for review more than twice but no objection was raised from any side.

The MQM-P had last week accused the PPP of sowing the seeds of hatred in the name of ethnicity in the province. It mentioned several recent steps of the provincial government that ‘proved’ its fears, including the publication of the textbook of social studies that carried “controversial details” about those people who migrated to Pakistan after Dhaka fell in 1971.

In his press conference, MQM-P leader Kunwar Naveed had showed the sample of the book and read out a chapter from it which called the migrants from East Pakistan after it became Bangladesh to Karachi as “escapees”, not Pakistanis.

The MQM-P said it was actually the problem with the “PPP mindset” which was resulting in such controversial issues and not even education was spared by the ruling party to spread the narrative of its “ethnic hatred”.

“It’s not something which can be called a mistake,” said MQM-P leader Faisal Subzwari. “It’s in fact a manifestation of the prevailing mindset of the PPP which you would see in its administrative and political policies. Whether it’s affairs of the Sindh Public Service Commission or development issues in urban areas, you would find that mindset everywhere. We definitely demand action against people responsible for such controversial content and also suggest to the PPP that its policies should be for harmony and inclusiveness and not for divide or hatred.”

Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2020

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