Imran Khan's party set to restore jihadi content in textbooks

Imran Khan's party set to restore jihadi content in textbooks

Imran Khan's party set to restore jihadi content in textbooks

Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan's party is set to restore "violent jihadist content" removed from school textbooks in Pakistan's militancy-racked Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, according to a media report today.

After the secular-leaning Awami National Party (ANP) came to power in the province in 2008, education officials removed Quranic verses preaching jihad or holy war and illustrations depicting weapons or violence.

Chapters covering Islamist figures and ideology were replaced with lessons on local poets, philosophers or the region's Pashtun identity. These drastic changes were introduced by the ANP in textbooks used from the first to 12th grade in public schools.

However, Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, which now rules Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa with the hardline Jamaat-e-Islami, has announced its intention to "restore violent jihadist content in school textbooks", Radio Free Europe reported on its website today.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa's Information Minister Shah Farman told a news conference on August 21 that the government will "rectify" what it calls "holes and mistakes" in textbooks published by the previous government led by the ANP.

"What kind of sovereignty, freedom, and Islamic values is this when Islamic teachings, jihad, and national heroes are removed from textbooks? Jihad is part of our faith. We will not back down (from our decision)," he said.

The provincial government has not said when the changes will be implemented but they were not in time for the new school year that began on September 1.

The changes could affect school material from the first to the 12th grade in several subjects, including Pakistani history and Islamic studies.

Farman identified what he described as "inaccuracies" in the textbooks. One was the description of Jammu and Kashmir as a "disputed" area. Pakistan claims the whole of the region.

Khan's party's decision has dismayed schoolteachers and educators who see education as the best tool to counter jihadist propaganda disseminated by militant groups. Critics of the move say it threatens to radicalise the province's youth.

For decades, textbooks used across Pakistan have "preached falsehoods, hatred, and religious intolerance, helping foster the sectarian violence and militancy that plagues the country today", the report said.

Fazal Rahim Marwat, a former chairman of the Textbook Board of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa that is responsible for editing and publishing textbooks, said the new government's decision will help spread religious fanaticism and poison the minds of students.

Marwat, now an associate professor at the University of Peshawar, said, "Naturally, there will be an impact...There is already an insurgency and already a war in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) and across Pakistan. There is hate material in many educational books.

"You can see the reversal of education in many ways. During the Afghan jihad (in the 1980s), the Pakistan government introduced jihad in schools. That promoted the violence and the extremism we see today. So if someone again wants to introduce such material, it will promote this."

Under a reform process initiated by the ANP in 2006, Marwat said the Textbook Board removed content in textbooks that would in any way promote violence and replaced it with themes encouraging peace and tolerance.

In 2011, the board took advantage of changes in the Pakistani Constitution to introduce changes to higher education. Until then, the education system had been centralised and the provinces had minimal say in matters of policy, curriculum and planning.

But the 18th Amendment gave full powers to provinces over higher education.

"My motto was peace," Marwat said. "For example, on the front or back pages of textbooks I printed slogans that we wanted peace. We tried to minimise the hate material and sectarianism. We introduced local Pashtun heroes, instead of Arab heroes, and introduced local culture."