time Saturday Jul 25 2020

‘Thousands of textbooks can be banned in Punjab,’ says official

The government has set up 30 committees to pour over 10,000 textbooks of private schools, according to MD Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board

The Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board banned a hundred school books in a single day for containing content deemed “anti-national” and “blasphemous”.

“We are currently examining over 10,000 books being taught in private schools,” Rai Manzoor Hussain Nasir, the managing director of the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board, told, “So the banned textbooks could be in thousands once we are done.”

Nasir says he is acting under the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board Act, 2015, passed during the tenure of the previous provincial government.

Section 10 of the Act requires an author to seek approval from the Board prior to publishing his/her book. It further gives the Board power to ban a publication which contains “anything repugnant to the injunctions of Islam, or contrary to the integrity, defence or security of Pakistan or any part of Pakistan, public order or morality.”

While content related to Islam in an Islamiyat, History, Pakistan Studies, Urdu or Literature book will need a go-ahead from the religious Muttahida Ulema Board, as well as the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board, before it can be included in a private school’s curriculum.

“The law was already there but for the last four years no one was doing anything,” Nasir told, “So when I was appointed to the Board, in February, I decided to take action.”

The managing director has set up 30 committees to pour over 10,000 textbooks of private schools. He says each committee is headed by an “expert” of the subject, whose books are being reviewed.

Of the books banned till now, one mathematical textbook had an image of a pig another printed an incorrect map of Pakistan.

“Whatever I am doing, I am doing under the law,” Nasir said, “If you want to teach a child about numbers use the picture of a goat or a pigeon. Why do you need to show a pig?”

Pakistan’s constitution guarantees an individual the right to a fair trial and due process. Yet, Nasir admits he has not invited a single author or publisher, whose book was outlawed, for a chance to be heard.

“The parameters in the law are very clear about what can and cannot be published,” he said, “So what is there to explain? I can even register a police complaint against a person who does not comply.”

Under the Act, a person can be imprisoned for up to two years, if he/she fails to abide by the prohibition.

“What I have done is completely and 100 percent genuine,” Nasir insists, “Books don’t ruin us, bad books ruin us.”