Januray 1999 News

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Pakistan Society Turns Fundamentalist'

29th January 1999
The Times of India
By: Vidyadhar Date

MUMBAI: Mubark Ali, a noted history scholar from Pakistan said, "the most frightening aspect of fundamentalism in Pakistan is that the society itself is becoming fundamentalist and parties based on religion have formed their own armies."

"I fear much from such a society. it is easier to face a fundamentalist government, not a fanatical society," said the scholar who was on a visit here on Wednesday.

Mr. Ali said history writing had suffered in Pakistan because of fanaticism. Anyone writing against the ideology of Pakistan is liable to be jailed for 10 years, according to the Pakistani Ideology Act of 1991. It is also not possible to write against M.A. Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.

Instead of the enlightened version of ISlam, it was the fundamentalist, extremist Taliban-kind of version which was being promoted, Mr. Ali said.

He said history writing had not developed as a discipline in Pakistan because of such problems. History writing was confined to writing of text-books and articles in newspapers. Some Pakistani scholars working in the West are however, are doing good work.

Mr. Ali, who was in Mumbai to attend a historians' workshop on South Asia said, regional and linguistic identities were stronger than the national identity i Pakistan. People identified themselves as Sindhis, Baluchis or Pakhtoons, not as Pakistanis. Only the Punjabis identified themselves as Pakistani because they were the main ruling class in the country. Punjab was the heartland of fundamentalism.

The Mohajirs, who migrated from India to Pakistan, were still not integrated and were treated as aliens in the country. Yet, few people came forward to write against the partition.

History books in Pakistan traced the two-nation theory to the time of Akbar who was blamed for the downfall of the Mughals. Akbar was not even mentioned in school books.

However, Aurangazeb was praised. Another reason for the neglect of the study of history in Pakistan was that in 1962 the Americans were invited to frame the education curriculum for the country. Americans, who had little history of their own, did not give much importance to the subject.

The study of history was confined to a few scattered periods like Mohen-jo-Daro or the partition period. Students were not aware of much of history as a result of this attitude, said Mr. Ali, a former director of the Goethe Institute in Lahore.

There is very little sadness over partition in Pakistan. Only creative writers have written with anguish about the partition.

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