Prejudice towards languages and ethnicities other than Punjabi has to end

Published: March 22, 2016
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The translation for the word ‘Baloch’ in the aforementioned Sociology textbook is wrong and reflects the attitude of the author towards a proud nation.

Textbooks play an important role in building the world view of students. In a country like Pakistan where the reading culture is non-existent, these books serve as primary sources of information for a huge chunk of society. Khursheed Kamal Aziz also known as K K Aziz began his book ‘The Murder of History in Pakistan’ with the following words,

“In every country, the textbook is the primary implement of education at the school and pre-university stages of instruction. In Pakistan, it is the only instrument of imparting education on all levels, because the teacher and the lecturer don’t teach or lecture but repeat what it contains and the student is encouraged or simply ordered to memorise its contents.”

While textbooks of science subjects like physics, chemistry or biology are less likely to form a child’s worldview, the textbooks of history and ‘social studies’ are supposed to be the first step toward social conscience.

Discovery of hateful material about the Baloch in a Sociology book for Intermediate students in Punjab doesn’t surprise me, as it is a norm, not an exception. It is worth mentioning that the aforementioned book is not a ‘textbook’ prescribed to Intermediate students in Punjab, but only serves as a supplementary text; a guide book.

What underlies this problem is the nationalism project undertaken by the Pakistani State since the early years after Partition. Nationalism projects, worldwide, are meant to bring uniformity to ideas in an effort to unite people to form a ‘nation’. These projects end up alienating people from different ethnicities and cultures existing within their boundaries. You just have to look at what China does to the Uighurs and Tibetans, Turkey with the Kurds, India with the Kashmiris and Assamese, Myanmar with the Rohingyas and Bangladesh with the Biharis to understand the attitude of the Pakistani state towards the Baloch.

Textbooks serve as primary means of fostering the nationalism project and end up promoting hatred towards particular ethnicities or groups. To understand the Pakistani nationalism project, let’s take a look at a directive issued by University Grants Commission in the 1980s to textbook authors, which stated their goal as:

“To demonstrate that the basis of Pakistan is not to be founded in racial, linguistic, or geographical factors, but, rather, in the shared experience of a common religion. To get students to know and appreciate the ideology of Pakistan, and to popularise it with slogans. To guide students towards the ultimate goal of Pakistan – the creation of a completely Islamised State.”

One of the primary reasons that East Pakistan seceded was the forceful imposition of this particular nationalism project upon the Bengalis who refused to give up their culture, heritage and language just to assimilate into the newly established state. The state though, has not learnt the lesson from the East Pakistan debacle and continues to suppress voices of the Baloch and Sindhis. The 18th Amendment of the Constitution of Pakistan denied the rights of provinces and even after the Amendment – grievances remain.

Photo: Screenshot

The translation of the word ‘Baloch’ in the aforementioned Sociology textbook is wrong and reflects the attitude of the author towards a proud nation. The given definition cites an unnamed Persian dictionary without giving reference. It is interesting to note that even the Iranian state has denied rights to Baloch people residing in their Sistan and Baluchestan province.

In the 1970s, Shah of Iran provided gunship helicopters to help the on-going military operation against Baloch separatists. Our textbooks traditionally avoid using references and students end up believing everything written in them. This example demonstrates that even our publishers don’t proof-read the texts before selling them in the market. Even in the apology published in national newspapers, the name of that ‘dictionary’ was not mentioned.

As if blatant bigotry was not enough, the author promotes out-dated concepts on gender dynamics in marriages.

Under the heading ‘Problems of mate-selection and adjustment’, students of sociology are informed that research by (unnamed) sociologists found that for an ‘adjusted family’, the wife has to take orders from her husband as the final verdict to prove her obedience. Furthermore, the ‘husband is the focal point for the wife in all matters of life’ and ‘marriages should take place within relatives and within biradri (tribe)’.  The author’s moral compass is probably stuck in the 19th century, as the world has moved beyond ‘cousin marriages’ and ‘absolute male dominance’ in relationships. Is this the worldview we expect our ‘educated’ classes to possess?

A thorough perusal of textbooks should be ordered by the respective Provincial governments to weed out racist and misogynistic statements. We need to focus on being inclusive and respectful of differences, rather than forcing uniformity down people’s throats.

Nationalism has been an overall negative force in world history and it needs to be either amended or discarded in the waste-basket of history. The same can be said about misogyny. Our aim should be the establishment of a pluralistic society and, for that matter, prejudice towards languages and ethnicities other than Punjabi has to end. The Baloch are as much a part of this country as the Punjabis. It’s time to give them the respect and treat them as equal citizens.

Do you find the definition of Baloch in this textbook offensive?

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Abdul.Majeed

Abdul Majeed

A final year medical student with interests in history, political economy and literature. He blogs at abdulmajeedabid.blogspot.com/ and tweets as @abdulmajeedabid

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://www.defence.pk Pakistan Defence

    This blog makes sweeping statements which are simply not true and are driven by selective bias. The textbook publisher has admitted to his mistake and since publicly apologized on March 14.Recommend

  • Zain Abedin

    In Persian Baloch means uncivilized! Not in Punjabi. Author needs to stop comparing Apple and oranges. Quaid E Azam said language of Pakistan will be Urdu. Where did Bangladesh come from? Recommend

  • SuccumbingToSanity

    “all is well! all is well! Thank You Raheel Sharif”Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    If you go through the social studies books for class 1 to class 10, they are basically “islamiat” books that cover only “fauj” and “islam” in majority of the chapters.

    These text books were written specifically to firmly attach “islam” with “pak army” and vice versa. These books also have texts that directly or indirectly curse the civilian rulers.

    The long term objective here is to subconsciously enforce the love for the “islamic sacred army” of pakistan, thus making them immune to scrutiny by the zombie-populace.

    In pakistan, like in many other autocratic regimes, the brain washing of children starts from class 1.Recommend

  • Saad Shaukat

    While the spirit of the article is commendable i.e. stereotyping of the ethnic groups of Pakistan should be discouraged at all possible levels, the author seems to have failed to conceal his inherent bias towards the Punjabis. First, the textbook was being taught in Sindh too, which the author conveniently fails to mention. Second, the impression being given is that it is only Punjabis who hold such parochial view towards the other ethnic groups, something which i find highly condemnable and offensive. The author has his own stereotypes at play when he makes a sweeping statement that the state should not be prejudiced to languages and ethnicities other than Punjabi. Well, Punjabi as a language has always been suppressed by the state, and Urdu has always been preferred instead. Punjab Assembly remains the only assembly where speaking in the mother language is not allowed.
    Conclusion: Biased, Parochial, Bigoted, Hypocritical views thrown out in a garb of advocating the cause of Balochis and their cultures.Recommend

  • oats

    Why not just say that the author of this book is not educated in English. You can see from the wording of the passages that the writer isn’t lettered in the language. My guess is that he just doesn’t know what he is writing. It is unwise to make sweeping statements about society based on a poorly written book in bad English by someone with little education. Baluchis may be ridiculed in Iran or in Afghanistan but they are definitely not looked down upon in Pakistan. They are considered a martial tribal people with a long history and tradition. Educated Pakistanis also know that Baluchi is closer to the original Persian that was used by Mughals and that the old civilization in Mehargarh is thousands of years older than anything else that existed in South Asia.If anything Punjabis have been more stigmatized and suffer more prejudice than Baluch in Pakistan. How many middle class Punjabis even know their own language but only only communicate in Urdu / Hindi. A Baluch will understand Urdu / Hindi but never let any language dominate his own beautiful and ancient language. I have never met a Baluch who does not respect his culture, language and traditions.Recommend

  • Sami

    A catchy headline with no substance. Add Punjab for more views and that is what happened here. Also for the information of the author Punjabi is not even taught in schools across Punjab. What else you want from Punjabis?. Should they start killing anyone found speaking Punjabi and ban Punjabi language on the streets as well?.
    Also Urdu mafia is infact trying hard to end the existence of all languages of Pakistan. But sorry it will not happen.
    Also blaming the whole ethnicity for one textbook mistake is uncalled for. It is just a sasti publicity campaign and nothing else.Recommend

  • Saad Shaukat

    While the spirit of the article is commendable i.e. stereotyping of the ethnic groups of Pakistan should be discouraged at all possible levels, the author seems to have failed to conceal his inherent bias towards the Punjabis. First, the textbook was being taught in Sindh too, which the author conveniently fails to mention. Second, the impression being given is that it is only Punjabis who hold such parochial view towards the other ethnic groups, something which i find highly condemnable and offensive. The author has his own stereotypes at play when he makes a sweeping statement that the state should not be prejudiced to languages and ethnicities other than Punjabi. Well, Punjabi as a language has always been suppressed by the state, and Urdu has always been preferred instead. Punjab Assembly remains the only assembly where speaking in the mother language is not allowed.

    Conclusion: Biased, Parochial, Bigoted, Hypocritical views thrown out in a garb of advocating the cause of other ethnic groups and their cultures.Recommend

  • Jatt Sher

    The definition of Baloch as cattle looters is based on some of the tribes (on the West Bank of the Indus) that before settling down used to primarily engage in cattle stealing. The Khosa tribe’s name literally means cattle stealer. The Marris and Bugtis were famous for this and Baloch tribes such as the Domkis, Mazaris etc. did frequently fight amongst each other. You just need to know the historical context of this. However the author of this poorly worded and dubious book has apologised so I’m not sure why you’re making such an issue. What does Punjabi even have anything to do with this? Your racism against Punjabis really shows here.Recommend

  • Mani

    But have the books been retracted and replaced by a new edition that has all the corrections in it? Otherwise publisher’s apology is just lip service and bloggers have every right to write about it.Recommend

  • Rohan

    Your website is even worse, it’s a hub for internet jihadisRecommend

  • irfan

    a complete ridiculous and non sense article. i am baloch myself, mistakes happen, when a person have apologized for the mistake and have taken back all the books from market , whats the point of making such things ,,, openly some other agenda. here is the proof:Recommend

  • Alter Ego

    What have Punjabis got to do with a poorly worded textbook mistake?

    By the way
    >>Blacks were slaves , now America has a Black President.
    >>Early Americans were exiles and thieves , sent to die by their British masters.Now look at them.
    >>House of Saud were thieves who lived in the desert and raised sheep.Now they rule Arabia.

    I hope you get the message here , instead of trying to make a mountain out of a mole hole.Recommend

  • Bibloo

    Nobody believes you are a Baloch. Nobody.Recommend

  • SkepticalFaraz

    There is no discrimination against Balochis or Pashtuns or Punjabis or Kashmiris….these demographics make up over 90% of Pakistan. I don’t think Punjabis even care since so many Baloch tribes are assimiliated in Punjab. I do have witnessed that Pakistanis don’t get along with or can relate with Gujaratis, Biharis, Bengalis or South Indians or Marathis.Recommend

  • Ali S

    You just lost all credibility by equating the House of Saud with Obama or early American settlers. The truth is that our establishment hasn’t learned from 1971 and still tries to impose a Punjabi-defined national identity on Pakistan – we need to wholly embrace our ethnic differences as part of a diverse whole.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Why not just say that YOU are a racist, bigoted slope.
    And save all the extra fancy English needed to describe
    your brand of discrimination. The author of the blog has
    done a great job. It is YOU who was left behind at the
    at your village crossroad.Recommend

  • Patwari

    At least the Paks can read and write. unlike youRecommend

  • Alter Ego

    What i am saying is that it does not matter , what your history was , it is your present that defines you.

    Tell me. is Punjabi taught in Punjab schools,do tell me?
    Urdu is taught.
    Tell me. is Punjabi used as official language in Punjab?
    Urdu is used.
    Tell me ,has Punjab ever used Punjabi card.
    I dont remeber , all i ever remeber is Altaf Bhai , Zardari and people like you speaking against Punjab.
    Tell me what has Punjab done to you.
    Has Punjab closed its doors to you,like you have for Punjabis.
    Has Punjab banned you from admissions for in jobs and universities.
    Like you have.
    Tell me?
    Has Punjab killed innocent labourers ?No it has not.

    Do not blame Punjab for your own weakness and short comings.

    It is not Punjab that is responsible for Karachi’s water and trash crisis.
    It is not Punjab that is responsible for Thar famine.

    Dont blame Punjab for everything.Recommend

  • lol

    Ironic since pdf is overrun by Indians, and compared to cancerous intolerant indian forums the moderators are quite diverse and neutral.Recommend

  • Rohan

    Pdf??
    And comparing them to Indian forums is bs, any remote criticism of Pakistan on defencepk is deleted Recommend

  • Navneet Kaur

    I agree! What have Punjabis got to do with a poorly worded textbook mistake?
    All the cruel definitions of Baloch are written in Englsih. Why ruin Punjabis/Punjab’s image for no reason??!!Recommend