Punjab government in Pakistan under fire for banning books

Islamabad: The Punjab government’s decision to ban more than 100 schoolbooks for containing ‘objectionable’ content — anti-Pakistan and anti-Islam — is being criticised by independent thinkers, scholars and a large number of netizens who call it an attempt to suffocate free thinking of children and discourage a culture of debate and discussion at schools.

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Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board (PCTB) Managing Director Rai Manzoor Hussain at a press conference in Lahore announced that after ‘critical’ review of some 10,000 books being taught at private schools across the province, the board in the first phase had banned 100 books of 31 publishers including Oxford and Cambridge for ‘blasphemous’, ‘immoral’ and ‘anti-Pakistan’ content.

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According to Hussain, the board had formed 30 committees that worked day and night to find out “the immoral, anti-Islam and profane content being taught at private schools”.

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It is sad that nobody checked these books earlier and had no idea what was being taught to our kids in private schools against hefty fees, he said.

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Gandhi’s quotes and pigs’ pictures

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The banned books, according to the MD, had distorted facts about Pakistan and the country was portrayed inferior to India while one of the books carried sayings of Mahatma Gandhi and some unknown people.

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Moreover, in a book of mathematics counting concepts were explained to the young students showing pictures of pigs.

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He said one of the books by Cambridge tried to promote crime and violence among the students on the basis of unemployment in the country.

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Netizens outraged at decision

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Farahnaz Ispahani, a critic and member of a think tank in her post on Twitter also expressed amazement over the decision by quoting some of the points of the Punjab government official’s press conference highlighting ‘books’ ‘education’ ‘freedom’ at the end.

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“100 books banned in #Punjab Province #Pakistan. Some have been banned for containing blasphemous, immoral and anti-Pakistan content, some for showing a pigs and one for quoting Mahatma Gandhi. #books #education #freedom,” she wrote.

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Banning books to instigate sectarianism

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Marvi Sirmed, a women rights activist and a vocal opponent of religious extremism, also condemned the decision.

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On her Twitter account, she informed that among the books banned by Pakistan’s Punjab govt are: British-American author Leslie Hazleton’s iconic books too —‘The First Muslim,’ and ‘After the Prophet’, among others. This move is aimed at instigating sectarianism,’ said she in her post.

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