Banning books

Malala’s picture cause for concern

The seizure of a Grade 7 social studies textbook by the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board raises a number of disturbing questions, not just about the process of granting sanction, but of the place of Malala Yusufzai in the country. It is not clear whether the objection is to the placing of Ms Yusufzai’s picture next to that of Major Aziz Bhatti Shaheed, Nishan-i-Haider, as an example of a prominent Pakistani, or to her being included in the list at all. Ms Yusufzai is a Nobel Peace Laureate, indeed the only Pakistani to have won that particular award.

Is the objection merely a display of misogyny (it perhaps being deemed sufficient that Madar-e-Millat Fatima Jinnah be shown, or is an acceptance of the narrative that she was not shot by the Taliban, and that the entire episode was merely staged to create a justification for her promotion as a symbol of enlightened moderation? Those who so believe, might also realize that banning her picture would only promote that narrative.

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The objection, if indeed there was to be an objection, should have been made clear at an earlier stage, before the book could be prescribed for the classes that will begin next month. The charge, technically, is not publishing Ms Yousafzai’s picture, but publishing without a no-objection certificate (NOC). This transforms the NOC from a mere recognition that the textbook does not deviate from the syllabus, to a Damocles’ sword over the publisher’s head. The publisher had submitted the required copies in July 2019.That the Board only carries out reviews after printing is iniquitous. At present, it seems, the publishers have to take on the additional risk of printing costs without any certainty that the Board will not step in. This is just asking for corruption to enter the process.

The whole episode merely goes to show that the new process, introduced with so much fanfare, does not really work, and merely creates confusion and worry not just among he publishers, but among students and schools, who will be deprived of textbooks at the beginning of the new school year, and whose interests the Board was set up to protect.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected]


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