Our history book and why Dhaka Fell?

by Aruba Adil

KARACHI: What happens to a child who reads a chapter on the fall of Dhaka, in a history book published by the Sindh Text Board at school? He is left with misconstrued propaganda—and when he steps into adulthood he begins to believe that a foreign hand is to be blamed for all the problems his country faces.

This view is echoed by historians, professors and journalists. As the country marks 44 years to when Dhaka fell, Aaj.tv  talks to them about how history is taught at schools.

“If we want to raise informed individuals we need to teach them facts and not propaganda,” said Prof Dr Muttahir Ahmad, chairperson of the International Relation department at Karachi University. “Books by the Sindh Text Board should be banned.”

Dr Ahmed says that in the history books all of the blame has been placed on India, and ‘Hindu’ teachers in Bangladesh.

“In the 1970’s elections conducted by Martial Law Administrator Ayub Khan, Pakistan People’s Party(PPP) and Awami League came out as major winners. The Awami League secured 160 seats in the National Assembly out of 169 seats whereas PPP won 81 seats out of 130 allotted to the western wing.

Awami League should have been allowed to form the government but it was not allowed to do so, explains Dr Ahmed.

Part of the reason for the distortion in history books was the fact that the PPP formed government in the new Pakistan. “Deep down they knew they had lost to the Awami League,” said journalist, Nazir Leghari.

“PPP and JI supported General Yahya Khan [the martial law administrator] in not handing over government to Awami League. The result was a ruthless massacre and riots where the Mukti Bahini and Pakistan Army clashed,” said Leghari.

“That is when Awami League called the then Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi for help ultimately leading to independence of Bangladesh on December 16, 1971.   It was not a peaceful declaration of independence as it was taken through war with India. The price was paid in the form of 90,000 soldiers taken by Indian Army as war hostages”

The way forward

The history knowledge of an average Pakistani is not only minimal but selectively altered. The reason behind the void a student feels when he enters his professional education regarding Pakistan’s history is confusing for him.

“Sindh Textbook board needs to add valuable names of historians like Ayesha Jalal and Dr. Asif Farooqi as their syllabus compiler,” said Dr Ahmed.

“We need to accept the atrocities we committed at a national level,” said Prof Dr. Jaffar Ahmed, chairperson, Pakistan Study Centre. “We remember all the times when India interfered but we do not remember how we treated Bengalis like second-class citizens.”