Pakistan harks back to Jinnah to define status of non-Muslims

Islamabad, Pakistan - After 60 years of dogged defence of the Two-Nation Theory that described separate nations for Hindus and Muslims and cleaved the subcontinent, Pakistan is all set to officially redefine the doctrine, stating that it was 'Muslim deprivation not religion' that led to partition.

New history schoolbooks in Pakistan, being re-written in the spirit of President Pervez Musharraf's "enlightened moderation", rely heavily on founding father M.A. Jinnah's 1947 speech to 'define' the status of non-Muslims in the country.

The new national history curriculum for grades IX and X explains the two-nation theory and Pakistan's ideology "with specific reference to the economic and social deprivation of Muslims in India," an official involved with the formulation of the curriculum told Daily Times newspaper Thursday.

"Pakistan's ideology has been explained with reference to the pronouncements of Allama Iqbal and Qaid-e-Azam," the newspaper quoted the unnamed official, who added: "An effort has been made to exclude all such material that promotes prejudice against the non-Muslims of pre-partition India," he said.

With "a less biased explanation" of the two-nation theory, the new approach in devising the syllabus is to "eliminate prejudices against non-Muslims," the newspaper said.

Jinnah's Aug 11, 1947 speech, delivered just three days before India was partitioned and Pakistan was created, was quoted by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani last year, courting controversy within his party ranks and rejection by its mother organisation, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).

The speech advocated secularism for Pakistan, where religious minorities could live in peace in a state that would not espouse any religion.

For recalling Jinnah's stand during his Pakistan visit, Advani was criticised by his party men who accused him of appeasing his hosts and trying to undo the two-nation theory - that Hindus and Muslims are separate 'nations' - the basis for the creation of Pakistan.

Musharraf has been advocating "enlightened moderation" as an antidote to "religious obscurantism and extremism" that has promoted terrorism in Pakistan.

This is part of his effort at promoting relations with India and also his political plank against the conservatives and radical Islamist alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) in the elections likely to be held next year.

The draft of the new curriculum has been finalised and it is being sent to the provinces, which will print text books in accordance with this curriculum, sources in the education ministry told Daily Times on Wednesday.

The final draft includes amendments made by the provinces to an earlier draft prepared by the national curriculum committee, the sources said.

The new curriculum will be implemented from the next academic year in 2007.

The curriculum of Pakistan has been divided into pre and post-1971 period, the year Bangladesh 'seceded', the newspaper said.

The effort is essentially Musharraf-centric in that it explains why he staged a coup against an elected government in 1999.

It also enunciates his views on privatisation, globalisation, population, society and culture.