Censorship: Unethical or Necessary - Arooba Mansoor
This July the Punjab government has made the decision to ban one hundred textbooks from market circulation and school curriculums across the province. Thousands of others are now under review, their fate set to be determined over the next six months. The director of the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board stated that this decision was based on the ‘anti-Islamic’ and ‘anti-Pakistan’ messages propagated by the banned books. He also expressed his disappointment over inaccurate factual details about national heroes in these books, many of which were produced by reputable publishers including the Oxford University Press Pakistan. Sadly, this ban on books comes as no big surprise in an increasingly stifling political environment. Journalists across the nation have expressed their frustration over the lack of protection and support given to them against open threats and events like kidnapping. These conditions alone represent the sorry state of freedom of speech and thought in Pakistan today.
Censoring textbooks which do not strictly follow the narrative approved by the administration is a further example of the limitation of freedom of thought. The director, Rai Manzoor Hussain Nasir, said that it was necessary to ban these books to ensure that young minds were not corrupted and were guided along the right path. This socially approved and politically aligned path is where one does not think to question their leaders or the status quo. The director also mentioned that some of the banned textbooks were anti-Pakistan because they had more quotes from Hindu or Indian figures such as Mahatma Gandhi as compared to Pakistani leaders. While no one can deny the importance of teaching children their national history, greater effort should be made to ensure that they should be given access to the information in an unbiased manner.
Classrooms should be free of politics and students should be able to trust that their education system will give them the opportunity to be completely informed along with the ability to think for themselves. By showing them only one side of the story and shoving a forcible hatred against India down students’ throats, they are being robbed of a basic right which is the ability to think for themselves. We can also consider this in connection with the lack of freedom to discuss openly and critically topics such as corruption in the military, issues in Balochistan and religion which leads to a highly suffocating intellectual climate in the country. By censoring, banning, and threatening all those who seek to explore these areas, the local population is kept uninformed and blinded, unaware of the dynamics of their own nation. Banning of these textbooks due to seemingly unpatriotic content is also guilty of encouraging the same sort of ignorance. Such acts simply force the youth of our nation to embody jingoist, nationalist sentiments based on blind hatred of our neighboring country and historical counterparts. Instead, if students - on both sides of the border - were allowed a chance to consider the other perspective and analyze how and why our nation evolved, it would allow for more constructive discourse. Showing students one side of the coin results in the production of a nation which is unable to accept things which it has not already known. As a result, innovators, journalists, philosophers, thinkers, and politicians often face extreme violence and opposition due to the mob mentality which develops. This same mob mentality is exploited by those who nurtured it in the first place to ensure that their interests remain in place.
Therefore, a nation who is never informed of its true origin, history, politics, and rights will never be able to notice where it is being wronged. If it is not allowed to think and analyze for itself, it will never be able to stand up against injustice or lead overdue revolutions. Instead, it will continue serving the interests of a political elite who use tools such as these to pacify and discredit any revolts or narratives against them.
Arooba Mansoor is a third year student at LUMS where she is pursuing Law and History.