PESHAWAR – The allotment of the education ministry in a militancy-hacked province in north-western Pakistan to a mainstream religious party is sparking a new face-off between Islamists and secularists in the Asian Muslim country.
“My message to the secular parties is not to worry about any kind of radicalization,” Siraj-ul-Haq, the deputy chief of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), told OnIslam.net.
“Our major aim is not to engage in any kind of controversy, but to create an environment where each and every child of KP can go to school, and introduce one curriculum across the province.”
The JI has won seven seats in the provincial assembly in the militancy-hacked northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa (KP) province in the May 11 elections.
Cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) emerged the largest majority party in the province with 33 seats of the 99-member assembly.
The two parties have reached an agreement under which the JI will take over three portfolios, including the finance and education ministries.
But the move has sparked warnings from secular educationalists that the JI could radicalize the curriculum and fuel the already growing militancy in the province.
“I don’t think that it would be a wise step to give education department to a party, which has been opposing the changes to bring the message of peace in the curriculum,” Professor Fazl-i-Rahim Marwat, the vice-chancellor of Bacha Khan University Peshawar, told OnIslam.net.
He argued that the JI had opposed attempts to introduce changes to the curriculum to help promote peace in the province.
“This is on record that the JI had opposed these changes, and forced us to reverse them from the text books of Islamiat, and English,” he said.
The move to remove verses about Jihad from Islamiat and topics about war heroes from English textbooks triggered widespread protests from Islamic parties and teacher unions.
“Our history is distorted. We depict the invaders as our heroes, which is one of the causes of growing extremism in our society,” said professor Rahim, who was appointed the vice chancellor of Bacha Khan University, which was established in the name of later Bacha Khan, the founder of left-wing Awami National Party (ANP), referring to King Mahmood Ghaznavi, Shahabuddin Ghouri, Ahmed Shah Abdali, and other Muslim generals who had invaded united India in different times.
“We tried our best to put things in order, but we could not due to opposition from parties like JI,” he said.
“Now, the things are going to be in the hands of JI whose inclinations are very much evident.”
But the JI dismissed the secular accusations.
“Neither the people of KP nor the secular lobby should be worried about radicalization of curriculum if our minister takes over the education department,” said Siraj-ul-Haq, who is also senior minister-designate of the KP government.
“We are the citizens of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which has an Islamic Constitution,” said Siraj-ul-Haq, who is going to take over the finance ministry for the second time.
“Therefore we do not need to go beyond the constitution. We will act completely in line with the Constitution.”
Siraj had acted as the finance minister from 2002 to 2007 in the government of Muttehida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an umbrella of six religious parties.
During his tenure, the KP was declared the most financially-disciplined province by the international financial institutions, including the Asian Development Bank.
The JI deputy dismissed the secularist contention regarding the introduction of invaders as heroes.
“One historical fact is defined by different nations in different ways. One’s hero can be other’s villain,” he said.
“Non-Muslim historians dub the companions of noble Prophet (peace be Upon Him) as invaders. Does professor Rahim want us to follow these historians,” he asked.
“We have our own history. We cannot change it just to appease the West.”“How can we deprive our children of their history just to counter stereotypes. Our children should know about our history.”