The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed concern over ban on some books saying that such measures not only curb “freedom of expression, but also freedom of thought, conscience, and religion”.
To give a government’s official the power to decide what constitutes ‘objectionable material’ on behalf of all citizens is unacceptable.
The HRCP also noted with concern that the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board (PCTB) had begun what it termed a ‘critical review’ of 10,000 books taught by private schools across the province, and already banned 100 books on, what it called, ludicrous grounds. Oxford and Cambridge publications are among those now banned.
“Not one of the reasons given by the Board’s managing director at a press conference qualifies as rational grounds to censor content, penalise publishers, and prevent critical thinking,” the HRCP said.
The HRCP is gravely concerned that such measures herald yet tighter restrictions not only on freedom of expression, but also freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.
The provincial government of Punjab in Pakistan has banned 100 textbooks that were found to be “against” the two-nation theory and whose contents were “blasphemous and objectionable”.
The Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board, led by managing director Rai Manzoor Husain Nasir, had said that the books “had blasphemous and anti-Pakistan content”, with some of them showing “Azad Kashmir (part of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) as part of India”.
Nasir alleged the books printed the incorrect birth dates of ‘Quaid-e-Azam’ Muhammad Ali Jinnah and national poet Allama Muhammad Iqbal. Some were also found to be “against” the two-nation theory, which was proposed by Jinnah and underlies India’s Partition in 1947, he said.
He also alleged the banned books carry “factual errors” such as misreporting the number of districts in Punjab and printing an incorrect map of the country.
One of the banned books quoted Mahatma Gandhi, while another illustrated a mathematics problem with pigs — an animal considered haram in Islam.