Pakistani philosophers and politics


Setting it straight



The two noblest professions are teaching and politics. –Aristotle

Back in 2002 the 35th Annual Session of Pakistan Philosophical Congress was held in the Bukhari Auditorium, Government College (now GC University), Lahore. Dr Naeem Ahmad was secretary of the PPC (Dr Naeem had been Chairman Department of Philosophy, University of the Punjab, Lahore), and well before the start of the proceedings I had time and time again requested him to allow me to present a Resolution in its General Body meeting. He was positive. On March 16, while the proceedings ended, late in the evening a meeting of the General Body of the Congress was in progress. When all the items on the agenda, such as issues relating to the next Congress, elections of the office-bearers, stood settled, Dr Naeem announced the closing of the Congress.

I was dumbstruck; yet in a second I decided: it’s now or never. Based on past experience, nobody knew when the next Congress would be held. I went up on the stage, occupied the rostrum and expressed myself thus: ‘Dr Naeem sahib promised me and I had requested him to allow me to move a Resolution here.’ Meanwhile, Dr Ghazal Irfan intervened and assured to give me time to speak. After a while she invited me; I read out the Resolution making the following demands:

“I) Since its inception, Pakistani State has been repeatedly failing in protecting the life, liberty and property of its citizens. It has suppressed even the liberties ensured to them in various constitutions of the country. II) Likewise, it has usurped its citizens’ right to education of their liking. From the first grade to the intermediate level, the state has monopolised the development and implementation of curricula which it uses for whole-scale Indoctrination. III) With the provincial text-book boards working as its tentacles, the Curriculum Wing of the Federal Ministry of Education has been instrumental in strengthening the cause of propaganda and indoctrination. IV) For instance, according to the 1994 Curriculum Wing Document for Social Studies (5th class), children were to be taught “Hindu-Muslim differences”, “India’s evil designs on Pakistan”, “India’s wars of aggression against Pakistan”, and to learn to make speeches on Jehad and Shahadat.

The state should stop telling the citizens what to think and what not to think, and what to do and what not to do

V) That is like supplying the content of education right from the state’s inventory in the form of finished goods. Same is the case with the aims and objectives of education. Under the yoke of national and collective objectives, there is no room for the individual citizen, his rights and his freedoms. VI) By denying education, the state has denied its citizens their rights to free inquiry, free thinking and free speech; and, thus, has dehumanised them. VII) With the help of indoctrination, the state has tried to become the intellectual progenitor of every mind. It has resorted to the science of cloning to beget intellectual and ideological Dollies.

To restore their humanity and individuality: a) the state should stop telling the citizens what to think and what not to think, and what to do and what not to do; b) the state should ensure its citizens their individual rights and freedoms, and should abstain from interfering in their private lives; c) the state should divert its resources and energies to the fulfilment of its basic duties, ie protecting the life, liberty, and property of its citizens; d) the state should focus on establishing and maintaining the rule of law in the country.

In view of the above considerations, it is demanded that 1) indoctrination be eliminated from education; 2) Curriculum Wing of the Federal Ministry of Education be abolished; 3) Provincial text-book boards be dismantled; 4) Academic freedom be restored to educational institutions; 5) Electronic and print media be freed from state’s control; 6) Protection of life, liberty and property along with freedom of religion, press, assembly and association be assured to every citizen.”

The moment I finished, there was uproar in the hall. I tried to make sense of it, and saw one old lady standing and arguing haughtily; she was Jocelyn Ort Saeed, an Australian poet settled in Pakistan. Her argument ran like this: ‘How come that you want the Curriculum Wing abolished! What would we teach our children, then? What are you up to?’ As she concluded, another lady stood up: ‘We are philosophers, and we have nothing to do with politics? You want us to be embroiled in politics; why?’ She was Dr Arifa Farid from the Department of Philosophy, University of Karachi.

It was quite noisy in the hall. I was unable to see what had I done which caused such an outrage. Then, Dr Iqbal Amiri, another fellow from the Department of Philosophy, University of Karachi, came up and grabbed the microphone. He was counter-arguing in favour of the demands made in the Resolution. I remember the gist: ‘How could you say philosophers have nothing to do with politics? What is the state doing? Philosophers need to stand up at such times.’

‘How come that you want the Curriculum Wing abolished! What would we teach our children, then?’

By now, there emerged two groups: one favouring and the other opposing the Resolution. It was quite an intellectual commotion there. In the midst of all the activity, Dr Ashraf Adeel, who became the new president of the PPC the same evening, tried to hush up the matter. He wanted the discussion on the Resolution be put off and taken up again when the 36th Congress was held. That was like killing it. However, the group in favour of the Resolution demanded a vote, which was conceded by way of raising hands.

As the 35th Congress was hosted by the Department of Philosophy, GC, Lahore, a good number of students present there belonged to the same department, which Mirza Athar Baig, now a well-known Urdu novelist, was the Chairman of. The Resolution was defeated by one vote; 19 votes polled in its favour; 20 against. Mirza Athar Baig voted against the Resolution. The president of the Congress, Dr Ashraf Adeel, did not cast his vote; I reminded him, but he shrugged it off. At the dinner, Mirza Athar Baig came to me and said: ‘Why didn’t you tell me about it earlier?’ I explained: ‘What was there to tell beforehand? It was all happening before you!’

The Resolution could not be carried through; but it succeeded in view of the fact that most of the demands made in it were raised for the first time, especially about the abolition of the Curriculum Wing and dismantling of the provincial text-book boards. It proved to be the first step towards disseminating a spate of ideas in Pakistan bringing the fundamental rights of the citizens to the fore!

Note: The facts narrated above are for the sake of putting the record straight!


  1. may I request or suggest ?

    Article was good helpful and needed . Can you or we also add to refrain from unnecessary and old rhetoric about Israel and jews . This should not be a part of curriculum. All hatred and negativity is affecting the children and masses . Ty

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