Some Soul Searching: Pakistani Nationalism and Schooling

The national education system in Pakistan need be based on our psyche, our cultural heritage, our religion but notwithstanding the true spirit of Pakistani nationalism



by Nayyar Hashmey


More than half a century has passed since Pakistan came into being. In the life of nations, its said its just trickle of time. However, people who believe in their nation’s resilience do not take it as an act of providence, to develop their societies, their nations, their states in centuries. For them years, months and even days count. They seize every moment in their life to gauge the output as they translate it into progress every hour, every day, every year. No surprise then that their “Time is Money”.

In contrast to this, we as a nation have developed the norm to venture upon that rarest of commodity called time. No wonder why after more than sixty years, we still struggle to find a raison d’etre for our nationhood.

Oblivious of our national goals, we indulge ourselves in trivialities. Many of our youth, when they ask ‘why Pakistan’ our thinkers, our opinion makers and our think tanks are unable to explain our younger generation the genesis of Pakistan. Our history books too, put forward the hackneyed phrases on brute majority of Hindus (which though partially correct but not the genesis of this nation) in British India. Though a fact that time, it’s no more tenable now. Almost same number of Muslims lives even to this day under the same brute majority of Hindus in present day India.

Then many of our religious scholars, ascribe to the theory of first Muslim, second Pakistani, a concept which was strengthened during General Zia’s dictatorial regime and been highly invigorated through history books mostly compiled by writers who believed or still believe in an Islamic revival based on the pattern of Muslim empires that existed before the arrival and colonization of the subcontinent by the British.

These and similar thematic approaches skepticised from the very outset, the legitimacy of Pakistani nationhood. Unfortunately the torch bearers of our education system did also not lag behind in exacerbating the educational philosophy which still remains dissiparious and goalless. Sometimes they played with the idea of countrywide education in respective mother tongue of each province, another time they started swimming along the maxim of every thing, every time every where Urdu and only Urdu.

Ever since independence, barring few English medium schools [which were mostly run by Christian missionaries then], the mainstream educational establishments continued mother tongue as the primary medium of instruction. This system seemed to have worked well till late 1960’s. However in the seventies of the past century our educational wizards came up with the novel idea of unilingual [Urdu] concept of instructing the Pakistani kids in their elementary schools.

With introduction of a unilingual concept the students were now being instructed right from the kindergarten to secondary classes in Urdu [especially in Punjab ]. While making this decision they totally ignored the fact that Urdu had never been the mother tongue of more than 6-7 percent Pakistanis. A great majority of Pakistani school kids used their respective mother tongues as medium of general discourse in their mohallas, in streets especially amongst their buddies. Naturally conflicts arose in the tender minds of young Pakistanis, who adopted a speech pattern which is neither standard Urdu nor compatible with the intonation and stress patterns of their mother tongue spoken for centuries by dwellers of the Indus valley lands called Pakistan. This further resulted in ambiguity and confusion and most of our children have started speaking language which is neither Urdu nor the mother tongue.

Having surmised the confusion as not enough, in the 1990’s other fits gripped our education wizards; chief affliction in this regard being adoption of English as a medium right from kindergarten and onward. In the beginning it was restricted to some selected schools in the private sector but shortly afterwards; these so called English schools started proliferating like mushrooms. Ever since then one finds such schools in every major city or town. These schools are scattered in city slums as well as in posh areas.

This English-mania even overwhelmed the Government of Pakistan who decided that the government run elementary schools will also use English as medium of instruction ignoring the fact that such a large number of teachers who can speak English and teach English to kindergarteners does not exist. A decision like this being self contradictory and ambiguous causes as much damage to our teaching methodology as has been the adoption of Urdu as medium of instruction at the elementary level of our education.

Speaking of English albeit its comprehension at primary level does not go hand in  hand with the linguistic pattern  of our students as they will have to give extra time in mastering English which they will do at the expense of other disciplines. Such contradictory policies based on imported schools of thought have not only debarred us to work out a system which is down to earth Pakistani and which bears the linguistic as well as socio-cultural nuances of Pakistani society at large.


Let us take the concept of nationhood. Putting too much stress on religiousness of our nationhood, we have landed nowhere. With start of the new millennium this was the very religiousness of our youth which was hijacked by the forces that be, to turn out youth into human time bombs.

Now as Muslim we no doubt belong to the great nation of Islam, the Muslim umma. The latter, however, is not confined to a single country but scattered all over the globe. And when an Egyptian, a Malaysian or a Moroccan can be a Muslim at the same time, why can’t we the Pakistanis be Pakistani and Muslim at the same time. Even a Christian born in Pakistan can be a good Pakistani and a good Christian at the same timer. So it’s high time that we come out of the false pretense of first Muslim, second Pakistani. We must be, first Pakistani first Muslim

The founder of the nation, Qaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had the vision to stress this very concept of Pakistani nationhood when he said…

Now if we want to make this great state of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well being of the people, and specially of the masses and the poor. If you will work in cooperation, forgetting the past, burying the hatchet, you are bound to succeed. If you change your past and work together in a spirit that every one of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second or last a citizen of this state with equal rights, privileges and obligations, there will be no end to your progress.

I cannot emphasize it too much. We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community — will vanish. You are free, you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to  any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with business of the state.

Taking a cue from these words of our great Qaid, once the ideology of first Pakistani first Muslim firmly saddles into the minds of our younger generation, they will themselves find the answer to ‘Why Pakistan’.

This approach further ensures that every Pakistani belongs to his / her motherland, so no one needs to borrow the fear of a religion or a country to fortify his / her sense of belongingness to Pakistan. And we should not forget the fact that the areas which now constitute Pakistan were essentially distinct from the Indian mainland linguistically as well as culturally.

Arrival of Indian Muslims with different linguistic and cultural heritage did not and cannot change the real character of Pakistan. And as a mother rears up her children, the real ones and the adopted, the Pakistani motherland owes its adopted children as much love as it does to its own children.


The national education system in Pakistan has to be based on our psyche, our cultural heritage, our religion but notwithstanding the true spirit of Pakistani nationalism. The myth of one medium, be it Urdu, English or be it the provincial vernacular tongue – needs to be discarded for once and all.

[Right: A YOUNG Pakistani carrying national flag on Pakistan Independence Day in Islamabad]

Pakistan comprises of four different linguistic patterns. We should adopt a medium for elementary education based on the language of that particular province. Mother tongue makes a kid to think natural, behave natural and allows the children to grow up in their normal, natural style. Adoption of a language other than mother tongue distorts the very personal, individualistic traits in the children for a child starts speaking a language by composing the words simultaneously in the mother tongue and then another one. This creates ambiguity and confusion in his / her mind.

Once the child has undergone 4-5 years of academic gestation, it is then able to compose independently in other languages too. Hence we should adopt a medium which is the mother tongue of the child. Later the instructions could be gradually converged into Urdu as well as English.  This will not only produce Pucca Pakistanis but also would make our pupils fully confident of meeting the intellectual standards attained by a developed nation.



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  1. One should not distort the historical facts in this information age …The present generation in Pakistan is the product of a system sonly based on hate India mission.
    The result is before us. If this continues then Pakistan will be isolated from the world community who will then come forward to decide things in their own hegemonistic ways.

  2. Pakistan needs to be a secular state .As a religious state it would be very difficult for it to achieve [progress. Better declare the state a secular like India and try help each other to remove pseudosecular image arround the world .

    1. @Mr. AKT, Parroting only Indian secularism, using cheap language against Pakistan doesn’t do any service to the cause of Indo-Pak friendship. Or do u want to further poison the existing tense relations between India & Pakistan. Mind it Mr. AKT, use of cheap language is symptomatic of a hidden malice, better get rid of it.

      Before teaching us about secularism u better count the number of anti Muslim movies that r churned out every year by the Mumbai Movie industry. In contrast our film industry seldom produced any anti India Movie. This shows the hollowness of all what u write.
      U seem to be a doctor & I suppose u r a Ph.D. If u r a medicine man and use prefix of Dr. as such even then from a man of ur stature one expects some serious commentary, candid analysis and a sanguine corroboration of facts & figures, instead of being a mere bhonpoo of Indian secularism.

      1. @ mr. Wasi ,..Don’t get irritated .We are now on the screen which is exposed to the entire world .Let evaluvate the others . The adjective you are using for me will further highlight the scar of Shariya.

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