April 27th, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
Ijaz Alam Augustine, the Punjab Minister For Human Rights and Minority Affairs (HR&MA), on Monday told Voicepk.net that his department had withdrawn its letter to the Punjab Curriculum Textbook Board (PCTB) requesting to exclude Islamic content from textbooks of subjects other than Islamiyat.
Augustine said that the letter from the HR&MA Department was withdrawn on the instructions of the Punjab government after strong opposition ensued within its members.
Augustine added that the letter, written on April 1 this month, had directed the managing director of the PCTB to implement the decision taken in a meeting held on November 11, 2020, which was chaired by Dr Shoaib Suddle, the head of the One-man Commission on implementation of minority rights.
However, Augustine said that the Supreme Court was hearing the case on implementation of minority rights in the country and his ministry was bound to follow future directives in this regard from the apex court.
In its report to the apex court, Dr Shoaib Suddle, had suggested excluding content on Islamic teachings and Islamic history from textbooks except in Islamiyat as part of the Single National Curriculum (SNC) across the country.
Opposition from Punjab Governor, Speaker
Expressing their concern, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar and Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi on Sunday had said that the implementation of the recommendations of the Supreme Court mandated One-man Commission would not go down well with the majority of the population.
According to information, both leaders expressed these views during a meeting held at Governor House in Lahore.
Separately, the Muttahida Ulema Board had rejected the commission’s recommendations and had demanded the Punjab Chief Minister initiate action against those who had forwarded these suggestions.
In a press conference on Sunday, Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi, the chairman of the Muttahida Ulema Board, the Supreme Court had not issued any directive on the basis of the commission’s report, adding that no opinion was also sought from the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), Muttahida Ulema Board and other scholars.
Speaking alongside Allama Hussain Akbar, Dr Raghib Naeemi and other members of the board, Ashrafi said the implementation of the recommendations could cause unrest in the country. He said the report had been rejected even by the National Commission on Minorities (NCM).
Earlier, the People’s Commission on Minority Rights (PCMR) had expressed its dismay over the reported remarks of Chela Ram, the chief of the state-appointed NCM, expressing his disagreement with the content of the report presented by the Shoaib Suddle commission to the Supreme Court.
Peter Jacob, Chairperson of the PCMR, had reiterated that Article 22(1) of the Constitution safeguarded minorities’ rights to an education free of any religious instruction in compulsory subjects.
“It implies that no lesson in any textbook, that is compulsory to students of all faiths, should contain material specific to any religion,” he told Voicepk.net.
Regarding the situation at present, Mr Jacob added that the matter was definitely going to be the court’s decision and that PCMR would wait patiently on the verdict. However socially speaking there must be a consensus on the issue.