13th July 2021
The Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board (PCTB) on Monday, July 12, raided the Oxford University Press (OUP) office in Lahore’s Gulberg as part of a campaign to seize copies of a grade school social studies book depicting girls’ rights activist Malala Yousafzai as a national hero.
A picture of the Nobel Prize was included in a list of “important personalities” in the book along with Pakistan’s founding father Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, national poet Allama Iqbal, educator and philosopher Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan Liaquat Ali Khan and his wife Begum Ra’ana, philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi and Nishan-e-Haider recipient Major Aziz Bhatti Shaheed.
The move to seize the books curiously coincided with Yousafzai’s birthday on July 12, celebrated as Malala Day.
The PCTB however denied claims that the book was being confiscated for printing Yousafzai’s picture next to the 1965 war hero Bhatti. Rather, the Board provided that the book in question, despite being under review since 2019, was not issued a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) and that the OUP published and distributed the book in disregard of the NOC.
In May of last year, the PCTB banned a series of workbooks Infant Mathematics for illustrating a math problem with cartoon pigs.
Two months later on July 22, 2020, the Punjab Assembly passed the controversial Tahaffuz-e-Bunyad-e-Islam Bill, which awarded sweeping powers to the Directorate General Public Relations (DGPR) to visit and inspect any printing press, publication house, book store as well as confiscate any book, before or after printing. The law was later rescinded for “review” after widespread outcry.
The following day on July 23, 2020, then-Managing Director of the PCTB Rai Manzoor Hussain Nasir stated that the Board had banned some 100 books that reportedly contained “anti-Islam” and “anti-Pakistan” material. Just days later, Nasir’s Twitter activity revealed that the profile had liked a pornographic video – the former PCTB Managing Director claimed that he had been hacked and fired at least 10 employees for the alleged security breach on his personal Twitter account.
In an opinion piece published in the English language daily The News, education researcher and consultant Dr. Ayesha Razzaque alleged that a PCTB reviewer demanded that a head scarf be edited onto a picture of seventeenth-century mathematician Sir Isaac Newton, whom the reviewer mistook for a woman, so as to observe purdah.