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SAI: Teaching Pakistani History/Teaching Pakistanis History

Tuesday, March 4, 2014 - 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Columbia University Morningside Campus Knox Hall, Room 208
Teaching Pakistani History/Teaching Pakistanis History
Manan Ahmad (History)
Sana Haroon (University of Massachusetts, Boston)
Tahir Kamran (University of Cambridge)
Vazira Zamindar  (Brown University)
Moderated by S Akbar Zaidi (SIPA and MESAAS)
Time:6:00pm - 8:00pm
Location:Room 208, Knox Hall, 606 West 122nd Street, between Broadway and Claremont
Pakistani history has been a contentious topic, especially in Pakistan, where different sets of narratives give differing accounts of what Pakistani history is, and hence, how one imagines Pakistan.  Given the eventual partition of British India into two states, some historians have claimed that Pakistan was `created in 712 AD when an Arab invader came to an area which is now part of Pakistan. This event is incorrectly seen as the first Muslim contact with what is now called South Asia, yet it supports one of the many official narratives of when Muslim "consciousness" and identity were created in this region.
Other competing narratives still in the official domain, look to the Delhi Sultanate, or the Mughal Empire, or events in the nineteenth century and 1857, crystallising into a separate Muslim identity, which inevitably led to the creation of Pakistan.  The question, when was Pakistan "created," is one which simply works around a Muslims-are-different-from-Hindus discourse, culminating in a separate homeland. As a consequence, "Pakistani" history then ignores the history of the people who live in what was Pakistan prior to 1971 and what it is today.  Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa, and the history of the people of Pakistan is dominated by a north Indian (largely Hindustani) Muslim history, and that too only of kings and their courts.  Once politics began to dominate undivided India in the twentieth century, the Pakistan "freedom movement" of course - and not the movement for independence from British colonialism for all Indian peoples - shaped this discourse more teleologically.
The problems of teaching history to Pakistanis by trained historians in Pakistan has given rise to a different set of issues.  While some academics claim that the state of social sciences in Pakistan has been dismal, the state of History in Pakistan has been particularly so. Interestingly, some decades ago, some Pakistani historians were highly respected scholars doing archival research, but today, the absence of professional historians, with little research being done, and hence few conferences or seminars or academic journals, exacerbates the problem, with non-historians now teaching History.  Moreover, since the propaganda of the Pakistan "ideology" and the "freedom movement" constitute what pass for History in/of Pakistan, teaching history is not considered a priority.

Manan Ahmed is Assistant Professor in the History Deparment.

Sana Haroon is Assistant Professor in History and Asian Studies, University of Massachusetts, Boston.She received her BA at Yale and PhD at SOAS, London.  She is the author of Frontier of Faith: Islam in the Indo-Afghan Borderland (2007).

Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali Zamindar is Associate Professor of History at Brown University.She is the author of The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia: Refugees, Boundaries, Histories, (2007).

Tahir Kamran is the Allama Iqbal Fellow at the Centre of South Asian Studies at theUniversity of Cambridge. He is the former head of the department of history at Government College University in Lahore.  He is the author of Democracy and Governance in Pakistan (2008).

S. Akbar Zaidi is Professor in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies and the School of Public and International Affairs.

Categories: Academic