School boards across the world debate and practice textbook censorship blatantly or otherwise, and governments and societies have continuously imposed engineered identities upon young students through the ages. In the 4th century, Socrates was sentenced to death for corrupting students with his enlightened ideas, and even in contemporary America, countless State Boards of Education will annually debate efforts aimed at censoring sexual material, climate change, theories of evolution, history, slavery, and religion from textbooks. With the advent of telecommunication in a globalised world however, the aims of censorship are largely diluted through television and the internet. The quality and quantity of information available to students outweighs the textbook version of reality they read. However, debatably, students in public schools in the city of Peshawar and across most of Pakistan, will never have access to that kind of information. They will largely be shaped intellectually, by what they are taught in the classroom.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf led government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has removed an entire chapter from a school textbook on the demand of coalition partner Jamaat-i-Islami. The chapter, included by the previous ANP led government, was removed by the Elementary and Secondary Education Department for highlighting contemporary Pakistani issues, including Afghan refugees, religious extremism, population growth and poverty. In September, the JI succeeded in removing “objectionable” pictures of unveiled girls and Christian symbolism from school textbooks. Though we in this country perceive religious motivations through prisms of morality, how will we view an intellectual attack on the youngest minds of our society? Through the omission of the chapter on current issues, the JI has made a huge symbolic and material victory. By rendering the information inaccessible, they have brutalised the intellectual formation of vulnerable students. Their attack might not have come through a bomb, but it is no less violent. This gradual stripping away of material that makes education relevant to the modern world, is the pursuit of a greater agenda; one that wants to ensure our children remain locked inside an archaic, dark system that does not look outward, that does not evolve or ever learn. How can the PTI ever justify this? Why doesn’t it attempt to give explanations for this corruption, for this violence and dishonesty in front of the millions who pour into the streets for its dharnas? In the heart of its own province, a grave and systematic barbarism is occurring; when will it be addressed and rectified?