Publisher apologises for ‘offensive’ content in sociology textbook
ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: The government of Punjab has ordered an inquiry into the publication of offensive content in a sociology textbook, even after the publisher tendered a public apology on Sunday.
The book in question, ‘Sociology of Pakistan’, written by Abdul Hameed Taga and Abdul Aziz Taga, generated quite a controversy after excerpts from a chapter on the Baloch people were circulated on social media.
The book referred to the proud Baloch nation in derogatory terms, calling them “uncivilised people” who “lived in the desert and loot[ed] caravans”.
According to a statement released on Sunday, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif constituted a two-member committee to investigate the publication of offensive content and asked how the error went unnoticed until now. He has also directed the committee to ascertain who was responsible for this negligence.
Irfan Ali, who is the chairman of the Chief Minister’s Inspection Team, and Dr Zafar Iqbal Qureshi, an academic, are members of the committee and are expected to submit their report to the chief minister within three days.
The committee will also review existing mechanisms to check the quality of content being published by private authors and publishers.
In a newspaper ad, which appeared in an Urdu language daily on Sunday, the publishing house claimed that the source of the ‘offensive’ description of the Baloch was a Persian-language dictionary. Abdul Hameed Taga and Sons maintained that as soon as the material was brought to their notice, they recalled the book from the market and issued a fresh edition after editing out the offending section.
“We respect the Baloch from the depths of our hearts and have friendly ties with them. This is a brave and proud nation that played a major role in the creation of Pakistan,” the apology stated.
The ad also claims that the textbook is taught in Intermediate Part-II under both the federal and Punjab boards of intermediate and secondary education (BISE). However, when asked for comment, the FBISE Director Research Zulfiqar Rizvi said that he had only recently learned of the issue. “This issue came to my notice yesterday (Saturday), but I can’t say for certain whether this book has been approved by us or not,” he said.
The book is one of the most highly-recommended textbooks for the highly-competitive Central Superior Services (CSS) exams. According to several comments on the website CSSforum.com.pk, which is one of the main online resources for CSS-aspirants, the book is the only text one needs to read in order to pass the sociology exam. However, others have disputed this, saying that the book only provides a very cursory overview of the subject.
The issue was recently discussed on the floor of the Senate, and Chairman Raza Rabbani told the house that he would take up the issue with the Punjab chief minister.