Tahir Ashrafi slams ‘propaganda’, says book with Malala’s image banned due to NOC issue – Press Release

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Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Religious Harmony Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi addressing a press conference in Lahore, on July 15, 2021. — YouTube/HumNewsLive
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Religious Harmony Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi addressing a press conference in Lahore, on July 15, 2021. — YouTube/HumNewsLive
  • “A baseless propaganda is taking place,” Tahir Ashrafi says.
  • Textbook banned due to NOC issue, not because of Malala, he says.
  • “Commotion taking place in country” based on lies, he adds.

Special Representative of the Prime Minister on Religious Harmony Tahir Ashrafi on Thursday slammed the “propaganda” campaign being carried out against the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board and said a crackdown on the school textbook containing an image of education activist Malala Yousufzai was carried out due to a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) issue.

Ashrafi, addressing a press conference in Lahore, said: “A baseless propaganda is taking place […] we aim to promote peace in the country.”

Punjab Assembly recently passed a law — Tahaffuz-e-Bunyad-e-Islam Bill 2020 — under which religious matters are overseen in religious textbooks, he said.

“Muttahida Ulema Board (MUB) had [earlier] reviewed more than 150 textbooks and then sent [recommendations] to relevant institutions,” the special representative said.

Ashrafi said the MUB will review the book once it receives it.

“A hue and cry has been raised in the country based on lies and slander,” he said, adding that it was condemnable and unfortunate.

The special assistant said two days ago, a campaign on the banned textbook that contained Malala’s image had started, which was “against journalistic values as the stance of the party which was being blamed was not taken”.

“A false campaign has been launched aimed at the Punjab government, the textbook board, and the Muttahida Ulema Board,” Ashrafi said.

‘If Benazir, Malala are not your heroes, God help you’

PPP Senator Sherry Rehman a day earlier had chided the Punjab government over banning the textbook.

The senator, speaking on the floor of the Senate, said: “If you cannot consider Benazir Bhutto and Malala Yousafzai as your heroes, then only God can help you.”

Rehman said Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board (PCTB) has removed Malala’s images, just like former prime minister Benazir’s images were removed from textbooks.

“Malala Yousafzai faced extremists and got a bullet in return,” she said, asking what sort of a message the government planned on sending to the country’s youth.

“You (government) say that we are a progressive society […] what sort of a message is being given here, that should we not fight extremism?” she asked.

The lawmaker said the textbook board — through its actions — had falsely portrayed that Malala was not a hero. “You (Prime Minister Imran Khan) term Osama Bin Laden as a martyr and crown terrorists here.”

HRCP terms banning a ‘new low’

Two day back, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) had demanded the PCTB immediately withdraw the order of confiscating the school textbook in question.

A picture of a page inside the book circulating on social media suggests that the book was confiscated for including Malala’s picture on an important personalities list.

According to a report published in Dawn, pictures of some important personalities had been published on page 33 of the book. They included Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, national poet Allama Iqbal, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Liaqat Ali Khan, legendary philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi, Begum Raana Liaquat Ali Khan, Nishan-i-Haider recipient Maj Aziz Bhatti Shaheed, and activist Malala Yousafzai.

“The PCTB’s confiscation of a textbook – allegedly because it features a picture of Nobel laureate and rights activist @Malala Yousafzai – is a new low in the state’s attempts to control information and manipulate public discourse,” the HRCP said in a statement issued on Twitter.

“The PCTB must withdraw this order immediately,” it added.

Issuing a clarification after the backlash, the PCTB said it had confiscated the social studies book as it was published despite not being issued a no-objection certificate.

A PCTB spokesperson said the entire stock of the book was picked up from a book market in Lahore and clarified that Malala’s image was not the issue.

He said it was published by a private publisher without an NOC.

Last year, the PCTB had banned 100 textbooks being taught in private schools deeming them “anti-national” and “blasphemous”.

According to the banned list obtained by Geo.tv, 17 books were taught to class-I students, 18 were taught in class-II, 19 in class-III, 24 in class-IV, 13 in class-V, 4 in class-VI, three in class-VII, one to class-IX and one to both class-IX and X.

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