Trial Of Errors: Continuing KK Aziz's Mission Of Correcting Textbooks

The material being taught by the Federal Board as a textbook, contains mistakes about the composition, role and working of the federal legislature

Trial Of Errors: Continuing KK Aziz's Mission Of Correcting Textbooks

Textbooks are primarily used to offer accessible content and provide foundational knowledge to early grades’ pre-university students. They are designed to ensure assessment support and introduce skills in the classroom. For KK Aziz, author of The Murder of History, textbooks have become an instrument of imparting an ‘ideological’ state narrative in Pakistan. He critically evaluates about 60 textbooks on Social and Pakistan Studies and History, being taught at pre-university level school and college students. He explores prescribed myths and errors, and ramifications of these deficiencies on the minds of young students. He places the burden of responsibly on historians to sensitise students and parents about those errors, which he terms as “roads to ruin.” Being a student of the constitutional and parliamentary history of Pakistan, I have accepted the burden of the responsibility that Mr Aziz places on us to highlight and correct the errors contained in A Textbook of Pakistan Studies: Grade 11 and 12 (Islamabad: National Book Foundation, 2020), being taught by the Federal Board as a textbook, regarding the composition, role and working of the federal legislature, the Parliament of Pakistan.

After my perusal of a chapter titled Administrative Structure of Pakistan, I have found wrong and confusing assertions which have absolutely no existence in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 [As modified upto the 31st May, 2018]. In the following lines, these errors and the mist of aberrations are explored and ratified to supply a correct version of the assertions.

Wrong assertion: Under the Constitution of Pakistan, the federation of Pakistan consists of following areas: four provinces, the Punjab, Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa or KP and Balochistan; federal capital, Islamabad; and, Tribal areas, p 88.

Correct version: After the passage of Constitution (Twenty-Fifth Amendment) Act, 2018, the earlier tribal areas of KP including Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) were merged into KP. Similarly, tribal areas adjacent to Balochistan were merged into Balochistan. Therefore, the correct assertion is “the territories of Pakistan shall comprise of provinces of Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Punjab, and Sindh; Federal Capital, Islamabad; and, territories may by law admit into the Federation of Pakistan by the Parliament as it thinks fits,” Article, 1.

Wrong assertion: Under the Constitution of 1973, the division of powers between the provinces and the centre are made on the basis of two lists (Federal List and Concurrent List), p 88.

Correct version: After the passage of Constitution (Eighteenth Amendment) Act, 2010, the Concurrent Legislative List had been deleted from the Fourth Schedule for the Constitution. On the forty-seven subjects’, earlier part of Concurrent List, both the Provincial Assemblies and the Federal Parliament can legislate on as all these subjects are embedded among the Federal Legislative List Part I and Federal Legislative List Part II after the omission of the Concurrent List, Fourth Schedule.

Wrong assertion: Any bill requires consent of ¾ of the members of the National Assembly to get it passed, p 89.

Correct version: An ordinary bill can be initiated in either of the House, the Assembly or the Senate. Any such bill needs to be passed by the majority vote of members sitting and voting in their separate sessions. And, a bill passed by the both houses in their separate sessions does not becomes a law until it is not assented by the President who is bound to assent on it within ten days, failing which such assent shall be deemed to have been assented, Articles, 75-76.

Wrong assertion: The National Assembly consists of 342 members, p 89.

Correct version: As mentioned earlier that after the passage of Constitutional Twenty-Fifth Amendment of 2018, FATA was merged into KP. Resultantly, the 12 seats of the National Assembly and 8 seats of the Senate erstwhile allocated to FATA were withdrawn and the number of National Assembly seats has now been decreased to 336 seats, Article, 51. Similarly, the seats of the Senate have been decreased to 96 members, Article, 59.

Wrong assertions: Minority voters elect their representatives from among themselves. Correct versions: Members of the provincial assemblies elect women members to fill seats reserved for women, p 90. Correct versions: Neither minority members of the Assembly are elected by the minority members amongst themselves nor women members of the Assembly are elected by the provincial assemblies. Both the minority or non-Muslim and women members of the Assembly are elected through party lists which the contesting political parties submit to the Election Commission for minority and women seats, Election Act, 2017 as modified upto 5th August, 2023, Section, 104.

Wrong assertion: The Assembly exercises full control over the administration in the country, p 90.

Correct version: It is not the Assembly but the Prime Minister, along with federal cabinet, who exercise his or her powers as a chief executive of the country and who heads the federal cabinet. The Assembly along with Senate passes legislations, represents the interests of its constituents and oversees the legislative and non-legislative policies of the federal government. However, it is Assembly from where the Prime Minister and the federal cabinet derive their authority. And, if the Assembly passes a vote of no-confidence against a Prime Minister by majority vote of its total membership, the Prime Minister cease to hold the office, Articles, 90-95.

Wrong assertion: The Chairman of the Senate is assisted by a Vice-Chairman, p 90. Correct version: The nomenclature is not a Vice-Chairman but is Deputy Chairman who acts as presiding officer and guardian of the Senate in the absence of the Chairman. The Senators elect amongst themselves a Chairman and Deputy Chairman for the period of 3 years, Articles, 60. Wrong assertion: The President can, on the advice of Prime Minister, promulgate ordinance, if the National Assembly is not in session, p 90. Correct version: The President needs no formal advice for promulgating such ordinances, though they endorsed rather suggested by the government informally. Secondly, after the passage of Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 2010, it has been made mandatory that such ordinances can be promulgated when both the Assembly and the Senate are not in session, Article, 89.

Wrong assertion: The President can impose emergency in any province and can dissolve the Provincial Assembly with the consultation of the Prime Minister, p 90. Correct version: The President does not enjoy any discretionary powers to proclaim emergency in a province. Provided if he proclaims an emergency due to the internal disturbances of a province, it needs a resolution to be passed by the provincial assembly or if he imposes it by his own decision, such proclamation required to be placed before the both houses of the federal parliament separately within ten days of this action. Thirdly, the president does not enjoy any power to dissolve the provincial assembly. It is governor of the provinces who can do so on the advice of the chief minister of the province, Articles, 112 and 231.

Wrong assertions: President is authorised to appoint judges of the Supreme Court/High Courts, Provincial Governors and three Army Chiefs, p 90.

Correct versions: All of the appointments are made on the advice of the Prime Minister after a due process which varies from an appointment to appointment. It is Judicial Commission of Pakistan which recommends names for new appointments to an 8-member Parliamentary Committee. It is this Committee which sends the approved names to the Prime Minister who forward the name to the President for an appointment, Article, 175-A. The governor of a province is appointed by the president on the advice of the Prime Minister, Article, 101. Similarly, the President appoints Chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Staffs on the advice of the Prime Minister, Article, 243.

Wrong assertion: The President enjoys the authority to hold referendum on an issue of national importance, p 91.

Correct version: It is not the President but the Prime Minister who is authorised to refer a matter of national importance to the Parliament for holding a referendum on it. And, it is jurisdiction of the Parliament to approve holding of such referendum in its joint sittings and also to decide procedures for holding it, Article, 48.

These errors are deviations of misjudgements, inattentiveness and aberrations from facts. Such inaccuracies reveal the eccentricity of the author, ignorance of the publisher and blankness of the mind of a Ministry for Federal Education. Such errors, combined with the various ways in which our constitutional, parliamentary and political history is polluted and manipulated, are drifting adult students from correct facts to contemplate dark of mental numbness.

A larger treatment, under the supervision of experts on the parliamentary and political history, to revise each volume of textbooks on History and Pakistan Studies, is suggested. That would not only rectify these repeated errors but also supply students with correct facts, free of all kinds of wishful and ill-conceived interpretations of historical developments.