Politics is too dangerous to be left entirely in the hands of the politicians. This is rephrasing of the old adage that war is too dangerous to be left in the hands of generals.
A seasoned Pakistani politician recently told me that it is his conclusion that siasat (politics) is another name for dokha (deceit). Accordingly, he continued, a lot of what is done in the public domain is just playing politics.
If so, then a second look needs to be taken at the accelerating fissiparous trends being endorsed in the name of expanded provincial autonomy.
As a result of the Eighteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Pakistan, enacted in April 2010, most matters affecting education, including syllabus and curriculum, were devolved to the provinces from the centre, carrying within it symptoms menacing to national integration.
The full transfer of educational curriculum to the provinces was done hurriedly without realising its impact and implications. It was a false consensus.
In practice, the history of Pakistan might be twisted and distorted to fit a parochial agenda. For example, in Sindh, the legacy of the local vadera may be exaggerated and superimposed on the Quaid. In Balochistan, local sardars might be presented in heroic light. In the Frontier (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), those who opposed the Pakistan Movement may be presented as a shining light on the hill. Similarly, in Punjab, the feudal dynasty system could be glorified as a paragon of democracy.
More significantly, all of these ethno-national tales shall be transmitted to young and impressionable minds. They, then, have every chance of growing up over-steeped in their tribal identity and undercooked about their national entity.
What now applies to the existing provinces may be magnified when more provinces come into the picture. A soft break-up of national solidarity is being sponsored by vested quarters and facilitated by dumb legislators.
The perils are not being weighed nor vetted. Inter-provincial animosity may be sharpened. It may be wiser to make the subject of syllabus and curriculum a part of the Council of Common Interests (where all provinces are represented) and leave the matter to federation.
When something new is introduced there can be far-reaching repercussions. The law of unintended consequences can come into play.
An education policy shapes how the country is viewed. It also impacts on worldview and historic context. Done sensibly, it can knit the nation together through the thread of a common narrative. Being diverse reflects strength and is also enriching. But being divisive has a fracturing effect.
If competing narratives about the genesis of Pakistan are allowed to prevail, it can drive a wedge in the safety net of national cohesion.
An honest and self-corrective diagnosis on the East Pakistan debacle would have identified policy failures and may have prevented present-day blunders.
Over-speeding on provincialism may leave the nation deprived of a common historic direction. Those who opposed Pakistan have already been well-accommodated in the ruling structure. Yet, the game of dividing Pakistan in the name of devolution continues. It is not going to stop there. Playing politics on this issue is like playing with fire.
The writer is an attorney-at-law and policy analyst based in Washington DC. He is the first Pakistani American member admitted to the US Supreme Court Bar.