Wednesday July 06, 2022

Pedagogy and the discursive rigour of ‘Pakistan Resolution’ in the Digital Age

March 23, 2021

The etymological roots of ‘resolution’, from the Latin past participle resolvere, roughly translated as “loosening”; with usage shifting to indicate a firm adherence to an idea or goal by the 1540s, and later incorporating the notion of a sense of decision in the 1600s. It may be argued that the conceptual basis for ‘resolution’ contains nuanced gradations of meaning corresponding to all three semantic logics. Thus, resolve, in pursuit of a goal, presupposes adaptability in the face of changing circumstances, and is not synonymous with mulish stubbornness devoid of tactful strategising. Resolutions may be viewed as dynamic processes of construction whereby ideals and ideas engage with the need of the times while aiming for transformational change. This capacity for engagement is itself a creative act, born of the ability to explore and expand the ideological frontiers of a given idea. Pakistan, as envisioned in the Allahabad address of 1930, and the Lahore Resolution of 1940, may thus be viewed as an idea - with cultural and social imaginaries that transcend the physical boundaries of a given territorial demarcation. In an age where a global space of flows catalses the fracturing of ideas once treated as sacrosanct, the ability to creatively engage with emergent issues informs both the survivability and actualization of ideas. These issues are best illustrated through Toffler’s understanding of ‘future shock’ (1970) i.e., whereby societal, and cultural systems are unable to keep pace with rapid technological advances, thus prompting a state of acute disorientation in the adherents of a particular idea attempting to adapt to the pressures of accelerating technological change. In a Pakistan aiming for rapid and penetrative digitization, the idea of ‘future shock’ must be contextualized using the need to revisit and reassert, the ethos at the heart of the Pakistan idea, through a judicious exercise of creative imagination.

Glimpses of this very creative imagination may be viewed in Iqbal’s Allahabad address as informing the moral consciousness at the heart of the Pakistani political imaginary. To quote from the address: “It is open to a people to modify, reinterpret or reject the foundational principles of their social structure; but they must see clearly what they are doing before they undertake to try a fresh experiment.” This exercise in deliberative, and creative (re)imagining echoes the expansion and exploration of the ideological margins of an idea, in the context of moments replete with emergent ‘stressors’ or challenges. The foray into the digital, accelerated by Pakistan’s participation in the Digital Silk Road, presents such a moment, with attendant risks of ‘hybrid warfare’ being identified by the national security establishment. Information warfare may be construed as a sounding board for testing the conceptual vigour of ideas, as well as the tactical flexibility of the strategy designed for their actualization. In such a context, Pakistan, a “polity with implicit legal concepts whose civic significance cannot be belittled merely because their origin is revelational” (Allahabad Address, 1930) is subject to ideological stressors problematizing the nature and scope of an ‘Islamic welfare state’ in the post-Westphalian, post-industrial age. The validity and vigour of the Pakistani idea is only as rigorous as the critical intellectual traditions upheld by its adherents which, in turn, are intricately linked with the look and mien of the predominant pedagogical culture. It is evident that successive generations of Pakistani minds are introduced to the ‘Pakistan Resolution’ as part of compulsory curricula in secondary education - conceived, according to Peshkin, as an instrument for societal reconstruction (1963).

Revisions under the recent ‘Single National Curriculum’ scheme notwithstanding, the nature and scope of pedagogical practice in the state have failed to translate the ethos at the heart of the Resolution for the current generation. Lack of critical engagement with historical and sociological praxis may be illustrated through the research culture prevalent in Pakistani Universities, as examined by a 2018 report co-created by Knowledge Platform and the British Council.

The need for thematic research geared towards addressing emergent challenges, as well as a sound research-policy nexus, is particularly insidious in ‘social science’ or ‘liberal arts’ disciplines, where conceptual and ideological frameworks remain embedded in 20th century contexts and are overshadowed by a ‘poverty’ of locally developed theoretical constructs.

The importance of critical pedagogy in safeguarding the ideological frontiers of Pakistan cannot be discounted, particularly given the risk of ‘future shock’ accompanying the advent of greater digitization. In light of this, the ‘Pakistan Resolution’, as taught to this author’s generation and those preceding and succeeding the same, presents as a static, constative factoid best relegated to a specific section of the history textbook; its import calculated through the metrics of board exam questions.

Thus, like Pakistan, an idea given form, enters the second decade of the twenty-first century, the interpretative framework needed to orient its core ethos to correspond with emergent challenges remains embedded in the twentieth. The nature of pedagogical practice catalyzing this disconnect may be examined using Freire’s understanding of the ‘banking model’ of education (1968), problematizing the nature of teaching itself, in addition to the type of curricula being taught. A passive method envisioning the teacher as the holder of all knowledge and the student as the mute recipient of the same, the banking model results in the transmission of ideas sans engagement with contemporary contexts. This may be juxtaposed against a problem-posing model whereby students, viewed as individuals possessed of agency, engage in a discussion with the teacher over critical analysis of a given idea. The problem-posing model is particularly pertinent to the post-industrial information age in which students are exposed to a broad canvas of contravening narratives through multiple media platforms. Censorship, illustrated through the practice of preventing access to purportedly ‘harmful’ content, is an insufficient, and ultimately self-defeating strategy in and of itself.

In the age of information, an idea may ultimately only be countered through the strength and resilience of another idea, as the ‘fascination of the abomination’ (Conrad) continues to prompt individuals to circumvent censors in a bid to access banned content. The dialogic processes at the heart of the problem-posing model, prompting students and teachers to employ words as a means of both action and reflection to pursue ‘thematic investigation’ into the nuances of an idea, are sorely needed to breathe new vigour into the construct of ‘Pakistaniyat’ today. The Pakistan idea, regardless of its innate potential, is subject to the vicissitudes of competing narratives and paradigms. It must be allowed to materialise as a “living operative factor”, in the “present consciousness” (Allahabad, 1930) of younger generations, particularly given the threat of ‘hybrid’ warfare as a security challenge. This necessitates a concentrated approach towards critical, problem-posing pedagogy, situating the historicity of the 1940 moment in the challenges of modernity as experienced by the Pakistani state in 2021 and beyond.

Thus, withstanding ‘future shock’, vis-ˆ-vis the ideological rigour of a given idea, reflects its ability to adapt to the pressures of change catalyzed by accelerating technological innovation. The Pakistan Resolution and the Allahabad Address illustrate an attempt to craft such an idea and give it due form. The richness and diversity characterizing the Pakistani state’s vibrant cultural and social fabric is threaded through with the idea of an innate ‘Pakistaniyat’ which views Islam as a vital, foundational principle. The strength of this idea, as well as its ability to proactively respond to emergent challenges, must be secured to ensure the survivability and prosperity of the dynamic project that is the Pakistani nation-state.

– The writer is a graduate of NDU Islamabad and a staunch advocate of the power of ideas. She can be reached at