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Dr. Sayed Wiqar Ali Shah and the Suppression of History in Pakistan: Analysis

Naeem Khan DawarThe abrupt removal of Professor Dr. Sayed Wiqar Ali Shah, a well known historian and expert on the Indian and Pakhtun history on December 3, 2015 from the senior post of director National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research (NIHCR) is clear manifestation of intolerance, suppression of facts and real history on the part of the state institutions. He was removed by the vice chancellor of Quaid-i- Azam University, Dr. Javid Ashraf, on the directives of chairman Higher Education Commission (HEC), Mukhtar Ahmed, without mentioning any reason. But his address to the international conference on 25th November, 2015 at Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur, about the history and culture of Sind and his stress on the need to rewrite regional histories apart from the official narrative of Pakistani history became the immediate cause of his removal.

It should be noted that a letter issued by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC) to all the vice chancellors of universities on 28th October 2014 says, “it has been observed that few activities directly or indirectly hosted by universities include discussions and presentations contrary to the ideology and principles of Pakistan”. It further says that universities should be vigilant to forestall any activity in any manner that challenge the ideology and principles of Pakistan. This clearly shows that no university and professor would be allowed to challenge the officially concocted history of Pakistan which is against the spirit of objective research based on facts, reason and truth.

The official history of Pakistan has been written from Muslim League’s perspective, which completely ignores the role and sacrifices of the nationalist Muslims. Some of the leaders who worked selflessly during the freedom movement against the British imperialists were Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, known as Bacha Khan, and his Khudai Khidmatgar movement, Abdul Samad Khan, Wali Khan, G. M. Syed from Sind and other nationalist leaders who have been deliberately kept outside the Pakistani history due to their differences with the Muslim League leadership. The political difference between the Muslim Nationalists (Muslim Leagures) and the Nationalist Muslims (Bacha Khan, Samad Khan, G. M. Syed and others) regarding freedom movement was that the later were against the division of India on religious basis which was actually the policy of the British to divide and rule that ultimately led not only to the division of Hindus and Muslims but rather the Muslims were also divided between India and Pakistan.

The division of India in 1947 was the beginning of bitter enmity and hatred between the people of India and Pakistan. Religious communalism and intensive hatred led the Pakistani authorities to write an Islamic history of Pakistan based on abhorrence towards Hindus and other nationalist Muslims who had criticized the communal ideology of the Muslim League.

As mention has been made earlier that Professor Wiqar Ali Shah is an expert on freedom Movement, Pakhtun history, and Bacha Khan from the nationalist perspective. He has obtained his PhD degree from Oxford University in 1997 and has 12 books to his credit written in English, Pashto and Urdu. Few of his books are “Ethnicity, Islam and Nationalism: Muslim Politics in the North West Frontier Province” published from Oxford University press in 1999, “North West Frontier Province: History and Politics”, “Muslim League in the NWFP”, Khushal Khan Khattak Au Tarikh Nawisi (Pashto)”, Pukhtaney Khazey Au da Qaam Khidmat (Pashto)”, Pir of Manki Sharif Syed Amin al Hasanat Aur Unki Siyasi Jaddo Jehad (Urdu)”. He has been teaching at Quaid-i- Azam University since 1990 and won the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship at the University of Heidelberg, Germany in 1999. He also served as a professor at the South Asian Institute of Heidelberg University, Germany, from 2009 to August, 2014 and on his return became the Chairperson of history department and Director NIHCR in 2015.

He is a true and committed nonviolent progressive follower of Bacha Khan’s philosophy who like many other Pakistani independent scholars has worked for the educational uplift of the country and to expect them for becoming promoters of a specific ideology is a folly on the part of the authorities at the helm of the affairs. The very purpose of research is to find the real history and missing gaps based on facts and reason. The state institutions cannot succeed in making such scholars to become court historians and to distort history. Suppression of independent research, regional histories, negation of the role played by the nationalist freedom fighters, directing the universities to stop creating critical minds and work within the parameters of ideology is in fact an attempt to distort the real history. It will add to the increasing intolerance, hatred and lead the society towards the forces of bigotry and darkness. It’s high time for the higher authorities to let the universities free for undertaking research independent of any ideology and instead should work for keeping the historical record straight for the future generations so that people should learn from it.  It is useless to stop people thinking, particularly well known scholars who conduct their research based on facts and figures. The authorities should stop telling lies in the name of ideology and national history. Free and independent researchers cannot be controlled and their opinions are harder to distort.


Writer: Naeemullah Khan Dawar

The writer is a PhD student in the Department of History at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He hails from North Waziristan Agency. He can be reached at



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