Religion and citizenship education in Pakistan: The case of Gilgit-Baltistan

Nazim AMAN

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses


This study is aimed at understanding the dynamics of citizenship education in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), a politically disputed territory in the north of Pakistan characterised by religious and political anxieties. Because of being a part of Pakistan for all practical matters, albeit without due representation in national forums such as the parliament, the discourses of citizenship and citizenship education in GB are shaped by the overarching context of Pakistan and by contesting narratives of the interrelationship of state and religion.

The study is aimed at understanding the dynamics of citizenship and citizenship education discourse in GB through the lens of teachers’ understandings of these concepts and practices. The study is also illustrative of Pakistan’s citizenship education discourse and an example of a Muslim context. This study is a qualitative enquiry. The data has been collected through semi-structured in-depth interviews with native teachers (n-16) teaching Pakistan Studies (PKS) to students at secondary and higher secondary levels in GB. Thematic analysis has been used to analyse the data. The study has been conducted at the cross-cutting edge of politics, religion and education. A comprehensive conceptual framework has been developed to make sense of the complexity of citizenship and citizenship education phenomena. The framework is developed by placing the debate, on the one hand, in the web of religiopolitical and educational dynamics of Pakistan, in general, and GB, in particular, and, on the other hand, by invoking academic literature on citizenship and citizenship education.

The research findings have shown that teachers’ conceptualisation of citizenship and citizenship education as universal (abstract) concepts are not replicas of citizenship and citizenship education as developed in Western discourses. It has been revealed that citizenship’s social and moral dimensions are dominant compared to its political aspect. The purpose of citizenship education was understood lie in developing virtuous and morally responsible citizens contributing to humanity’s development. Nevertheless, the concept of morality was not explicitly linked with an individual’s political praxis, thereby privileging the social and moral dimensions over political aspects of citizenship. The dominant trend among the teachers showed that Islam dominates their imagination in their conceptualisations. The findings of this study show that the teachers are trying to create a conceptual basis of citizenship within Islam by linking equality, diversity, and human rights as inherent to Islamic teachings. Thus, a desire for Islamizing citizenship at the intellectual level was seen to be a dominant trend.

In terms of their understanding of the curriculum of Pakistan Studies and other subjects promoting citizenship education, it was found that teachers contest many dominant narratives presented in the curriculum. They consider the dominant narratives to be more aimed at developing a nation, defined in religious terms, at the cost of denying the country’s internal diversity. Therefore, citizenship education discourse promoted through PKS is seen to have failed to integrate Pakistan’s religious and cultural diversity.

Regarding GB, the findings have shown that their understanding of citizenship and citizenship education is significantly shaped by the interplay of political and religious anxieties specific to Gilgit-Baltistan. The findings have revealed that educational discourse is used to spread political ignorance and breed historical and cultural ignorance, resulting in the construction of what I have called a discourse of self-alienating citizenship education. As an effect of such a discourse, self-alienated and docile citizens are produced, who are kept unaware of their history and culture and remain engaged with the official narratives about the history and culture of Pakistan in an uncontested manner. Such a discourse is aimed at maintaining the practical hegemony of the state through its institutions and is meant to attain legitimacy of the practical hegemony through education. The self-alienating citizenship education discourse is found to have underpinnings of depoliticising practices, and citizenship education is used both as a tool of maintaining practical hegemony and as a technique of attaining the legitimacy of control through education. However, as a byproduct of such a discourse, an alternate discourse of failed citizenship also seems to be developing, which can only be harnessed by promoting a discourse of transformative citizenship. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The Education University of Hong Kong
  • ZHAO, Zhenzhou 趙振洲, Supervisor
  • FAIRBROTHER, Gregory Paul, Supervisor
  • HO, Wai Yip, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Citizenship
  • Citizenship education
  • Islam
  • Pakistan
  • Gilgit-Baltistan
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Ph.D.)--The Education University of Hong Kong, 2021.


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