Textbook withdrawn for praising Bush

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The Independent Online

The Pakistan government has ordered school textbooks to be withdrawn after it emerged they included a crudely written poem in praise of US President George Bush.

At first sight, "The Leader" extols the virtues of an unnamed political leader, but on closer examination it turns out that the poem is "acrostic": the first letters of each line spell out "President George W Bush".

Several Pakistani newspapers printed the poem, and President Pervez Musharraf's critics seized on it as evidence that his regime is in the pocket of the US. They accused the government of deliberately including the poem in an attempt to puff Mr Bush.

But the education ministry said the truth behind the poem's inclusion is more prosaic - though still embarrassing. It says the textbook's authors stole it off the internet without realising the poem had anything to do with President Bush.

The poem was included in an English language text book for 16-year-olds. If it was knowingly used by the authorities, it would certainly amount to glorifying Mr Bush. It describes him as "Bracing for war, yet praying for peace/Using his power so evil will cease".

But what is not clear is how the verse was supposed to improve students' English. Written in rhyming couplets, it includes language as clumsy as: "Going forward and knowing he's right/Even when doubted for why he would fight"; and as vapid as "Easy in manner, solid as steel/Strong in his faith, refreshingly real".

The education ministry said the poem's inclusion in the textbook was unacceptable, and accused the book's authors of "oversight" and "negligence". The books will now be replaced.

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