Urdu as official language
Invasions into territories invite invasions into cultures. Colonial rule created rifts within sub-continental society, replacing the ulema as educators or chief guardians of knowledge with those who had received Western education. Leaders who were conversant with English and accustomed to the English way of life, such as Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, led the independence movements of Pakistan and India. Their leadership and their post-Partition rule made them iconic figures and role models for future generations. Once the dust of Partition settled, India and Pakistan faced various problems on cultural and social fronts. One of these problems was the selection of a single language as the national language.
Language has an integral role in forming the culture of any society. Pakistan is a linguistically diverse country. Its official language, currently in use, is English, whereas Urdu is its national language. Article 251 of the Constitution required Urdu to be used for official and other purposes within 15 years from the establishment of the 1973 Constitution. The Constitution permitted the use of English for official purposes until arrangements were made for its replacement by Urdu. Parliament and other executive bodies remained oblivious to this significant provision. The superior courts also took decades before passing the recent direction, for the enforcement of Urdu as the official language.
It is an undeniable reality that Urdu is a remarkable language — having an extensive history, rich in vocabulary, brimming with literature and rich in prose and poetry. Urdu has produced some of the world’s finest poets, novelists and fiction writers. These luminaries have added to the ever-shining glory of the language. However, it is also a reality that regional languages like Pashto, Sindhi, Balochi and Punjabi are spoken widely in the country. Implementation of Urdu as an official language is a reform and not a revolution. This reform must crop up from schools and a new generation, with understanding, prudence and aptitude for the Urdu language has to be raised.
In view of the diversity of cultures and languages in Pakistan, the imposition of one language after 68 years of independence is like trying to catch a missed train. A better solution can be reached if parliament amends the time period required for implementation of Urdu as our official language. Muhammad Saad Khan,