Will Urdu ever be official language of Pakistan?

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 02:59 PM, 27 Aug, 2020
Will Urdu ever be official language of Pakistan?

What is the future of Urdu in Pakistan? Will it ever be made the official language of the country? 

While it’s a fact that Urdu could not be made the official language of Pakistan even after 73 years of independence, it is hard to say whether any government will take practical steps required for the purpose.

It will not be wrong to say that the governments have their own priorities, and they generally prefer to work on projects that can bring them political dividends in elections. Introduction of Urdu as official language of Pakistan is an idea the importance of which will not be understood by all.

On the other hand, it will be strongly opposed by the elite classes, who send their children to English medium institutions – in the country or abroad. For them, English should be promoted at all levels – and, so far, they have succeeded in convincing successive governments with their arguments. 

There are countless English medium educational institutions in the country that are charging high fees from their students. Compared to them there is little attraction for the ones run by the government. Only those parents send their children to these institutions who cannot afford the high fees of English-medium institutions. 

Unfortunately, English language has become a benchmark to judge the literacy level of an individual. This trend is taking the young generations further away from the national language. Even the competitive exams are held in the English language

It was in 2015 when it was reported that Pakistan is dropping English as its official language and switching to Urdu. The long-rumoured change was confirmed by then Minister of Planning, National Reforms, and Development Ahsan Iqbal in an exclusive interview with TIME. 

However, so far there is no headway in this direction. 

Our lack of seriousness about the matter can be judged from the fact that a few days ago the Senate took up a resolution urging the government to take concrete steps for making Urdu the country’s official language. However, voting on it was deferred because of a technical objection raised by the Leader of the House, Dr Shahzad Wasim. 

It was only a resolution and nobody knows how long it will take the relevant authorities to translate the words into reality.

The resolution said: “In the light of sayings of Allama Muhammad Iqbal and Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah about Urdu as the National Language of Pakistan, Articles 5 and 251 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, and the decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan dated Sept 8, 2015, this House recognises that Urdu is not only the basis of social and cultural identity of the nation but also a symbol of unity and development of the state. 

“The House expresses its concern on the fact that despite the sayings of the founders of Pakistan, articles of the Constitution and decision of the Supreme Court, no concrete steps have been taken regarding the national language, resulting in adverse effects on national unity, identity and development. 

“Keeping the development of national unity and cultural identity in view, this House recommends that the government should: 

(1) take concrete steps for using Urdu as official language in accordance with Article 251 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, within the time period prescribed by the government on July 6, 2015; 

(2) take steps for coordination with the provincial governments in order to develop a uniform manuscript of the national language; 

(3) take measures to translate and publish the federal and provincial laws in Urdu for facilitation of general public and to upload the same on the Law Division’s website; 

(4) make arrangements for conducting the competitive examinations in Urdu and also to make it as medium of instructions in all the educational institutions in the country; 

(5) the decision of the courts should be written and published in Urdu gradually; 

(6) all the government departments should use Urdu for submission of their comments, replies and arguments in their court cases; 

(7) all the academic books should be translated in Urdu by the National Language Authority and other concerned departments so that Urdu can be made medium of instruction in all the educational institutions within one year; and (8) the government should present a monthly report before the National Assembly and the Senate about the action taken for the development of Urdu language.” 

The nation will be anxiously waiting for any steps to be taken by the PTI government on this important issue.