Apathy towards national language


THE present government deserves credit for launching numerous initiatives aimed at exploiting the untapped potential of the country and promoting national unity and harmony including introduction of a Single National Curriculum.

However, sociologists firmly believe that realization of these cherished objectives would remain a far off cry until and unless concrete steps are taken to give Urdu, our national language, its legitimate place without further loss of time.

This is because the country can scale the zenith of progress and prosperity with accelerated speed and ease, like many other countries of the globe, provided we adopt Urdu as official and educational language in the true sense of the word.

It is a foregone conclusion that language is the most powerful tool for self-expression and that is why soon after the inception of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah stressed the need for adoption of Urdu as a national language, though his own mother tongue was different from Urdu.

He rightly believed that Urdu, being the most resilient and easily understood language, is the common lingua franca of the sub-continent.

It will not only be a mother tongue but also a unifying force among diverse ethnic communities of Pakistan.

According to reliable data, 70 million people spoke Urdu as a primary language and 100 million as secondary language mostly in Pakistan and India but it is widely understood by 300 million people around the globe.

Amir Khusro (1253-1325) was a great exponent of Urdu who composed Dohas (couplets), folk songs Rekhta-Zaban-e-Urdu. Our great teachers were educated in Urdu at Usmania University of Hyderabad, Deccan.

In fact, Urdu is a mixture of different languages such as Arabic, Persian and Turkish and is a modified form of Perso-Arabic script known as Nastaliq.

Though different languages are spoken in Pakistan, Urdu has the distinction of being the language of communication besides the fact that it is not associated with any particular region or ethnicity.

It is easily understood and spoken in almost all parts of Pakistan, Jammu and Kashmir and even Afghanistan and India.

No one can underestimate the importance and significance of mother tongues and English but we have before us examples of many countries that achieved all-round progress and development because of their love for their national languages.

We know that even top leaders of countries like Turkey, China, Japan, Korea and Russia prefer speaking their own languages during interaction with other leaders and addresses at different forums but we are sticking to the English, which is reflective of inferiority complex.

Importance of English notwithstanding, countries like China, a superpower, achieved independence along with us and has used its native language in every field.

Today they have advanced in every profession with stronger economic base.

Similarly there are many smaller countries like Sri Lanka, Vietnam and many Arabian countries, which have adopted their native language in their system and are thriving on a very strong economic platform.

It is regrettable that despite Constitutional obligations and the explicit orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, we have miserably failed to adopt Urdu as our official language during the long journey of 70 years.

The apathy of the successive governments can be judged by the fact that under Article-251 of the 1973 Constitution, the State was to take steps to make Urdu as official language of the country within fifteen years i.e. up to 1988 but only lip service was paid to this aspect.

We must be mindful of the fact that Urdu had an important role in laying down the foundations of the Two-Nation Theory that formed the basis for creation of Pakistan and it can serve as a unifying force if properly patronized.

In the face of multitudes of challenges that the country is faced with including consistent attacks on its national identity, there is all the more need to adopt measures that can help forge unity among ranks of people of Pakistan and Urdu has the potential to contribute significantly towards that end.

Apart from the Government, it is also the responsibility of each and every segment of the society to contribute its share towards the goal of promotion of the national language.

Our educated mothers ought to change their attitude and shun the idea of teaching English to our budding children and instead familiarizing them with Urdu.

We must move forward step by step and infuse Urdu in the National Education Policy to promote it in a gradual process in the teaching institutions, alongside English as an international language.