By Nasir Dehwar
Article: 251 National Languages:
(1) The National language of Pakistan is Urdu, and arrangements shall be made for its being used for official and other purposes within fifteen years from the commencing day.
(2) Subject to clause (1), the English language may be used for official purposes until arrangements are made for its replacement by Urdu.
(3) Without prejudice to the status of the National Language, a Provincial Assembly may by law prescribe measure for the teaching, promotion and use of a provincial language in addition to the national language.
Article 251 of the Constitution of 1973 had a disposition for the replacement of English by Urdu as the official language of Pakistan within 15 years. However, mostly by inertia, the previous Governments were unable to do so, until the Supreme Court ruling in September 2015 revived the issue.
Finally, the Supreme Court and, later on, the Federal Government, notified that Urdu would be the official language of Pakistan and since then the Government of the Provinces have been making efforts to implement the ruling. Although the Court ruling is very clear in terms of spirit the language utilized in the order is very indistinct.
Moreover, what is also not clear is the new status of the English language. Offices continue to send official notices in English and at the same time are trying to comply with the ruling of the Supreme Court utilizing translations in Urdu.
It seems, English is still operating as the official language and Urdu has been added as an additional official language, as a matter of fact, Urdu can take over as official language when English will be abandoned clearly.
In this regard, considering the fact that English language is the language of international communication, foreign education, science and social media the new policies have resulted in a discussion among the language scientists on whether it is really possible to eliminate English and if yes, what loss Pakistan would have to face by doing so.
The result of the discussion seems to be that English is not a language in recession in Pakistan, rather the opposite. In this study the challenges, opportunities and prospects of the new linguistic reality that the order of the Supreme Court caused, will be discussed and analyzed.
The study also suggests an amendment in the Constitution to deal with this issue and make the language clear, effective, and implementable without any vagueness and confusion.
Enforcing Urdu as an official language might open up doors for the revival of Urdu culture but this sudden change in official language can act as a hurdle for smooth functioning of different offices. Language is one of the most powerful tools of living a social life. From the day this universe was created, human beings communicated with each other in different ways, which helped in the development of language.
Language is not just a mode of communication but it is also the main source of self-expression. The Constitution of Pakistan (1973) clearly stated the adoption of Urdu as the official language in the next 15 years.
The time period of those 15 years completed in 1988 but no practical steps were taken in this regard and English remained the official language. In recent past, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the Nawaz Government to immediately adopt Urdu as the official language of Pakistan.
Federal Government Departments have been asked to translate all their policies and rules in Urdu in a short period of 3 months.
This ruling started a debate throughout the country, whether we should stick to English which is an international Lingua Franca or enforce Urdu, which is a symbol of our national heritage and our identity.
Enforcing Urdu as an official language might open up doors for the revival of Urdu culture but this sudden change in official language can act as a hurdle for smooth functioning of different offices. Since English is an international language, imposing Urdu can be a drawback for the effective working of international projects.
The 1973 Constitution recognizes Urdu as Pakistan’s only national language. It also promises to make it the official language of the state. Article 251 of the Constitution says “arrangements shall be made for (Urdu) is being used for official and other purposes within (next) fifteen years”.
A sub clause allows the use of English until those arrangements are made; another sub clause permits provinces to promote “provincial languages” alongside Urdu.
(To be continued……)
Finally, the Supreme Court and, later on, the Federal Government, notified that
Urdu would be the official language of Pakistan and since then the Government
of the Provinces have been making efforts to implement the ruling. Although the
Court ruling is very clear in terms
of spirit the language utilized
in the order is very indistinct.