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Mother Tongues as National Languages

Last Sunday, the nation celebrated the “Lahore resolution day”, which has in modern times, come to be known as Pakistan Day. The mere incidence that the day fell on a Sunday was disliked by few, for they had to forego a public holiday which they would have otherwise enjoyed. But had the day been celebrated on the original date, on which the resolution was adopted, many would have had the pleasure of enjoying a day-off on Monday (as ‘The Lahore Resolution’ was adopted on the final day of the three day general session of the All-India Muslim League (22nd – 24th March 1940).

Though the day is celebrated in a jubilant manner each year by the military men and the government, none has ever made an effort in vetting the resolution and pursuing the objectives laid out in it. This year, the entire day, media gave coverage to the Prime Minister launching his mega bus project for Rawalpindi, and the military men received coverage for performing the famous “21 Toppon ki Salami” and doing other warfare drills.

The President having put on weight was seen in troubles in his misfit Sherwani all day long, especially at the award distribution ceremony. The original resolution had called for ‘independent’ states (provinces) that were ‘autonomous’ and ‘sovereign’, but no one bothers to talk about it anymore.

The same is interpreted of Quaid’s vision, who desired strong autonomous states, with a less strong centre. Unfortunately, instead of adopting a federal form of governance, we have leaned to following a ‘quasi-federal’ form of government that is closer to a unitary form of government.

In the midst of this all, the provinces have not only lost their power to legislate, the escalating tensions between the centre and the provinces have resulted in the country losing its eastern wing in 1971 and more recently the rise of rebels in Baluchistan.

At the time of Independence (1947), all nations living in Pakistan had demanded that all the languages that are being spoken as their mother tongue languages be declared as National languages of Pakistan, along with Urdu. At the time of independence, Urdu was the language of 3.1% of the total population of United Pakistan.

The struggle for declaring Bengali as the other national language of Pakistan, a language of the then majority of the United Pakistan, turned into a horrific incident resulting into a national embarrassment when four students were shot dead by the security forces. Every year on the 21st of February “International Mother Language Day” is celebrated world over; the date represents the killing down of those students (in Dhaka) demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bengali, as one of the two national languages of the then Pakistan.

In other provinces, after the independence of Bangladesh, the storm slowly and gradually subsided below but even today the emotional upsurge continues in every province in the form of various non-violent movements. The people of all provinces feel deprived over the matter of their languages not attaining the national status. To give recognition to such deprivation the Pakistan Academy of Letters had declared in 1994 .all languages of Pakistan as national languages of the country

Our neighbouring, India, has in its Constitution of the Union of India (1949) under the EIGHTH schedule recognized eighteen languages, which are referred to as national languages of India; amongst these are Urdu and Sindhi as well.

The constitution of India (under Articles 344 – 351) has enjoined upon the government of India to ensure the development of all languages included in the eighth schedule of the Indian Constitution and their recognition as official state languages.

The Central government of India has also taken the responsibility of providing support to Sindhi, as well as Urdu and Sanskrit on the ground that these languages have no State of their own to support them.

Unfortunately, in our country, the provincial legislatures have long been making such demands but the central governments have always turned deaf ears to any such proposals or requests. For example, in the province of Sindh, the Sindh Assembly passed a resolution unanimously (Resolution No. PAS/Legis-G-8/2010/1832, dated 19th Feb, 2010) to ensure the implementation of the 1972 Act (Sindh – Teaching, Promotion, and use of Sindhi language) and the Amendment Act of 1990.

In 2013, the Sindh Assembly passed another resolution unanimously (Resolution No. PAS/Legis –G-12/2013/508 dated 22nd March 2013) moved by the then Minister for Culture recommending the federal government, that since Balochi, Punjabi, Pushto and Sindhi, languages of federating states have not been given their due status in the constitution of Pakistan, therefore the Federal Parliament amend Article 251 of the Constitution of Pakistan in order that these languages acquire national status as national languages of Pakistan.

Again this year (2014), on the “International Mother Language Day”, MPA -Mahtab Akbar Rashidi, recommended the Sindh government to approach the Federal government for adaption of provincial languages as National languages of Pakistan.

It is a matter of grave concern, that although many of the languages currently being spoken in Pakistan fulfil the criteria of a national language, their due recognition has not been awarded to them. (The criteria set for a national language requires the use of language by society for all purposes in daily life, that it is being spoken by a nation throughout its generations from times immemorial, is being used as official and court language, as a medium of instruction in educational institutions, and for literary and media communication).

Taking the example of Sindhi language to satisfy the criteria, there are, currently 8 Sindhi TV channels (five-news and three entertainment), 22 FM radios, more than 30 daily mainstream newspapers, and a range of weekly, fortnightly, monthly and quarterly magazines, periodicals and research journals.

After being recognized by Microsoft as language of Unicode, Sindhi has become one of the cyber languages of the world. The language continues to be spoken and written from times of Mohen-jo-Daro, and has a well-structured grammar and composition, standard script, large inventory of consonants and vowels (46 consonants phonemes and 16 vowels), rich volumes of lexicography (i.e dictionaries of revenue, law, natural, health and social sciences, dictionaries of official terms etc.) and Encyclopaedias. NADRA issues C.N.I.C cards in this language and the language is used as a medium of instruction.

As a medium of instruction – Masters’, M.Phil and PhD degrees are taught, researched and examined in Sindhi language at universities in various subjects (such as Economics, International Relations, Mass Communication etc.) and the language is used for official purposes such as maintaining of records by Revenue Dept. etc.

The PML(N) manifesto for 2013 election had stated the establishment of a National language Commission. In this regard, very recently, a meeting of the Standing Committee of the National Assembly also took place In this regard, the PML(N) government has taken a first step in the right direction but it must ensure that it completes the task.

The development and promotion of culture and language would ensure the much needed harmony and also help in reducing the tensions between the provinces and the centre. It is also in the fitness of the present conditions: political, social, and educational to declare Baluchi, Sindhi, Punjabi, Pashto and other mother tongue languages as National Languages of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Giving recognition to provincial languages as national languages would not only reduce the deprivation of the provinces, it would also mean the enforcement of the ‘Lahore Resolution’ in true spirit and such a state would be the true reflection of Quaid’s vision.

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