Linguists, intellectuals, researchers, writers and activists have called for steps to preserve and promote regional languages, especially the endangered dialects. Promotion of all regional languages is vital for cultural diversity and national harmony.
They also demanded the federal and provincial governments to take concrete steps including formation of language development authorities in all provinces and imparting education in mother tongue.
They were speaking at different programmes organised by literary and cultural organisations in connection with International Mother Tongue Day in the federal capital.
An interactive dialogue on “Safeguarding Mother Tongues in an Era of Imperialist Globalization” was organised by the Rural Development Policy Institute (RDPI), National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage, or Lok Virsa.
The participants, that included writers, historians, academics and students, also demanded that the government should convert Pakistan study centres into national languages study centres, which National Heritage and Integration Division Secretary Fareedullah agreed to recommend to the provincial governments.
The speakers were of the view that the regional languages are rapidly disappearing, which is a matter of concern.
They also regretted that most educated parents do not speak to their children in their mother tongues, which is contributing to the swift demise of these languages.
Writer and historian Ahmed Salim said that Urdu is only spoken by eight per cent of the population and the majority of populations speak other languages. Describing the historical perspective of the Begali language, he said that when Bengalis demanded that their language be declared national language, they were labeled as traitors.
He said that Bengalis bore the brunt of economic and political exploitation, but could not bear the cultural and traditional exploitation and discrimination, and resultantly they created a separate homeland for themselves.
Dr Khadim Hussain, Director of the Bacha Khan Cultural Heritage Centre in Peshawar, stressed the importance research and studies and preserving regional languages.
“When the language of a certain area dies, it means that the indigenous knowledge, thinking and research also die,” he said. He added that there are around 60 languages in Pakistan, 30 of which are spoken in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan, and that the provincial and federal governments should establish language development authorities in every provinces to promote them.
Lok Virsa Research Director Iqbal Haider Jatoi said that there is no clash of languages in any part of the country, but rather there has always been a clash of interests, political ideology and thinking which led to the destruction of languages.
‘Make every tongue a mother tongue’
Speaking at a seminar on “Mother tongue instruction and inclusive education”, organised by Sindhi Adabi Sangat Islamabad chapter, in collaboration with National Language Authority (NLA), the participants adopted a resolution declaring all provincial languages as national languages and making mother language studies compulsory at the primary level in private schools and up to secondary level in government schools.
They called for establishing universities and colleges at the federal level on the pattern of Federal Urdu University, Karachi.
For instance, a student from Karachi should be taught English, Urdu and Sindhi from kindergarten so that children grasp concepts taught to them more effectively in their mother tongue, which will lead to a greater capacity to eventually learn new languages as well.
The participants also demanded that the official work of provincial assemblies be conducted in local languages.
Member National Assembly Nawab Yousaf Talpur commented, “Pakistan will prosper and progress with by making local languages into national languages and provincial identity will be safeguarded, leading to decreased animosity between the provinces.”
He said a bill to give provincial languages the status of national languages will be passed soon and PM Gilani has assured full support for it.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2012.