Mood sours in G-B after exclusion of regional languages in census form

Language omission is another form of discrimination, says lawmaker Muhammad Shafi


Shabbir Mir February 27, 2017
The omission of the regional languages of G-B has sparked outrage amongst residents.PHOTO: AFP

GILGIT: The exclusion of regional languages in the forthcoming population census form has drawn the ire of residents of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B)

Shina is the predominantly spoken language in G-B followed by Balti, Brushaski and Wakhi, which are also spoken in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

There is a total of 1.5 million people currently living in the region.

However, the population census form has no space for any of the aforementioned languages.

The omission is seen as a continuation of Islamabad's policy to disregard local voices in the affairs of a region struggling to be a part of the country constitutionally since its inception.

On Friday, the contentious issue was raised in the G-B assembly but to no avail.

Muhammad Shafi, a lawmaker from the opposition benches, tabled a resolution demanding that Shina along with other languages be made a part of the census form.

Sixth Population Census: PBS finalises arrangements

The resolution, however, failed to gain any traction as the subject was deemed to be beyond the jurisdiction of the regional assembly.

“This is yet another form of discrimination against us after the denial of our constitutional rights,” Shafi lamented after the resolution was dropped.

The issue was also debated on social media, with the youth flaying the government for its lacklustre attitude as well as failing to protect interests of the region.

“The languages being spoken in four provinces and AJK are included in the form,” said Amir Haider on social media.

“But what is missing is our language. This is something the rulers must be ashamed of,” he added.

Similarly, another activist wrote online that the government must play its role in including the Shina language in the form as a bear minimum.

Long-awaited population census and problems it poses

Previously, Shina and Balti were the languages which were part of a bill that sought national language status along with the six other local languages.

Back in 2014, the bill had been moved by parliamentarian Marvi Memon.

It was rejected by the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice the same year due to lack of pre-defined criteria.

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