GILGIT: As the government gears up to carry out a national census in March, the residents in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) are apprehensive they would be neglected once again since the population census form lacks a column for languages spoken in the region.
Shina is the major language spoken in Gilgit-Baltistan. It is followed by Balti, Burushaski and Wakhi.
However, forms for the upcoming census does not seem to have any column for these languages.
The omission is seen by residents of G-B as a continuation of Islamabad’s policy to ignore local voices in affairs of the region.
The G-B Legislative Assembly also discussed the matter during a session on Friday, but to no avail.
A lawmaker from opposition benches, Islami Tehreek Pakistan’s Captain (retd) Muhammad Shafi, tabled a resolution demanding that Shina and other languages of the region should be made a part of the census form.
However, the resolution failed to see the light of the day as the subject lay beyond the regional assembly’s jurisdiction.
“This is yet another [form of] discrimination against us after the denial of our constitutional rights,” Shafi cried after his resolution was dropped.
The issue, however, continues to be widely debated on the social media, with youth flaying the government for its lacklustre attitude and also failing to protect the interests of the region.
“The languages being spoken in four provinces and Azad Jammu and Kashmir are included in the form,” Amir Haider wrote on social media. “But what is missing is our language [Shina]. This is something the rulers must be ashamed of.”
Another activist wrote online that the government must play its role to include Shina language in the census form at least. Shina and Balti were among the languages listed in a bill which sought the status of national language for six other local languages. The bill had been moved by Marvi Memon in 2014, but it was rejected by National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice the same year due to lack of a pre-defined criteria.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2017.