The Sindh High Court put the attorney general and the deputy attorney general on notice in a case, demanding the declaration of Urdu and Sindhi as official languages according to the Constitution.
Chief Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi were hearing a petition filed by the People’s Rights Movement in 2008. On Wednesday, Sindh Additional Advocate General Haleema Khan submitted a written reply to the petition and said that efforts are being made to comply with the provisions of Article 251 of the Constitution of Pakistan.
The petitioner maintained that, under the Constitution, the federal and provincial governments were bound to phase out the use of English and make Urdu the official language latest by August 1987. The government was also to promote and ensure the use of Sindhi as a provincial language by December 1984. The delay is a violation of the Constitution, the petitioner said.
It also appealed to the court to direct the respondents - Sindh Public Service Commission, education secretary, private schools directorate, Intermediate board director, law secretary, Sindhi Language Authority chairperson and Muqtadira Qaumi Zaban - to stop using the English language and make Sindhi a compulsory subject till Intermediate.
For its part, the Sindh government said that a few institutions were established to make arrangements for Urdu to replace English as the official language within 15 years but they could not accomplish the task within the specified period. The respondents also denied that English is given preference over Urdu.
According to the respondents, the literacy rate in Sindh is increasing and a good percentage of the population now knows and understands English. Even most research is conducted in English so “it is in the interest of the nation to continue using it for certain official and other purposes”.
The comments also stated that in all parts of the province, excluding Karachi, most of the official work is carried out in Sindhi, which is taught as a compulsory subject as well.
The bench ordered that “since the matter pertains to humanitarian and constitutional mandates, let notice be issued to the attorney general and the deputy attorney general”. The next hearing will be notified by the office of the court later.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2011.