In pursuit of his passion for linguistics, Rehmat Aziz Khan Chitrali, the man behind the first-ever virtual Khowar language keyboard has achieved yet another remarkable feat — a software that allows typing in some 40 local languages.
The 44-year-old is an eminent poet, writer, linguist and researcher renowned not just in his native Chitral district but across the country for his immense work for the promotion of local languages, particularly Khowar, his mother tongue.
Speaking to The Express Tribune from Chitral via telephone, Khan said he has developed a software that can be used to type in as many as 40 local languages, including Shina, Balti, Pashto, Kohistani, Damairi, Gojari, Dari, Ormuri, Yalolah, Hindko, Potohari and Torwali among others.
Khan earlier developed a keyboard for Khowar, a language spoken by around one million people in Chitral and several parts of Gilgit-Baltistan.
The developer could have sold his creation for a profit, but he decided to release it on the worldwide web instead, so that language lovers like him can use it free of cost. “Being a linguist, I’m in love with languages, and this is a gift from me to the people of Pakistan,” said Khan, who hails from the remote valley of Mirandeh Khot. He believes he is the first person in the world to create a software which allows the typing of 40 languages at a single platform. His software can be accessed at www.branah.com/khowar.
A life in service
Khan has worked untiringly for the promotion of Khowar. He is responsible for introducing Khowar within the 1st to 12th grade syllabi across schools in Chitral as well as setting up departments within Allama Iqbal Open University and Karachi’s Urdu University devoted to the language’s study.
He has also written several children’s books and developed a dictionary in order to engage the youth. A large part of Khan’s life has been devoted to writing about his local landscape; through his work he has highlighted issues of education, human rights and language preservation.
According to the regional online newspaper, The Dardistan Times, Khan is the reigning father of the Khowar language and is also widely regarded in upper Chitral as the “supreme living authority on life and work of Allama Iqbal.”
In an article published in 2012, the newspaper stated Khan has translated Allama Iqbal’s books Bang-e-Dara, Bal-e-Jibreel, Zarb-e-Kaleem, Zaboor-e-Ajam and Armughan-e-Hijaz into Khowar.
“He has penned more than 100 scholarly articles, 50 book reviews and 1,400 editorials, columns for Chitrali, Shimali and Pakistani newspapers,” it added.
Khan has also won several awards throughout his career, including the Sanad-e-Imtiaz for children’s literature from the Ministry of Education and Shandoor Literature and Journalism Award.
Some of his writings in Khowar can be found at www.scribd.com/khowaracademy.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th, 2014.