The summary submitted to the Supreme Court by the federal government on promoting Urdu makes good sense. Under the proposal, the prime minister and the president will deliver their speeches in Urdu both within the country and abroad. In addition, all official documents and signboards will also be in the language. We should soon be seeing the beautiful Urdu script in many more places then, and the government decision should play a part in helping to resurrect a language that has been badly degraded. We seem to have failed to overcome the baggage that came with colonial rule and it is high time that we did. We must hope that sports figures and other people in the limelight will also follow the examples set by leaders and help restore Urdu’s standing. Statesmen and celebrities from around the world have no qualms about speaking in their national language. We need to shed those that we have.
Urdu is a language with an enormous volume of literary work. It has roots in a tradition that has seen giants emerge and take over poetry, the novel, short stories and so many forms of literature. We need to safeguard this heritage. The elevation of English to a higher status, with more and more seeking education in it adds to the problems in uplifting Urdu. We must try and change perceptions and claim back all that we have lost. The Constitution gives Urdu the status of our national language. We must now go beyond paper and turn this into an actual, living reality. Urdu, must at all levels, be lifted onto a higher pedestal.
Our difficulties with language are, however, considerable. Dozens are spoken across the country and they all deserve respect. The Supreme Court made it a point to mention the need to protect regional languages as well. The Court, in particular, rebuked Punjab for failing to promote the language spoken by the majority in that province, and suggested it take its lead from Balochistan on this. Certainly, we need to develop language policies to protect our lingual diversity. Other nations have succeeded in this. We must learn from them so we, too, can attain lingual balance.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2015.
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