Saturday, 4 June 2011
Mind your language! Part 1
“This bill is anti-Pakistan and we will not allow anyone to go for the passage of this bill, which is contrary to the vision of the founding father, Quaid-e-Azam, who declared Urdu as the national language,” MNA Saeed Ahmed Zafar declared in an angry tone.
The bill in question? PML-Q MNA Marvi Memon had submitted the bill in the National Assembly Secretariat seeking regional languages including Sindhi, Pushto, Saraiki, Baluchi, Punjabi, Balti and Shena be given the status of national language.
Pakistan has had a tortured relationship with language and multicultural expression. To put things in context the unitary concept of Urdu and Urdu alone, as the lingua franca of Pakistan launched the Bengal language movement. On 21 February 1952 ,this movement culiminated with the tragic killing of students, with police opening fire on demonstrators demanding Bengali being declared joint national language with Urdu. This date is now recognised as international Mother language day. So why does this issue trigger of strong emotions, some will cite Jinnahs "Urdu, and Urdu alone shall be the State Language of Pakistan" speeches in Dhaka (March 21, 1948), but this was based on an attempt to forge some sense of common identity in a nation that was so disparate.
If anything the events of 1971, should have shown to Pakistani nationalists, that the co-existence of different ethno-cultural groups is on the basis of each group getting the most out of a federation and not out of a created sense of identity.
A version of this post was published today in the DAWN