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Linguistic dilemma: Language policy and nationalization of indigenous languages. – The Triangle Space
The writer is an assistant professor in English @Mehran University of engineering and technology Jamshoro.
Linguistic dilemma: Language policy and nationalization of indigenous languages

Linguistic dilemma: Language policy and nationalization of indigenous languages.


The writer is an assistant professor in English @Mehran University of engineering and technology Jamshoro.




Since its independence, Pakistan has been in continuous dilemmas of different issues amongst them the language is one of the unsettled issues of Pakistan.

The Pakistani state has been playing with language for so long that it caused the separation of East Bengal; which resulted in a massacre of blood and left the entire country into two after the birth of 24 years of Pakistan.

Hegel the Russian Philosopher once said,” We learn from history that we do not learn from history”.  The same goes with this state of Pakistan yet we have not learned from history and still, this state is unwilling to quit playing with the language of Pakistan. Since the advent of this state, an ideology was set to rule the people; Urdu was imposed upon the people by our founder Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali, who himself did not know Urdu. As, language contains ideological baggage (Whorf, 1956)

The primary purpose of ideology was to hold the political interests of a certain class that has set its own ideology to run the state.

Language has been treated as means of communication throughout the world to get messages across, as regards Pakistan it has paved its way into politics and course books as well.

This essay will discuss the language policies and crisis of Pakistan and leave an open debate to be discussed or researched.

Imagined country


One of the masterpiece works of Urdu fiction ”Aag ka Darya (River of fire)” was written by the renowned writer of then-era Qurratulain Hyder the decade after partition 1957. At that time novel appeared in Urdu and witnessed so many language conflict issues in the country.

The narrator’s own observation was that the language was “paying the price” by emphasizing the importance of Urdu and making an ideology that was fabricated to be the Muslim land of Pakistan. To add fuel to the fire, the film was made in 1955” Hamari Zaban” Our language that praised Urdu Moreover, as noted by the film historian Mushtaq Gazdar that the movie was not audience pleasers but rather created an ideology of the Iqbaliat genre. Although the census 1951 showed the limited number of Urdu speakers as the census author E.H Slade himself:

95 percent of the inhabitants of Pakistan have claimed one or other of the following 5 chief languages as their Mother-tongue, namely Bengali, Panjabi, Pushtu, Sindhi, and Urdu. 98 percent of the inhabitants of East Bengal have Bengali as their Mother-tongue and they represent 55 percent of the total population of Pakistan. Punjabi is the Mother-tongue of 28 percent of the total inhabitants of Pakistan, Sindhi 5.3 percent, Pushtu 6.6, and  Urdu 3.3 percent.

In the past we see this country eventually suffered the dearth of leadership, Pakistan hardly led sixty years of independence half of which remained under military dictatorship. After independence Mohammad Ali Jinnah served as the country’s Governor-General until his untimely death in 1948, this led to the troubled first decade.

General Ayub Khan, later Field Martial, carried out the country’s first coup in 1958. He held power for 11 years and handed it over the reins to another General Yahya khan, who ruled from 1969-1971 and presided over the bloody war in East Pakistan. Consequently, lost half of the country.

     English and its power


As we were the British colony so we inherited English from the very first day of independence. English was frequently used in the institution of the state such as the elite schools, the civil services, courts, etc, so to speak, it was the administrative language, moreover, the country’s leadership conducted business through English. We can see the symbolic posture of English in the public addresses made by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, including those asserting that “Urdu is the language of Pakistan and no other, were all made in English.

The crisis within the provinces of Pakistan


As it was discussed earlier that Pakistan has been in crisis over the issue of language, similarly such crisis led this state to create another dilemma within provinces.

    Sindhi’s concern


After the independence, the hordes of Muhaajir immigrants kept settling and started fighting for the acceptance of their own language. In 1983, there were riots and at that time Altaf Hussain emerged as a student leader and was said to have been supported by ISI. There were small fights within the province resulting in the killing of Sindhi’s and Muhaajirs.

December 1988 agreement was signed by the PPP and MQM which temporarily halted the violence.

Siraiki Movement


Discussing the language issues it will not be less than injustice if the Siraiki movement is not mentioned here, people hardly know about this movement, though the origin of the word “Siraiki” is derived from the Sindhi word for “north” (siro) and this is used to describe “the language of immigrants from the north, particularly the Baloch tribes who acquired the language on their migration to South.

They led their movement to demand their separate province and acceptance of their language within the imagined province to which they named Siraikistan which covers more than half of what is present-day Punjab. Siraiki claimed that they can learn any language of the world but others can not learn Siraiki because its sounds are difficult.

The Bhawalpur Muttahida Mahaz (BMM) Bhawalpur United Front began protests resulting in the killings of people.

In the December 1970 election, Z.A Bhutto came with power, and having seen the success of BMM they were able to place themselves in provincial and national assemblies. Having got power the party reduced its vigorous agitations. Thus, the whole movement remained immobile for the time to come.


Pakhtun’s concern


Before the partition, the Pakhtun’s leader Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan who was often called the frontier Gandhi had not initially supported the Jinnah Muslim league because he was not in favor of partition but rather interested in Pakhtunistan which could give an autonomous land for the Pathans.                 

He founded the magazine Pakhtun in 1928 which promoted the use of Pashto language and literature. His party National Congress was said to have sympathies with the Indian National Congress. They were in power in the NWFP and were led by Ghaffar khan’s brother Dr. Khan Sahib. Seeing this threat Jinnah soon after the partition dismissed the assembly and invited their political opponent Abdul Qayum Khan to form a government.

In 1950 the new legislation Assembly of the NWFP led by Abdul Qayum Khan moved a resolution designed to prove their allegiance to the Pakistan nation by making Urdu the language of courts. This went on for years to come then in 2008 the power was returned to Awami National Party to control the province. The ANP’s government emphasized the renaming of the province as “Pakhtunkhwa” and also laid focus on Pashto language education.

Currently, the same situation continues in this state of Pakistan though, different drafts were forwarded to limit the sphere of English no result came as positive.

English was that much important that during the first education conference in Karachi in 1947, the chairman Fazul Rehman remarked regarding English that “we should not throw away a language which gives us so easy access to all the secrets of western science and culture”.

With the rise of global English, private schools have paved their way in Pakistan’s major cities resulting in a large stampede of parents irrespective of their income. Parents are said to believe that English gives surety for the job in the future.



As the entire discussion witnessed that since the very inception of Pakistan language has been one of the big unsettled issues of Pakistan and created conflict, often of a violent nature.

National and educational policies were designed explicitly to shape this country into one of the cultural and linguistic uniformity which proved to the contrary.

Urdu was declared the national language despite the fact that it was the first language of no more than three percent of the country’s overall population.

One of the funny things is that the national language was associated with the idea of a Muslim nation and other regional languages were demoted to the status of somehow less Islamic. Language-based disputes took place in different parts of the country resulting in the country into two parts which was the huge language price for Pakistan.

The more the linguistic diversity the more the language gets enriched, so it’s high time that the Pakistani government realized and should learn from the neighboring country India where even Sindhi language has the status of national language otherwise the history repeats itself as I would again quote the words of the Urdu writer late Qurratulain Hyder which says, “language was paying the price for the emphasis on the national importance of Urdu for the creation and existence of the Muslim homeland.”




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1 Comment

  1. Thoughtful write up sir.
    The best line from Hegel, “we learn from history that we don’t learn from history”

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