A language-based national identity( language as a tool of harmony)-DAWN

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A LANGUAGE is one of the unifying forces of a nation. Much before the English, the French and the Germans, the Arabs spread their rule on a vast portion of the globe. The success of their empire was mainly due to one language and one religion: Arabic and Islam. The Arab Empire deteriorated when the unity of the language was broken and different regions adopted their own languages under the authority of the local rulers. Later, all the ruling empires shrunk back to the areas that spoke their specific languages. Such is the power of a language.

Pakistan is rich in diversity. It has many regional languages and dialects besides four provincial languages. Urdu is the national language of the country, but it is not the sole official language of any of the provinces. It is the mother tongue of hardly eight per cent of the people.

But it was declared the national language because its underlying strength lies in the fact that it is the common vehicular language of Pakistan, and even that of India. It is understood all over the country, unlike the provincial languages; the lingua franca. If any of the four provincial languages was chosen as a national language it would have caused problems among the provinces.

In the pre-British and even in British India, Urdu held significance because it had been backed by the ruling clique. The Urdu speaking lot that came from India after partition were indeed more educated and cultured, and helped in building the new country in its early years.

Unfortunately, however, it also generated a certain streak of arrogance in most of them and that caused a backlash. However, the language should not be held responsible for the faults of individuals.

The Sindhi Language Bill in 1972 was outlandish since a provincial language could never displace a national language. Though the language riots did die down, the damage had been done by short-sighted politicians.

A reasonable way to promote the Sindhi language would have been to make it an elective subject and promulgating a law that all those aspiring for provincial services should know the language of the province concerned. And by the same token, an employee of the central government should know the national language, but not necessarily the provincial language.

Parliament is the supreme legislative body, and it is time it stopped paying lip service to the cause of Urdu. A national language is a must for a national identity. Until we achieve a national identity, we will remain a bunch of ethnicities rather than becoming, acting and thinking like a nation.