Language policy and medium of instruction in Pakistan –I

Language policy and medium of instruction in Pakistan –II


Language policy and medium of instruction in Pakistan –ILanguage policy is considered source of influence and supremacy. It is also foundation of power of media, administration, commerce, education and other sectors.

By Shoukat Lohar

Indigenous languages have been ignored and behaved like step daughter since independence in Pakistan. Language policies either support English or Urdu. It is mentioned in constitution 1973 that respective province is responsible to promote provincial language along with national language. For instance, Sindhi language was used in Sindhi as national language even in British rule. But after creation of Pakistan it has been vanishing in major cities of Sindh like Karachi and Hyderabad.

The countries in Europe are giving importance to their indigenous languages because people of local languages feel sense of inferiority. For instance, if a child is told that his/her language is inferior, it leaves negative image. Moreover, inferiority causes people to adopt alternative one. In this way, sense of cultural shame promotes. In the case of South Asia, people of lower caste are ignored and degraded. Such type of behavior creates frustration among them. When they become educated and powerful, they leave their own community and identity and adopt new one. In this way they leave their language and there is possibility of their language death.

In case with Pakistan, mostly local languages are at the verge of death. The language death means there is death of its speakers. Now main concern is that is it possible to save such languages? Is there future of such languages? Fishman (2001) mentions that it is possible to save dying languages by adopting useful strategies and better planning for the survival of indigenous languages. Language hierarchy in Pakistan is like this English, Urdu and then local languages. Sindhi and Pashto give importance to their languages and consider their languages as a source of integration and identity. Both languages are big and their speakers feel proud to speak them. In addition, in Sindh province Sindhi is considered source of power and frequently used in education, administration, private and government institutions and even in media. Pashto is less considered as a source of power and frequently used in educational institutions. It is rather known as identity marker of Pakhtuns. Panjabi speaks more Urdu than Panjabi and they consider Punjabi cultural shame. Elite of English medium schools forbid their children to speak Punjabi in schools. People prefer either English or Urdu. Mostly, Punjabi read English literature, books, and stories and use to watch English dramas not Urdu or any other indigenous language. Other local languages such as Balochi and Brahvi are small languages as compared to Sindhi and Pashto. Both languages are under immense pressure of Urdu. Now Balochi intellectuals, educated class and scholars realize that they should give importance to their language, promote and preserve it. It is usually, observed that Balochi and Brahvi are spoken in cities mixed with Urdu and have become Urdufied. Consequently, almost all indigenous languages in Pakistan are under immense pressure of Urdu and now it is utmost need to promote and preserve them.

Language problem in Pakistan is old. There have been always conflicts which language should be given importance. Even one year after independence in 1948 language problem broke out in Decca by Bengalis. To solve that problem a committee was made under the chairmanship of Abul Haq (father of Urdu). Committee’s main concern was to replace English by Urdu and use of Urdu as a medium of instruction at university level. In 1950, committee decided that Urdu shall be medium of instruction in schools in Panjab, N.W.F.P, Baluchistan and Karachi. In addition, at college level use of Urdu will be optional. Karachi soon became center of Urdu speaking. On May 11, 1949, Municipal Corporation of Karachi passed a resolution and mentioned one of its reports that Urdu will be main language of all corporation functions. For instance, all names of road will be named in Urdu rather than any other indigenous languages. Next step was to increase the user of Urdu for that teaching support was taken. Teaching and promotion planning included standardization of Urdu, creation of new vocabulary and terms, spreading it through dictionary and grammar books. Bengalis who were in majority (about 54.6 of total population of Pakistan at that time) felt threat to their language. After language issue in 1948 Bengali did not trust West Pakistanis. They set up their committee on December 7, 1950. Committee recommended non-Sanskritized Bengali because their language script was close to Devanagari Hindi. They feared it might change in Perso – Arabic (NASTALEEQ) script of Urdu. Such worries were expressed by Bengalis at many places such as in Legislative Assembly, in newspapers and students of Decca in university. One month before language riots in Decca on January 21, 1952, fourth language committee was made under the chairmanship of Abdul Haq. Committee again declared Urdu as National Language and placed Bengali as Provincial Language. In Language Policy Report 1953/54 Bengali and Urdu are mentioned as National Languages. Further it was declared that from class IV upward Urdu will be taught as a compulsory subject and Bengalis will learn Urdu along with their language. Thus, Urdu will be compulsory for Bengalis and Bengali will be compulsory for Bengali students.

language-policy-4Pakistan has faced numerous problems since her inception. Problems like language issues, political and other different sorts of riots created anarchy at that time. Hence, to overcome such issues General Ayub Khan imposed Martial Law in 1958 and declared one and unified central government in Pakistan. Ayub Khan promoted Urdu and saw Urdu as a foundation of integration, unity and common interest. In Ayub Khan Regime on December 30, 1958, Commission on National Education was setup. According to commission declaration, Urdu and Bengali would enjoy status of National Languages for the sake of national interest. Further, up to 1963, Urdu was to be used as medium of instructions in Sindhi medium schools after class six which was great threat to Sindhi language.  Ayub Khan had in mind a westernized custom and culture, specially their language. Another factor supporting English was to face, and combat Mulla culture of Pakistan. In addition, bureaucrats and army also supported English and English medium schools rather than Islamization.

Language policy in Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s government was almost same like previous languages policies. Though Bhutto is known liberal, democratic and social but he and his other members of government are found closer to the military. Further, we see Bhutto against Ulemas politically and intellectually but did not want to come in direct conflict with Ulemas. Education Policy of 1972 in Bhutto regime states that Urdu is to secure, to promote, to practice the basic ideology of the country. In addition purpose of language is to build national integration through education. Further it states that it is also source of promoting social and cultural harmony through basic ideology of Pakistan. All sorts of material should be provided in Urdu and there should not be difference between teaching material and Islam.

Gen. Zia ul Haq took control of Pakistan on July 05, 1977 by imposing Martial Law. Urdu flourished and developed a lot in his regime. It effects we see that in 1979 Ministry of Education was asked that all textbooks should be in Urdu language. In addition, English medium schools would start teaching everything in Urdu. Thus, Urdu got the greatest support by his regime but such support brought two results. One – it proved against the English which was official language of Pakistan since freedom and the other it proved immense threat to all indigenous languages. In Education Policy 1979, there is replacement of English by Urdu. In addition, it is mentioned that medium of instruction at all levels in school would be in Urdu or approved provincial language would be used.

language-policy-5In Pakistan we have seen how language polices are producing social, ethnic and cultural differences? Further, bureaucracy, westernized-mind people and forces encouraged globalization devaluing their own indigenous languages. As a result of globalization and supportive policies of government of Pakistan English has prevailing prestige over other local languages. Now local languages are under great pressure. The people of poor class have to get education and have grip on English. The result is that more and more people are running towards English. Thus globalization has become in favor of elite class in Pakistan and opposite to poor class.

Pakistan is a multilingual state and there is dire need to promote the sense of bilingualism or multilingualism like the Europe, where multilingualism has been promoted and importance given to their local languages. Such type of advancement is required in Pakistan. In this way national and indigenous languages can preserved. By this way sense of cooperation, integration and equality could be developed among people. It is necessity to give equal rights to all languages in Pakistan and at least five provincial languages must be given due importance. Along with English and Urdu, local languages should be taught in schools, colleges and even in university.

As is said that English is taught very well to upper class but very bad to poor class, the importance to local languages and multilingualism can save us from further loss of linguistic effects of injustice, cultural shame and anti-poor language policies.

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About the Author           

Shoukat LoharShoukat Lohar is Assistant Professor of English at Mehran University of Engineering and Technology Jamshoro Sindh