Why is Pakistan sidelining English and swapping it for Urdu? (Aljazeera VIDEO)

ISLAMABAD, July 16, 2015 (MAMOSA Report) — Pakistan is to abolish English as its language of business in favour of Urdu which is the national and official language as per Article 251 of the Constitution.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is backing the move, which would mean a range of government documents – including passports, utility bills and websites – will be published in Urdu.

All speeches made at home and abroad, from the president down to state representatives, will also be conducted in Urdu. These measures follow a significant decision of the cabinet, taken on May 14, 2015, declaring Urdu the “official” language of Pakistan.

The plan is to completely replace English with Urdu for official business as soon as possible. Urdu should have become the official language within 15 years after the 1973 Constitution was adopted. That should have happened by the year 1988. However, over the years Urdu started losing relevance.

27 years have elapsed and Urdu the official language still remains “unofficial”. The Supreme Court of Pakistan asked the government last month to follow course correction. Nawaz government agreed to reset the button.

The move follows concerns that many young Pakistanis are shunning their national language and dress to adopt a more Western point of view, according to Aljazeera.

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According to one columnist, “many of the urban elite, and those who seek association with them, find it increasingly expedient to adopt English as the lingua franca, even amidst individuals not necessarily belonging to a divergent linguistic group.”

Is this part of a cultural and nationalist revival? Or will it lead to a breakdown in communications? And how does this translate around the world?

Aljazeera presenter Richelle Carey OF ALJAZEERA speaks with Javed Siddiqi – Resident editor at Nawaiwaqt, a leading Urdu newspaper in Pakistan; Mandana Seyfeddinipur – Director of the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London; and Olga Fischer – Professor of English Linguistics at the University of Amsterdam.

According to Javed Siddiqi of the influential Nawai Waqt Urdu newspaper, the decision to adopt Urdu as the official language has been hailed by overwhelming number of Pakistanis, however it faces resistance at top levels, among the bureaucrats and the military. They want gradual transition, Siddiqi said.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has, over the last few weeks, kept the Federation on its feet regarding the language question. What steps, it has asked, have been taken to fulfil the constitutional imperative of granting Urdu the status of the official language?

A 3-member bench headed by Justice Jawad S Khawaja heard the case regarding implementation of Urdu language in the government departments. Submitting government’s report before the court, Secretary Information said that Prime Minister Sharif has approved implementation of Urdu language in all government departments.

Report says that the Prime Minister and President will make all their speeches in Urdu while all the government ceremonies will also be in Urdu. It committed that the government departments will publish the Urdu translations of all their policies within three months. It also said that all the activities related to the federal government departments will also be published in Urdu and the departments will also transfer their websites to Urdu.

Last year in June, Justice Khawaja Saturday had said that ethnicity was the cause of social and class contradictions. “The constitution demands national language Urdu should be used in the routine life. Stressing on practicing the constitution in letter and spirit, he said that conversing in Urdu was imperative for eliminating the class contradiction.” Urdu is the thread that binds the nation, he added.

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