ISLAMABAD: The Nat-ional Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice rejected on Wednes-day with a majority vote a bill seeking status of national language for regional languages.
After a detailed deliberations and arguments by a senior official of the law ministry against a bill moved by PML-N lawmaker Marvi Memon, members of the committee headed by Bashir Virk rejected the bill with a 4-1 vote.
The only vote in support of the bill was polled by Sardar Amjad Farooq Khosa, a PML-N MNA from Dera Ghazi Khan. Ms Memon had no right to vote since she is not a member of the committee and attended the meeting only as a mover.
Interestingly, PPP MNA Ayaz Soomro in his initial remarks indirectly supported the bill when he demanded that Sindhi should be declared as a national language, but later he cast his vote against the bill.
The members of the JUI-F and the PTI also opposed the bill terming it unnecessary whereas the MQM abstained from the vote.
The bill called for granting the status of national language to regional languages
Ms Memon had moved the Constitution Amendment Bill 2014 in February this year with nine other members of the ruling PML-N seeking to substitute Article 251 of the Constitution which presently declares Urdu as the national language.
The bill had called for granting the status of national language to Balochi, Balti, Brahvi, Punjabi, Pushto, Shina, Sindhi, Seraiki, Hindko, Urdu and “all those mother tongues as deemed to be major mother tongues of Pakistan by the National Language Commission”.
The bill also called upon the government to set up a National Language Commission with a purpose to develop criteria for giving the status of national languages to mother tongues being spoken in the country.
A similar bill, moved also by Ms Memon, was rejected by the committee in May 2011.
Highlighting the importance of the bill, Ms Memon told the committee members that the main purpose of the bill was to show respect to all regional languages by declaring them as national languages.
Moreover, she said the present bill was different from her previous bill as this time it had been moved by her in line with the election manifesto of the PML-N, under which the government had promised to set up a National Language Commission.
Opposing the bill, Special Secretary of the law ministry Justice retired Raza Khan said the bill would not serve any purpose when it was read in the light of Article 28 of the Constitution, which clearly spoke of preservation of language, script or culture. He said the ministry had already opposed a similar bill moved by ANP’s Haji Adeel in Senate.
The secretary said that there should be one national language of a nation. Recalling the history, he said, the country had already suffered the East Pakistan tragedy in 1971 as a result of the decision to declare both Urdu and Bengali as national languages.
Published in Dawn, July 17th , 2014