Govt departments asked to gradually introduce Urdu as official language

Published June 8, 2015
Govt departments have been asked to propose ways in which Urdu could take the place of English as the official language.—AFP/File
Govt departments have been asked to propose ways in which Urdu could take the place of English as the official language.—AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The federal government has asked heads of departments to implement a cabinet decision to gradually introduce Urdu as official language.

According to a circular, heads of government departments have also been asked to propose ways in which Urdu could take the place of English as the official language.

On May 14, the cabinet decided that Urdu would be the official language as per Article 251 of the Constitution.

Article 251 says: “(1) The National language of Pakistan is Urdu, and arrangements shall be made for its being used for official and other purposes within fifteen years from the commencing day. (2) Subject to clause (1), the English language may be used for official purposes until arrangements are made for its replacement by Urdu. (3) Without prejudice to the status of the national language, a provincial assembly may by law prescribe measures for the teaching, promotion and use of a provincial language in addition to the national language.”

Also read: Language debate

The heads of the departments have been informed that working papers for cabinet meetings will be prepared in Urdu and all its proceeding and minutes will also be in the national language.

They have been asked to seek suggestions and recommendations in this regard from the Higher Education Commission and the provincial authorities concerned.

The bureaucracy has been asked to write notes and orders on official files in Urdu, instead of English. All the ministries have been directed to correspond with each other and with other departments in the national language. And all the government policies should be translated into Urdu.

According to the circular, all tests for basic pay scales 1-16, which are given by the National Testing Service, should in Urdu.

Departments like the passport office, the income tax department, the Accountant General of Pakistan Revenue, the Auditor General of Pakistan, Wapda and the Election Commission of Pakistan have been given three months to start issuing their documents and forms, including utility bills, in Urdu.

A task force headed by the information secretary will be set up to monitor and review progress on the matter on a monthly basis.

But correspondence with other countries and competitive examinations like that of the Central Superior Services will be in English.

Talking to Dawn, a government official said employees would have to undergo comprehensive training before the cabinet decision could be implemented fully.

“We do not have a dictionary which provides proper Urdu substitutes for English words, for instance,” he said.

The cabinet had conceded that the National Language Authority set up in 1979 to promote Urdu had now become dormant.

The official added that the entire government record would have to be translated into Urdu.

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2015

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