Ways to switch over to Urdu

Published October 4, 2015
JAVED Jabbar speaks during a talk on ‘Intizamiya main Urdu kay barhtay qadam’ organised by Anjuman Taraqqi-i-Urdu on Saturday.—White Star
JAVED Jabbar speaks during a talk on ‘Intizamiya main Urdu kay barhtay qadam’ organised by Anjuman Taraqqi-i-Urdu on Saturday.—White Star

KARACHI: Bureaucracy is the biggest hurdle in the way of implementation of Urdu in federal and provincial government departments. Urdu must be taught as a compulsory subject in all colleges and universities. Words from local languages should be incorporated in Urdu, and with such exponential growth occurring in every field in the world, how will Urdu keep pace. These were some of the opinions and suggestions made by the speakers at a talk titled ‘Intizamiya main Urdu kay barhtay qadam’ organised by Anjuman Taraqqi-i-Urdu on Saturday.

The talk comes in the wake of the Sept 8 Supreme Court judgement when a day before his retirement Chief Justice of Pakistan Jawwad S. Khawaja decreed that Urdu be used for official purposes. All speakers unanimously appreciated the former CJP’s decision, though some expressed scepticism about its implementation. “We were told that an executive order had been passed [on July 11] making it mandatory for official representatives to deliver their speeches in Urdu when abroad, but Nawaz Sharif gave his address at the United Nations in English,” said Akhtar Shumar, Lahore-based researcher, writer and poet. Moreover, this is a part of the Constitution as enshrined in Article 251, he said, but “the bureaucracy is the biggest hurdle in the way of implementation of Urdu in federal and provincial departments”.

Honorary secretary of the Anjuman Fatema Hassan echoed similar thoughts: “When Article 251 became a part of the Constitution, it was also mentioned that arrangements for Urdu use in official communication should be made within 15 years of the commencing day. What has been happening since then?” she said. For her the role of the Muqtadara Qaumi Zaban (National Language Authority) was deplorable as it was the main governmental body that was to play a crucial role in the implementation of Article 251. “Muqtadara published 50 books relating to Urdu use in official communication but those books are unavailable because they are lying in a sealed room in the Urdu Dictionary Board.” This was the attitude of Urduwallahs towards Urdu, she said.

Urdu should be made a compulsory subject, especially at the graduation level, in different faculties of social sciences whether it be faculty of law or business administration, said social sciences dean of Shah Abdul Latif University Dr Yusuf Khushk. He also suggested that in countries where there are “Urdu bastiyaan” (Urdu communities) people should be encouraged to translate local literature into Urdu so that Urdu’s reach within those communities was furthered.

Anjuman member Prof Sahar Ansari also lamented that the prime minister had chosen to address the UNGA in English whereas “Sushma Swaraj [Indian external affairs minister] addressed it in Hindi”. He said in his interaction with his Turkish counterparts they said “why do your ministers speak in English when we don’t know the language?”

He was critical of past governments ill-considered policy decisions with regards to Urdu. “During Zia’s time it was decided that primary education will be in Urdu. But when Benazir Bhutto came to power her government decided that primary education would be in English.”

His suggestions for wider official usage of Urdu included incorporating words from other local languages and developing avenues for all local languages in Pakistan.

Former information minister Javed Jabbar raised some pertinent questions such as with such exponential growth occurring in every field in the world, how was Urdu to keep pace. “Does the state have [the wherewithal] to translate all this information and knowledge into Urdu?” he said.

Another thought-provoking question raised by Mr Jabbar was that though the 18th constitutional amendment was commendable for giving provinces their much-needed autonomy, it had perhaps increased provincialism at a certain level. “People are talking about this and we must acknowledge it.” He suggested to the Anjuman that if they open a branch, say in a locality that was dominated by speakers of a local language, then “Urdu could act as a bridge”. “The Council of Common Interests could play an important role,” he said.

Others who spoke at the talk included the new president of the Anjuman Zulqernain Jamil and governing body members Sirajuddin Aziz and Dr Anwaar.

Published in Dawn October 4th, 2015

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