THIS is with reference to the article ‘Documentary: the causes of the secession’ (ICON, Dec 26) about Javed Jabbar’s documentary Separation of East Pakistan — The Untold Story wherein the Quaid-i-Azam has been shown announcing that Urdu would be the national language of both East and West Pakistan, and it was categorised as a miscalculation. The Quaid would never have made such an assertion without having given it a lot of thought. To call his decision a miscalculation, in my opinion, is a fallacy.

There is hardly any country that has achieved greatness having more than one national language. Although in our part of the world, religion has priority; many great nations have several religions, but are held together by one language. The United States has Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Hindus, Muslims and what not, but they are bound together by one language; English.

The British ruled the subcontinent using the divide et impera policy, but then they overdid it and paid the price. They had Hindu universities and Muslim universities; Hindu law and Muslim law; Hindu tea and Muslim tea and even Hindu paani and Muslim paani at railway stations. However, when the rulers started associating Urdu with the Muslim community and Hindi with the Hindus, they inadvertently alerted everyone to the possibility of two nations living in a single geographical entity. Muslims across the subcontinent began taking Urdu seriously, and its Arabic script helped. All ‘educated’ Muslims began reading and speaking Urdu. Unfortunately, however, 90 per cent of Muslims were still illiterate.

In 1947, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Khawaja Nazimuddin, Wali Khan, G.M. Syed, Ghulam Mohammad, Chaudhry Muhammad Ali, and everyone else regardless of their individual linguistic backgrounds, were all well-versed in Urdu. They were not ‘Urdu-speaking’ — the term was not invented yet — but they spoke Urdu fairly well without inhibition.

Had ‘education’ been given top priority, we would never have had a language controversy. Gradually but surely, all Pakistanis would have spoken and read one language at home, in school and college, in the cities and the suburbs. It might have taken time, but with a little perseverance it would have happened. That, in my opinion, was the Quaid-i-Azam’s vision. It definitely was not a miscalculation. Alas! The Quaid passed away a little too soon.

Capt Afaq Rizvi
Karachi

Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2022

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