ISLAMABAD:The federal government’s first deadline for all the departments regarding implementation of Urdu is expiring today (Tuesday).
On July 6, 2015, the cabinet division after approval of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, forwarded a circular to the federal ministries and divisions to gradually introduce Urdu as official language. They were directed to ensure that policies, laws, websites, sign boards and utility bills are introduced in Urdu language within three months.
However, most of the departments have failed to implement the decision. Even the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s website is still being run in English.
Second deadline regarding implementation of Urdu will expired on December 8.
Pakistan, an Islamic Republic of around 200 million, has six major languages: Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Seraiki, Urdu and Balochi in addition to dozens of smaller regional languages and dialects.
Urdu is considered a lingua franca and is understood as a second-language by most of the population.
But English has been preferred for laws, court orders, and all other forms of official communication by the ruling elite ever since Pakistan s creation in 1947, resulting in what some experts have called a form of “linguistic apartheid” dividing the country s haves and have-nots.
On September 9, Justice Khawaja in his judgment noted that the constitution, written in 1973, had given the government a 15-year grace period to switch all official communication over to English, but the order had never been implemented.
Article 251 of the Constitution 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.” The court ordered the federal government and the four provinces to make the switchover within three months in order to end the “societal divide” between the English-speaking elite and the non-English speaking majority.