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The Urdu dilemma

This refers to the articles, ‘Burying the doctrine of elite necessity’ (October 9) by Umer Gilani and ‘Urdu: from pidgin to creole’ (October 9) by Zubair Torwali. As far as Urdu is concerned, I take exception to the commonly-held belief that Urdu is spoken and understood by over a billion people in the Subcontinent. In South India, very few people speak Urdu or Hindi (in fact, Indian prime minister Deve Gowda could not speak Hindi at all). As for Punjabi families speaking in Urdu with their children, this may be largely true of those who live in Karachi but in Lahore most people think they are speaking Urdu when in fact they are talking in Punjabi. Similar is the situation in rural areas of other provinces where Urdu is like a foreign language.

As for making Urdu the state language, I do not see why this is necessary. It is the mother tongue of only seven percent of the population and, as we learnt to our cost, declaring it the national language ultimately led to the breakup of the country. It should also be understood that Article 251 was adopted by the 150-member National Assembly of 1973 probably because the country was still in a state of shock following the loss of East Pakistan. There was no referendum held to determine whether it should be the national language of the country. In fact, this should be done now if we really want to know what the people want.

Shakir Lakhani
Karachi
Printed in The News, October 12, 2015

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