By Courtney Trenwith
Supporters argue continuing to use a colonial language degrades their own, while opponents fear it will reduce the country’s educational standards
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has suggested he will implement a supreme court ruling that the country’s official language be changed from English to Urdu.
The court’s September 8 decision has split the country, with some fearing it will cause a wider gap between the wealthy, who will continue to attend English-language private schools, and the poor, forced to go to government run schools taught in Urdu.
Supporters argue it is about time Pakistan, which became independent in 1947, recognised its own language, while continuing to use a colonial language degraded Pakistan’s native tongue and maintained a sense that foreign rulers were still running the country.
The official language was supposed to have changed to Urdu by 1988 under Article 251 of the 1973 Constitution but successive governments never implemented the decision.
Pakistan would become the only country in the world to have Urdu as its official language. Only about 400 years old, it is based on Persian, Sanskrit and Turkish.
Only 8 percent of Pakistanis speak Urdu, according to the CIA Factobook, while 48 percent speak Punjabi and the elite and government prefer English.