ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan said on Monday the federal government had failed to make Urdu the official language, as a three-member bench headed by acting chief justice Umar Ata Bandial presided over the hearing in a contempt of court case.
While dozens of languages are spoken in Pakistan, Urdu is its lingua franca, even though it is the first language of less than 10 percent Pakistanis. English remains Pakistan’s co-official language.
In 2015, the top court ordered that the government adopt Urdu as its official language.
“Without mother tongue and national language, we will lose our identity,” Justice Bandial was quoted by the Express Tribune newspaper as saying as he heard a case filed by lawyer Kokab Iqbal against Urdu not being used in Pakistan as the official language.
“In my opinion, we should also learn Persian and Arabic, just like our ancestors.”
“Article 251 of the Constitution mentions the mother language along with the regional languages,” the acting chief justice said as he also sought a reply from the Punjab government for failing to introduce Punjabi as an official language in the province.
The apex court sent notices to the federal and Punjab governments and adjourned the hearing for a month.
In June, Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered that all official events and proceedings be held in Urdu.
“Henceforth, all the programs events/ceremonies arranged for the prime minister shall be conducted in the national [Urdu] language,” a notification issued in English by the prime minister’s office said. “Further necessary action to implement the above directions of the prime minister shall be taken by all concerned accordingly.”
Passed in 1973, the Pakistani constitution specifies that the government must make Urdu the national language within 15 years. The law is yet to be implemented, as English has remained the choice for official communication.