Islamabad: A private bill seeking ‘eight national languages’ for Pakistan has been introduced in the National Assembly.
The Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2011- a nomenclature that could be changed by the Standing Committee on Law and Justice during its scrutiny- seeks to replace Article 251 of the Constitution, which specifies only Urdu as the national language, with a new one that says: “The national languages of Pakistan are Balochi, Punjabi, Pushto, Shina/Balti, Sindhi, Saraiki and Urdu.”
The bill must be passed by two-third majorities in both National Assembly and the Senate to become a part of the Constitution, the Dawn reported.
But it seems doubtful that the amendment proposal can muster the required two-third majority because language has been a sensitive issue from the early days of Pakistan, when Urdu was chosen as the only national language, excluding Bengali, which was spoken by the majority of the population living in former East Pakistan, and now Bangladesh.
The bill also proposes to continue English as Pakistan’s official language “until arrangements are made for the national languages to come at par with it”.
The original Article 251 says that “arrangements shall be made” for Urdu “being made for official and other purposes within 15 years from the commencing day” and that “the English language may be used for official purposes until arrangements are made for its replacement by Urdu”.