ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is sure to escape a contempt of court notice for delivering his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in English rather than Urdu thanks to the three-month grace period that the Supreme Court has allowed to enforce the national language.

“The PM did consider speaking in Urdu but there were some issues due to the time constraints. He is committed to implement the Supreme Court’s orders,” a federal minister told The Nation yesterday.

“For the time being we have a three-month grace period. We will hopefully implement Urdu as the official language by then (December 8),” he added.

Asked why did the government not find time to prepare the speech in Urdu when Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj spoke in Hindi despite the fact that she had to respond to Sharif’s address, the minister said, “The changes do take time. We will give the task to some good Urdu writers in future.”

“The PM did speak in Urdu to the journalists during the interaction, so it was not all English,” he mentioned citing Sharif’s briefing to the Pakistani media persons on the sidelines of his UN GA speech.

Asked for comments, senior Pakistan People’s Party leader Aitzaz Ahsan, said, “No, Nawaz Sharif has not committed any contempt of court (by speaking in English). This is not a joke”.

The prominent constitutional expert, who leads the opposition in the Senate, added, The Supreme Court of Pakistan does not control UN proceedings.”

Contempt of court can be a serious offense as in the past the top court had sent former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani home for not obeying the court orders in the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) implementation case in 2012.

Another legal expert Fazal-e-Haq Abbasi said, the Supreme Court has given a three-month period to enforce Urdu so the PM had the option to speak in English.

“I think he should have spoken in Urdu. The Indians speak in Hindi and others in their own languages. I don’t know why we are shy of speaking Urdu,” he quipped.

Abbasi told The Nation, the three-month deadline ends in December so the PM can go on to complete his next US tour to meet President Barrack Obama opting to speak English.

“Legally he may not be under any threat but I feel this is the right time we accept our national language as the main means of communication. We should stop following the West as far as the language is concerned. We should be proud of our own culture,” he remarked. Mr Sharif will meet President Obama on his invitation at the White House on October 22. The invitation came during a recent visit to Islamabad by US National Security Adviser Susan Rice who met the premier.

All of the Pakistani Prime Ministers and other representatives so far have delivered speeches in English at the UN. Prime Minister Sharif considered opting for Urdu but changed his mind at the end.

In July this year, the apex court directed the President, the Prime Minister, federal ministers and all public office holders to deliver speeches in Urdu language whether inside or outside the country.

The court instructed the government to translate all of the public related documents into Urdu language in the earliest period of three months.

Prime Minister Sharif had also issued a circular to all ministries directing them to take measures to implement Urdu as the official language of Pakistan in the light of the court orders.

Under the constitution, Urdu is already the official language of Pakistan, given that in its spoken form, it is the lingua franca of the country and understood by virtually everyone. English serves as the official language and major laws and documents are in this language.