On Tuesday the Supreme Court of Pakistan, dug up long-forgotten clauses from the constitution and ordered the federal and provincial governments to make Urdu the official language and conduct all business of the state in the language. The court’s commitment to upholding the letter of the constitution is commendable, having erred from the spirit of the document time and again – military courts, blasphemy laws, internet censorship, the list goes on – but it seems that the esteemed judges have lost all connection to reality in pursuit of the literal implementation of the law. Perhaps making up for the lapses of the past, and spurred by a misplaced sense of nationalism, the court has decided to force Urdu on a government that is surely going to suffer if it goes about implementing this needless decision (which was delivered in English, it must be noted).

The first and the most basic criticism is, let’s not fix something that isn’t broken. There is no widespread movement calling for Urdu to be the official language, nor have there been any publicized complaints regarding the use of English as the official language, only a private petitioner and his private cause.

The Court posits that the majority of the people don’t speak English, and to conduct business of the state they have to learn a foreign language, which causes difficulty. A valid point, but the fact remains that the majority of the people don’t speak Urdu either. Apart from a small urban minority and portions of Karachi, no one speaks Urdu as their native language. Balochi, Sindhi, Seraiki, Pushto, Punjabi and countless other languages are natively spoken by the majority of the people- are these going to now be imposed provincially too?

Urdu is ill-suited to be an official language; there are simply no appropriate words to convey vast amounts of technical knowledge to another person. Adopting it now will cause delays in the normal functioning of the government. Think of all the keyboards that have to be converted to Urdu, the software requirements, the new terms that need to be translated, and the learning process of typing in Urdu. Just because we speak a language, does not mean it can lend itself to technical use. Translating advanced legal, scientific and medical terms into a language not designed for this purpose will lead to endless confusion, mis-translations and inefficiency. What is the Urdu translation of Random Access Memory (RAM)? What is the translation of ‘bypass surgery’? The world’s legal, medical and scientific journals are written in English, world leaders communicate in it, universities all over the world teach in it, and technological activities, such as coding, are carried out exclusively in it. Whether we like it or not, English is here to stay.