Urdu has been re-granted the status of Pakistan’s official language. This is a welcome step by the federal government. There has been much debate in the recent years about young Pakistanis shunning their national dress and language, to adopt a more modern and western viewpoint, feeling almost ashamed to speak in Urdu amongst their peers. Enforcing Urdu as language for everyday communication opens up space for the cultural revival of Urdu. There is a corpus of literature in Urdu that Pakistani’s have been slowly becoming out of touch with, and with English being the lingua franca, we have alienated many minds from contributing to academic discussion and technological progress.

Urdu will be the official language for all working papers presented to the Cabinet, correspondence between all departments and even utility bills are to be issued in Urdu. Additionally, tests for basic pay scales 1-16 by the National Testing Service will be administered in Urdu. With less than ten percent of the population being fluent in Urdu, this change will be appreciated by the applicants who face problems due to the great divide between Urdu and English mediums of teaching. In order to reach out to the masses at the grassroots level, it was pertinent that the government adopted the official language to get their message across.

It may be a difficult change to adjust to, but for the marginalised population who consider Pakistan a country belonging only to the ruling elite, this will be a step in the right direction. Apart from this teething problem, there is one part of the policy that may not be too politically pragmatic. On the one hand the government has stated that correspondence with other countries and competitive examinations like the CSS will be in English, seemingly cognisant of the fact that English is essential for communication and competition. On the other hand, the president, the prime minister, and all government employees will deliver speeches in Urdu when outside the country. In international politics, communication should be the goal, rather than publicity of the national language.

Why do speeches need to be made in a language that needs to be translated, especially when our leaders are proficient in English. We are not a superpower like China that can dictate foreign policy on its own terms, nor are we an Arab state surrounded by many other countries where our language is understood. Even the ultra nationalist Modi communicates in English at all international forums. Urdu becoming the national language is a welcome and appreciated move, but perhaps we should reconsider its compulsory use at international forums.