“Let me make it clear to you that the state

language of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no

other language. Anyone who tries to mislead [you] is merely the enemy of Pakistan.”

–Jinnah in Dacca, 1948

Jinnah dictated these orders in a time period when a lot of students, teachers and intellectuals in Bangladesh were pushing for the recognition of Bengali as the national language along with Urdu. Four years later, the state responded to these demands brutally by killing, arresting many students and teachers of Dhaka University. These violent dictations of Jinnah and the state derive their legitimacy from the naturalization of Urdu as the language of Muslims and Pakistan for which languages like Bengali can be sacrificed if need be. However, there is perhaps nothing Islamic or Pakistani about Urdu which historically emerged only during the nineteenth century for certain political, economic interests of the British. The most pivotal institution involved in the rise of Urdu was the Fort William College of Calcutta. The college was established in 1800 by Lord Wellesley for the purpose of training the British soldiers in native Indian languages. The syllabus of the college, however, was soon also adopted for the education of the native Indians. The main difficulty for the British to accomplish this task was the plethora of fluid languages and literatures of the North India. The problem was resolved by standardizing, manufacturing the languages of Urdu and Hindi, along the religious lines, out of this hodgepodge. In this context, Bagh o Bahar, published by the college in 1804, emerged as the seminal text of Urdu language.

This history of Urdu language shows there is nothing Islamic, Pakistani or supernatural about the language. Its promotion at the cost of our local, indigenous languages, a practice that our state and Punjabis are frequently prone to, is therefore not justified.