After having rejected the same bill in 2014 stating that “it would not serve any purpose”, the Senate’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice approved on Wednesday a constitutional amendment bill to give the status of national language to Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi, Brahvi, Hindko and Saraiki. The aim of the amendment according to its backers is to give the due respect to mother languages and to treat them equally. While the amendment will place the languages in the same category as Urdu – and hence achieve the uncertain standard of “respect” - its effect on the general proportion and preservation of these languages seems to be minimal.

It is this very reason why the Senate committee opposed the bill in the past, although the objections seem to have been dropped. It is worth noting that the pledge to make all these languages equal appears in the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) election manifesto – with the new polls approaching, perhaps it is time to tick another line of the paper.

However, it is hard to see what this simple amendment will achieve without supporting action, regardless of being enshrined as equal, unless the government takes active steps for the preservation, promulgation and cultural expression of these languages, their reality as regional languages spoken by separate region will not change. Similarly government offices and official communications will continue to use Urdu and English as primary languages without a massive executive undertaking. The previous versions of the bill envisioned setting up a “National Languages Commission” for this exact purpose, but it seems that demand has been dropped from the present version.

As the objections of the past noted, this bill in its current form does very little despite being a constitutional amendment which would require a two-thirds majority to pass. More needs to be added if the government really aims to promote regional languages beyond the superficial.