Shagufta Rehmat Ali

Pakistan is a multiling       country and its official language is Urdu. It, indeed, plays an important role in creating and maintaining collective identity, as it unites the people of all the four provinces because of its neutrality. Despite this, regional languages are equally important. Keeping this in view, it has been theorised that a strong relationship exists between language and ethnicity, since a language represents the culture of a country or region.

Against this backdrop, Pakistan is a country with six major and more than 57 small languages. It is also a multicultural country, where people from different ethnic identities live together. Most of them belong to one of the five major ethno-linguistic groups; Punjabis, Sindhis, Pashtuns, Mohajirs and Balochis.

Needless to say, Punjabi is the regional language that is widely spoken (mainly in Punjab) and, in fact, understood by a large segment of the population across Pakistan.

Pushto is the second largest regional language spoken in the country. Likewise, Sindhi and Balochi are the two other major languages that give a different ethnic and racial identity to the people who speak them.

These major languages, along with many other small regional languages, can be used as a tool to integrate or disintegrate the people.

More so, all the four provinces have different cultures. In Pakistan, culture diversity is reflected through language, literature, art and architecture. All these manifestations together become a part of its cultural heritage. But, as said earlier, language is a natural and direct expression of any region or culture. So, regional languages can be the best source of cultural cohesion. Here are some initiatives that may help to promote regional languages, which, in turn, may expedite the process of cultural cohesion:

> Regional festivals must be organised in different parts of the country to highlight the culture of various regions. For examples, Punjabi folk tales can be presented in different areas so that other regions/provinces can know about the language and culture of Punjab. This can be a good source to spread the culture of one region to the other.

> Literature can be translated from one language into other language.

> Media can be used to promote cultural cohesion as well as regional languages.