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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Punjab government's "own goal"

A crass decision by the Punjab government

The Punjab government has made a decision to require all schools in the province to introduce English as the medium of instruction from the beginning of the next school year. I cannot find words strong enough to condemn this absurd educational policy, which will have a monumental effect on our development as a nation. If we are to extend Pakistan’s current low literacy rate of around 45% to full literacy in the shortest possible time then the only realistic option is to educate the population in the language it can understand, that is, Urdu. Spread of education will open up people’s dormant abilities and enable them to express their suppressed genius in all sorts of ways – to enrich their own lives and the life of the nation.

Historical background

Politically, Pakistan has been independent since 14 August 1947 but, in a deeper sense, it seems never to have enjoyed true freedom. The country's Establishment and the middle class servicing it, comprising at most less than 5% of the population, receive their education in English, much as they would have done under the British in the pre-1947 era. Consequently, much of the business of the state continues to be transacted in a similar manner to that the British had imposed on their subjects. The Pakistanis who have managed to arm themselves with an English education may be said to comprise the new Raj, lording over the remaining 95% of Pakistan's population educated in Urdu.

Quaid-e-Azam understood the danger of the newly independent Pakistan’s descent into intellectual slavery if nothing was done to wean it away from its attachment to the language of its colonial masters. He felt that the colonial language of government and administration, English, had to be replaced by an indigenous solution. The only language that could meet this requirement was Urdu, which the Muslims living in India habitually used for communicating with each other. This remains true today. The Punjabis, the Sindhis, the Pakhtuns, the Balochis and the Kashmiris, all have their own regional languages but they are never at a loss to communicate with each other because of the existence of Urdu. Moreover, none of the regional languages is as well developed as Urdu and some are merely spoken languages. As a Punjabi, I have come across Punjabi poetry in the Urdu script but there is scant evidence of the existence of Punjabi fictional or non-fictional works.

English, on the other hand, is a foreign language which only a small minority of Pakistanis understands but it has been foisted on the nation by a privileged class which has clung to it throughout Pakistan’s existence.


Our national inferiority complex

The continuation of an essentially colonial system has had a devastating effect on the Pakistani psyche and on the country's economic development. The exaggerated importance given to an alien language and, inevitably, the culture associated with it, has produced a Pakistani elite suffering from a deep-seated sense of inferiority. They assume a fawning attitude before the Americans and the British but act with extreme haughtiness towards fellow Pakistanis who lack the vulgar trappings of ill gotten wealth and power. This is clearly seen when a relatively junior American official such as Richard Holbrooke visits Pakistan and receives red carpet treatment. This uncouth American delivers humiliating lectures to members of Pakistan’s governing class – the president, the prime minister and other grandees among them – who breathlessly hold on to his every word. No one dares to tell the bully that:

the Americans’ Asian wars have cost Pakistan some 50 billion dollars;

that we have lost well over 20,000 officers and men of the Pakistan army while the American losses amount to a tiny fraction of our loss;

that we have a right to demand that the USA compensates for our losses;

that the twisted policies of the USA administration have directly threatened the life and property of our citizens;

that our military is horribly stretched and we wish to call a halt to the military advance and consolidate our position;

that it is now time for the USA and NATO to “do more” – while Pakistan has achieved military success the Americans and the Europeans have failed miserably;

that the USA should withdraw its army of spies and private contractors (Blackwater/Dyncorp) from Pakistan (whose presence in Pakistan the American Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, has admitted);

that our room for manoeuvre is limited because of the intransigence of our neighbour on our eastern border, who refuses to resolve long festering issues;

that the American legislation following upon the heels of the Kerry-Lugar bill is an abomination that we could do without – we need trade not aid but when our Prime Minister raises this issue with the American bully he gets a firm rap on his knuckles;

above all, that we are sick of being an American client state and we wish to snap out of that state of almost total dependence.


A national deception

The privileged Pakistani class which has rammed English down the throats of Pakistanis is fond of justifying this abomination by dishonestly claiming that Urdu is a “foreign” language spoken by a minority of Pakistanis! They reinforce this deception by presenting the regional languages of Pakistan as rivals to Urdu for imparting education to our children. I know of no Punjabi who has ever claimed that Punjabi should be introduced as the medium of instruction in schools. Only members of Pakistan’s westernised sub-class, cut off from our historical and cultural links, would make this ridiculous claim. The fact is that our forefathers, irrespective of their regional backgrounds, contributed to the development, enrichment and popularity of Urdu. Iqbal, Faiz, Qudratullah Shahab, Manto, Dr Syed Abdullah, Mumtaz Mufti, Inayatullah Khan Al-Mashriqi, and hundreds of others, were all non-Urdu speakers and yet their love of Urdu was boundless. They accepted that, realistically, this was the only language which could claim to be the language of communication among the Muslims of India and the people of Pakistan.

The link between economic development and language

As for the effect of Pakistan's colonial system on its economic development, this was the subject of an e-mail exchange between me and a well-known Pakistani columnist. He was of the opinion that the slow pace of Pakistan’s economic development, and widespread poverty in the country, stemmed exclusively from the kind of rotten leadership that we have had over the years. My position was that the leadership issue was important but it was overshadowed by the more fundamental factor of not being able to harness the full potential of the intellectual resources of the Pakistani nation because of the stranglehold of English on our national life. The points I made are summarized below.

1. We have a culture in Pakistan where, by and large, people refuse to recognize intelligence unless it is expressed through the medium of a language which is alien to the vast majority of Pakistanis. Our national psyche has been conditioned to such an extent that we consider a mediocre person speaking bad English to be more intelligent than a near genius from a poor background whose intelligence manifests itself only in Urdu. A lot of these mediocre people then go on to occupy positions of influence and power while the real brainpower of the nation rots unrecognised!

2. In my opinion, it is this mental subjugation to our erstwhile colonial masters – and, indeed, to our current de facto colonial masters, the Americans – which is the greatest obstacle to our economic progress as a nation and to our shameless capitulation before the Americans. Our national inferiority complex in relation to the English language has resulted in criminal waste and destruction of our intellectual capital on a massive scale, affecting perhaps more than 95% of our population. The remaining 5% of the population, which is able to educate its children in the foreign language that dominates our national life, simply cannot produce able people in sufficiently large numbers to meet the needs of the country.

3. At one time China and South Korea were both categorised with Pakistan as ‘developing nations’ but they have since broken out of that straitjackjet while Pakistan has stood still. The reason is that those countries were able to harness the talent and genius of their populations by the simple means of spreading education in the language that people spoke. Thus, they were able to utilise their full intellectual resources for national development while we unfortunate Pakistanis depended, to a very large extent, on the 5% or so of “English educated” exploiting class. The Chinese, the Koreans, the Malaysians and the Japanese managed to develop their languages to a point where the whole population could participate in the development of the country but we Pakistanis continued with our love affair with English at the expense of Urdu. It is still not too late – the amazing developments in computer software have made it possible for us to follow the example of so-called “Asian tigers”.

4. In view of the significant position that English occupies in the world today it would be in our interests to continue to teach it as a foreign language in our schools while introducing Urdu as the medium of instruction in ALL schools in Pakistan (the Punjab government’s crass decision is quite the reverse of this policy).

5. We need to take concrete steps to raise the status of Urdu in Pakistan and to enable it to progressively replace English in an ever-widening sphere of our national life. For example, the country’s leadership should adopt a simple rule to always address the nation in Urdu, all official correspondence between members of the public and government departments/ institutions should be conducted in Urdu, proceedings in a court of law, so far as possible, should take place in Urdu, and so on.

6. There are supplementary factors which play an important part as well - political stability is important but the type of governance less so. Among the success stories are: communist China, the constitutional monarchy of Japan and democratic nations with varying degrees of civic freedoms: South Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Conclusion

We Pakistanis have wasted our years of independence serving foreign masters and getting the wealth of the country plundered by greedy and power hungry civilian and military dictators. Our unstable political system can, at best, be described as a fake democracy where the large political parties are merely vehicles to serve the interests of a particular family or a privileged class. Elections are held only nationally, not within the so-called political parties. This system gives rise to weak institutions, social and economic injustice, and exploitation on a massive scale.

Saleem Safi, who seems to me to be a rising star of Pakistan’s journalistic firmament, has written an excellent article in Urdu concerning the nature of Pakistan’s politicians, and the political parties they belong to: “Jamhooriyat ya khaandaani baadshaahat” can be read
here.

Tailpiece

This article has also been posted at the website of the critical supporters of the PPP: here.

In response to two comments at that website, I responded with the following comments on 25 January, 2010:

The article is primarily concerned with the Punjab government’s decision to replace Urdu by English as the medium of instruction in all schools throughout Punjab. The emphasis, therefore, is on Urdu because it is the only indigenous solution which is acceptable to all Pakistanis as the lingua franca.

As for Pakistan’s regional languages, certainly they must be allowed to flourish within each region where they are spoken. As a Punjabi myself, I wouldn’t wish it otherwise. The relationship of our regional languages to Urdu can be likened to that of Welsh in relation to English in the United Kingdom. The Welsh tend to be bi-lingual in Welsh and English, which enables them to revel in the richness of the local language and culture and still be able to play a full part at the national level.

Jinnah’s own language was Gujarati and he spoke little Urdu. His command of English, however, was impeccable as he lived almost his entire life under the British Raj. It was because of his close contact with western civilisation, and his insight into the human condition, that he insisted on replacing English with an indigenous language for the newly created Pakistan: to give a sense of pride to the new nation and to treat all citizens fairly. In 1948 Pakistan's Legislative Assembly, comprising members from East and West Pakistan, voted for Urdu as the State language while each province was given the freedom to choose another language for use within the province. In 1954 Bangla, which is a developed language in the sense that Urdu is, assumed the same status as Urdu and became the second State language of Pakistan. When East Pakistan later became independent Bangladesh the status of Urdu reverted to its pre-1954 position.

The story of how our feudal society resisted the spread of education in Pakistan, and the way our civil servants outsmarted government ministers to perpetuate the hold of English in our national life, is described in considerable detail in the incomparable ‘Shahab Nama’ by Qudratullah Shahab.





18 comments:

Waqar Akram said...

A very interesting article. Thank you for posting this, as always your blog is thought provoking and comment inducing!

I believe some pragmatism must enter this discussion. I would argue that language is a tool for communication and mankind has a habit of evolving and picking the most efficient tool, as the demise of Latin, Welsh, Gaelic and Cornish demonstrate. Being Pakistani should not be about the colour of your skin or the language you speak, but about the ideals for which the country was created and currently stands for.

If one is to resist the advance of English at the expense of Urdu, the same logic applied years ago would have resisted the rise of Urdu at the expense of Pashtun, Sindhi, Balochi? Statistically, over time the distribution of languages and number of people speaking the language has become more and more concentrated. Is it beneficial for Pakistan to resist the migration to the global village?

Your blog has a strong socialist overtone, especially for the plight of the poor against the minority who are oppress the poor for their own good. I must say that this resonates and its rare for someone who is clearly educated in English and has benefitted from being part of the '5%' to stand up for the other 95%.

But I wonder if your thoughts on Urdu are at odds with this? In Pakistan, people are now armed with the internet, satellite TV and mobile phones. If anything, couldn't one argue that the rich-poor divide is exacerbated by the denial of English language education? If we face facts, the majority of educational texts around the world are written in English, 85% of scientific journals are published in english, most keyboards are in English (there is not one urdu keyboard for sale on Google worldwide) and as is the majority of news items on the internet. By shielding the poor and young from outside and liberal influences, do we not play into the hands of the mullahs who find the majority of their fodder in rural Pakistan? In fact, this Blog, despite being written by a Pakistani, about Pakistan and mainly for Pakistanis, is written in English! One cannot stop the rich embracing the world and an English education, but why should we deny the poor?

To summarise, I believe there is a place for both Urdu and English. I don't believe English should dominate, but at the same time a dogmatic approach to Urdu shouldn't hinder the process of evolution. Latin was once the dominant language and in fact most formal documents in England were written in Latin. But I wonder, like the Sindhi's, Welsh, Gaelic and Pashtuns accept that we have a new language to adopt and our mother tongue is destined to become a 'classic'. Or do we take a more European approach where most German's, Swiss and Dutch will be fluent in English.


I have read your other posts and in my humble opinion, your focus on Urdu alone as the conduit for the spread in education narrows your focus too much. Pakistan is the 6th most populous country in the world and the most valuable resource in the world is human capital. If I understand this correctly, your view is that the current poor educational infrastructure is under-leveraging this resource and with this viewpoint, I agree 100% and wish that the 'leaders' of Pakistan could look past their next election and build multi-generational legacies.

Looking forward to your next post,

p.s.

Please don't take this the wrong way, but I would also like to query the statistics above: "The country's Establishment and the middle class servicing it, comprising at most less than 5% of the population, receive their education in English" . The following poll suggests a figure of 44%. www.gallup.com.pk/Polls/27-5-09.pdf

Sakib Ahmad said...

Thank you, Waqar, for your comments. I’ll try to give you a comprehensive reply – by means of numbered paragraphs if you don’t mind, and probably in two instalments.

1. You say that being Pakistani should be “about the ideals for which the country was created and currently stands for”. I think your statement requires a bit of amplification, especially the ‘currently stands for’ bit. Would you perhaps be so good as to provide a definition of what you consider to be those ideals?

2. I am glad that you have mentioned Latin. There is an exact parallel between the position of Latin in seventeenth century England and the position of English in twenty first century Pakistan. In each case the language that the elite used for higher education was a foreign language while the language that ordinary people used for communicating with each other was considered inferior and unfit for the purpose. For example, Isaac Newton (1643 – 1727) wrote the Principia Mathematica, and all his other works, in Latin. It was only towards the end of the eighteenth century that the spread of learning made it necessary for people to express themselves in their own language because the country lacked the resources to teach Latin to all. Thus, the dormant intellectual resources of England sprang to life only when the privileged position occupied by Latin was usurped by English, the language of the common people. It is this point that I have emphasised in my post: if we wish Pakistan to make rapid progress in all spheres of life then we must make use of the collective intellect of the whole population – its entire intellectual capital - and not just limit ourselves to a tiny part of the population represented by a privileged class educated in English.

3. As you say, langauage is a tool for communication. The questions that then arise are: which language do Pakistanis use to communicate among themselves? Which is the language most often heard on the nation’s television screens? Which language qualifies as the lingua franca? I think you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to guess the correct answer!

4. You talk about “the advance of English at the expense of Urdu”. I am not sure what you mean because wherever I go in Pakistan I find people are communicating with each other in Urdu. Within Pakistan the use of English as a language of communication is confined to the westernised sub-class that flirts with this foreign language in a self-conscious manner and smugly looks askance at other Pakistanis who make do with Urdu. It is obvious that English is NOT the language of communication for the Pakistani nation. It is merely a status symbol that a lot of shallow people use to bask in the delusional glow of an inane feeling of superiority over their compatriots. It does not occur to them that by so doing they are actually belittling their own heritage and simply acknowledging their own sense of inferiority towards the Americans and the British

5. This blog is in English for a reason. The people who happen to control the reins of power in Pakistan at the moment will only pay heed if they are spoken to in this foreign language. It is my intention to launch a second blog in Urdu when I have more time and when I am able to acquaint myself better with computer software in Urdu and the associated internet applications.

6. That English is a great language, a very successful language internationally, is a self-evident truth. That is why point 4 of my post says, “In view of the significant position that English occupies in the world today it would be in our interests to continue to teach it as a foreign language in our schools while introducing Urdu as the medium of instruction in ALL schools in Pakistan (the Punjab government’s crass decision is quite the reverse of this policy)”. Does this sound to you as “denial of English language education”?


(to be continued)

Sakib Ahmad said...

…… continued

7. The Dutch and the Scandinavians are, generally, good English speakers because most of them learn it as a foreign language. Unlike Pakistanis, however, they do not rubbish their own languages and elevate English to a level where the local languages look forlorn and orphaned. Ask any child psychologist and he will tell you that a child’s progress will be hampered if he is taught school subjects in a language alien to his cultural surroundings. The scandal of Pakistan’s “English medium” schools is well publicised. Often what passes for “education” is little better than learning by rote – the children are only interested in passing the exams and many of them just end up knowing neither English nor Urdu nor the subjects they study, to any decent standard. Please re-read my comments on the “Asian tigers” in the post above.

8. Teaching English as a foreign language is one thing; to try to establish it as the medium of instruction is a foolish act which will create colossal problems simply because the country does not have adequate resources for this gigantic task. This ill advised action will rob Pakistanis of self-esteem and create a huge disenfranchised under-class whose sole purpose will be to serve the governing class. If you doubt this scenario just take a look at neighbouring India which has a master race of brown sahibs, numbering well over a hundred million. The flip side of that apparent “progress” is that India has an under-class which numbers hundreds of millions. I strongly recommend that, if you have not already seen the film Slumdog Millionaire, you should take the first opportunity to do so. The link below gives more of the same:
http://www.ahmedquraishi.com/article_detail.php?id=901

9. There is a strong undercurrent of Islam-as-Deen in most of my posts. While there may be a superficial resemblance between certain aspects of Islam and socialism, Islam is not about do-goodery – it is about development and growth of self-respecting individuals, free of false notions of inferiority or superiority.

10. In my opinion it is Pakistan’s weternised sub-class which is primarily responsible for the emergence of the Taliban phenomenon in Pakistan. The mullahs have simply taken advantage of the failure of governance and stepped in to exploit the poverty-stricken Pakistanis. In another of my posts I have dealt with this issue as being primarily a social problem which has taken on a religious hue. The tragedy of the English-educated westernised class is that its “education” has failed to lead to “ilm” (or, knowledge – but the English word does not quite convey the same meaning). To a typical Pakistani an English education is merely a means to make money, to gain power and influence and to enrich himself at the expense of others. Unlike Jinnah, whose close contact with the West had helped mould him into a true gentleman with a profound awareness of moral values and of duty to the nation, our westernised elite seems untroubled by moral considerations. The publicity generated by the NRO scandal has uncovered the painful reality that so many of our “leaders”, present and past, are indistinguishable from common criminals and fraudsters. In his column in Jang today, Ansar Abbasi has written lucidly about the way that loathsome practices have been given constitutional cover to make them look acceptable. For example, the foul practice of allotting TWO plots of prime land to each member of the Pakistani establishment comprising ministers, members of Parliament, civil servants, military commanders, judges and influential journalists! Here is the link to Ansar Abbasi’s “Baat to sach hai magar …. !”:

http://www.jang.com.pk/jang/feb2010-daily/01-02-2010/col13.htm

(to be continued)

Sakib Ahmad said...

…… continued

My reply has taken up a lot more time than I had anticipated. Let us see if I can end it quickly.

The 5% figure that I have used for the Pakistani elite, and the middle class supporting it, is based on the assumptions that Pakistan’s adult literacy rate is 50% and the proportion of adult population that had received an “English education” is 10%. In common with most statistics relating to Pakistan, this latter figure is obviously speculative. Schools providing English-medium education are concentrated mostly in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, where you would expect a higher proportion than 10% to have benefited from English education in the past. However, in rural areas, where a majority of Pakistanis live, this proportion is very small. Overall, I settled for the round figure of 10%, which I think is on the high side in a three-tiered educational system [private (“English-medium” schools), state run (a mix of “Urdu-medium” and “English-medium”, mostly the first type) and the “Urdu-medium” madrassahs].

Note that 5% of a population of 180 millions will give you 9 millions, which seems a pretty high figure to me when applied to Pakistanis who are supposed to know English well enough to perform all their duties in that language. The embarrassing standard of written and spoken English within Pakistan’s governing class suggests that a lot of the so-called English-medium schools are little more than disreputable money making factories which are able to snare gullible parents with the lure of an English education for their children.

The survey to which you have referred does not make much sense to me. It is not clear how the Foundation obtained the sample which is supposed to be representative of Pakistan’s children as a whole. The way it is presenting its findings appears to assume 100% literacy for Pakistan’s children! The recent torture and murder of the little girl Shazia Masih has highlighted the plight of our children, millions of whom never go to any school – they live wretched lives, slaving away for long hours for little reward.

Let us make an assumption that 60% of Pakistan’s children of school age are able to attend school of some sort (including the type where classes are held under a tree in Pakistan’s rural areas). Let us also assume that there are now many more English-medium schools compared to the past, say an overall proportion of 15% for Pakistan as a whole. This optimistic scenario would place 9% of our school children in a position to benefit from an English education. That, however, is no guarantee that all children will prove to be good linguists and be able to benefit from that kind of education.

Sakib Ahmad said...

This is not by any means part 4 of my reply! It is just that there is a brilliant article in The News today which I want to share with my readers. The author is Asif Ezdi and the title of the article is "Promote Urdu - and reform it". You can read it here:

http://thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=223050

Gauher said...

Sakib, I like your take on the issues facing our development as a an educated nation, but I do disagree on your perception that our criteria for being educated is based on proficiency in the english language. In my experience I have found that in the Pakistani work environment, being fluent in English is no doubt a plus point as far as an individual's projection within an organization is concerned, but I don't feel that the majority of employees accept such an individual as a superior intellectual resource until the same is backed by performance. Their relative success at being promoted within an organization or getting clients / business is more a function of the glass ceiling of foreign educated or English speaking persons at the top level across Pakistani companies, and their counterparts at businesses associated with our major trading partners (i.e. the West or other post-colonial countries like ourself). Within an organization, a person who simply speaks English well and cannot build familiarity and connect with others who's accent or grammar is more 'desi' is actually looked down upon by other employees who view him/her as out of touch with reality and unable to execute their job function. Such people face resentment and ultimately personality clashes at their work environment, and are routinely perceived as an easy ride by their subordinates. Lastly, certain roles require a person to be fluent in English, for the reasons I mentioned above and also as a simple function of their job e.g. brand marketing, call centers, and other service sector jobs that require interaction at an equal level with the English speaking elite. To me, the use of an alien language is simply a tool to bifurcate people along class lines, but by no means is it a hurdle for enterprising and diligent people who come forward by dint of their hard work and performance. I've spent time in Telecom and the Financial sector, and believe me there is no replacement for a solid engineer, no matter what their English capability is. Same goes for the financial sector; if you can't connect with a local businessman on their level, its difficult to convince them that you can understand their business and provide the level of service they need. Those are my two cents, and thanks for a very informative piece :)

Sakib Ahmad said...

Thanks, Gauher. As one who actually works in Pakistan your comments are valuable.

My perception of Pakistani life today is based on my contacts with members of my family and my periodic visits to Pakistan. To an extent the views I expressed are subjective. However, the essential objective reality that lies at the root of the "language problem" of Pakistan is as I described in one my comments above:

"if we wish Pakistan to make rapid progress in all spheres of life then we must make use of the collective intellect of the whole population – its entire intellectual capital - and not just limit ourselves to a tiny part of the population represented by a privileged class educated in English".

My impression is that you are of the opinion that we already satisfy this test to a large extent. Is that so?

Certainly, there are areas where we need to employ fluent English speakers, and I have acknowledged that in the article and in the comments. However, the thrust of my argument is to do with justice and equal opportunities for all and, for Pakistanis as a nation, with building up our self-respect to enable us to stand up to the Americans and the Europeans with our head held high.

By the way, are you the "awamee_shair" to whom I had addressed a message in another blog?

Gauher said...

You're right Sakib, I do feel that as a nation the english speaking elite has cut itself off from the larger social group that is striving to achieve their middle class aspirations. The elite has reduced itself to a self congratulating clique, and exist now in a bubble universe entirely. Eventually, as economic tides turn, the 'upper crust' of society will become largely redundant, unable to target or comprehend local opportunities by being too far removed from their target market.

No doubt, myself and many people who belong by accident of birth to such a cadre of privilege do see the gap opening up, and hopefully this will bring us closer to a realization that we can't be like the US or the Indians, we'll have to figure out our real self. Thanks for your thoughts, it always good to see the foreign diaspora rooting for the boys back home :) And sorry to dissapoint, I'm not the awamee_shair, just a simple journeyman who can ply a few words now and then :)

hafsakhawaja said...

This is a stupendous piece of writing! I wish that such a post was heeded by our Government Officials and then the policy and decisions for the Education system taken.
Th conclusion and points proposed are all very enlightening and well-thought.

I am in complete agreement with every word of it and believe that the examples of nations that you have mentioned (Japan and South Korea etc) who emerged into eras of development by basing subjects on their language should be religiously followed.
Urdu, to many today this is unknown, was one of the many factors that infused the need for a separate state to faciitate their own identity in the minds of the Muslims in India and today, the people of Pakistan seem to be abandoning what is part of their identity.

Hats off to you for writing this!

Sakib Ahmad said...

Thanks for your inspirational comments, Hafsa - and for your uplifting blog post woven around Pakistan's two T20 wins against Australia.

I think the conviction that we carry is beginning to rub off on our fellow Pakistanis. Many talk about the position of Urdu in national life a lot more than they used to, if only in a jocular sort of way. As Umar Akmal laid about the Australian bowling attack last Monday, 5 July, I received a long text on my mob from Edgbaston cricket ground:

"Obama and David Cameron are shown a time machine which can see 100 years into the future. They decide to test it by asking a question each. Obama goes first: What will the USA be like in 100 years' time? The machine whirls and beeps and goes into action, giving him a printout. He reads it out: 'The country is in good hands under the new president, crime is non-existent, there is no conflict, the economy is healthy, there are no worries'. Cameron thinks, it's not bad, this time machine, I'll have a go as well. So he asks: What will Britain be like in 100 years? The machine whirls and beeps and goes into action and he gets a printout but he just stares at it. 'Come on Cameron', says Obama, 'tell us what it says'. 'I can't', says Cameron, 'it's all in Urdu!'

Anonymous said...

I feel that the whole Bhutto clan is a curse on Pakistan
To call ZAB as the first democriatically elected Prime Minster is the traversity of History
He was responsible for break of country by refusing to accept the Mandate of majority of then United Pakistan
He demoratic credentials were very dubious
BB is being painted as paragon virtues
Besharam o Bazmeer Khandan-ae Banazeer

Anonymous said...

Well written - but remember, that one of the reasons for the east pakistan tragedy was the forcible foisting of Urdu on Bengalis.

Having multiple official languages will not cause problems. Switzerland uses 3, Canada uses 2 and India uses more than 10.

There is no point linking nationalism to a language. Doesn't matter what language anyone speaks in, as long they are part of the country.

Sakib Ahmad said...

It is not a question of what language you speak in your home. If you are particularly attached to English then that's fine. The essential problem is one of gross injustice inflicted on some 97% of Pakistan's population, which is denied equal opportunities. George Fulton has written eloquently about the selfishness of Pakistan's privileged class, which has erected a "Berlin Wall" around itself:

“Despite enjoying unprecedented levels of wealth and education, we no longer believe it is our duty as the best educated and most privileged in society to contribute to its development. The English language has created a linguistic Berlin Wall between us and the rest of the country. We remain cosseted inside our bubble.”

We may be heading for a bloody conflict between the "brown sahibs", those who have inherited and sustained the British colonial system, and the dispossessed Pakistanis whose dream of a free and independent Pakistan has been so brutally shattered.

Pakistan's Nemesis said...

Please read your dear friend Ahmad Quraishi's views on George Fulton.
http://aq-lounge.blogspot.com/2011/03/english-racist-in-pakistan.html I have given my comments which may be deleted by that moron. The AQs of Pakistan are its true enemies. As long as there are AQs, Pak needs no external enemies. And to think that this joker has a large following in Pakistan speaks volumes of the people's ignorance and mindset.

Fazal Rahman said...

Brother Sakib has touched on very important and complex subjects of language and education that need a great deal of thought and insight. In this comment, I can only write what comes to my mind spontaneously, without reflection or refinement.

Brother Sakib has already identified some of the great dangers in the incredibly reckless and ignorant stampede of the Punjab government over the educational system and student population of Punjab, by imposing English as the medium of instruction. I agree with most of what he has pointed out in this regard. This matter is very complex and needs to be dealt with in all its complexity. Here, I can only touch upon some of it.

First of all, from the perspectives of health of the planet and human nature, western model of education is a great disaster. It is producing very fragmented forms of specialist of all kind, who know a lot about a tiny little area of reality, but nothing about other areas or the overall or larger reality. Their human nature also becomes fragmented in the process. It is essentially producing robot-like creatures. Give them money and they will do anything, no matter how evil or destructive. For example, about 70 percent of the scientists in the US are engaged in military related research and development. This model has already produced great disasters for all the life supporting systems of the biosphere, global warming; ozone layer depletion; pollution of air, soil, water, and food; pollution of human bodies with man-made chemicals; great damages to human soul and spirit; weapons of mass destruction of all kinds that can annihilate all mankind and much of other life on the planet, many times over etc. etc. This model empowers nations in the short term but lays the foundation for the eventual destruction of all nations. It is the most complex problem to deal with. Already, some of the damages to the planet and human nature may have become irreversible. It is obvious that no single nation can deal with it by itself. It needs international wisdom, which has been killed by the western imperialist powers. Joining the model uncritically will speed up the rush to the abyss. Not joining it would make one vulnerable to the domination and exploitation of the imperialist powers. Hence, one would have to settle for some balance, in this regard.

Now, to come to the language. It is an essential and interconnected part of cultural, national, personal, interpersonal, and even biosocial identity of particular groups of people, which have evolved together in particular space and time. Language evolves within that organic complex. To substitute an alien language for the naturally evolved language by individuals or groups, within a given society, will disturb and deform that whole organic complex, will make people alienated from the inner components of themselves, as well as those of others in that society. Thoughts and feelings, mind and soul-and their expression-are closely intertwined with language. Some physical features are also involved in these, like facial and eye expressions, voice, intonations, gestures etc. Substitution of an alien language brings about drastic changes in all these and creates an artificial creature, a chimera.

I have lived in many countries and found that in most of them, people love their language and will not substitute any other for it for any reason. For example, in Brazil, few people speak English. Those who can, only do so when necessary, e.g., when talking to foreigners. Brazil is a lot more advanced than Pakistan in science and technology and development, in spite of most people not knowing English.

Fazal Rahman said...

Where I live in the US, there is a large population of Mexicans. They only speak Spanish to each other and listen to only their own music. Personalities and culture of Mexicans are very different than those of Anglo-Saxons. Anglos are, in general, cold, calculative, formal, and structured, while Mexicans are warm, intense, informal, and spontaneous. These differences manifest themselves in the differences in the use of language and speech behavior. The Mexicanhood of a Mexican will be destroyed if he substituted English for Spanish.

It is quite a different matter to learn and add another language, as a foreign language, for pragmatic or other purposes, without substituting it for one’s native language. That enhances one’s personality, instead of damaging it. When Mexicans, Brazilians, or French speak English, they usually maintain their accents, facial expressions, gestures, intonations etc. In contrast, many Indians and Pakistanis try their best to speak English like the British or Americans, imitating everything. I had written about this in a kind of humorous way in one of my papers. I am pasting that passage below:

“.Jean Paul Sartre, the great French existentialist philosopher, was struck by the “blank faces and empty eyes” of the people he saw during his visit to the US. It has gotten much worse during the decades after his visit. Now, innumerable of these blank faces and empty eyes are polluting the whole world with garbage, excreted from their mouths, with speeds close to that of the light, without any pauses for reflection on what they are saying, producing similar effects on their audiences. And they are admired and paid highly for these unmatchable abilities! The TV and radio broadcasters are a particularly pathetic lot in this regard, as they have to fit in maximum amount of words in minimum time, between the commercials. Their mouths, voices, and faces acquire truly robotic characteristics. One wonders how it affects their families and friends, as it must also become part of their nature. Of course, all this is, ultimately, the result of particularly extremist anti-human nature political economy of US imperialism that has created such a culture, mass psychology, and behaviour. One of the most bizarre spectacles one sees often on TV and in real life is that of the behaviour of immigrants from some other countries and cultures-particularly from India and Pakistan-who imitate the speech, voices, and expressions of the imperialist culture so perfectly that if one did not see their faces, one would think that they are White Americans in the US or White British in the UK! They even try to make their faces blank, and eyes empty, but do not succeed completely. Some physical features are so stubborn that they will not disappear, no matter what one does. One is reminded of Franz Fanon’s “Black Faces, White Masks”. Only, in this case, it is the brown faces, white masks. Being from South Asia myself and having lived in the West for more than half my life, I am left speechless at such miraculous transformations and abilities of many of my fellow South Asians, and sometime I wonder why I lack such miraculous powers and pray to Allah to forgive any sins I might have committed and grant me also such miracles. But then I find myself loving my untechnocratised and unrobotized speech, voice, intonations, and accent that give holistic expression to my real thoughts and feelings, and pray again, asking Allah to leave me as I am. I am truly grateful that in His Infinite Wisdom, He has left me as I am and ignored my folly.”

Fazal Rahman said...

It would be disastrous for any individual or group to substitute an alien language for the native language. In Pakistan and India, who do so may achieve a higher financial and social status, but they also make themselves and the society sick, not only with inferiority complexes but other damages to their human nature as well.

In the four provinces of Pakistan, four different languages are spoken. Punjabi is the closest to Urdu. I do not know about Sindhi, but it is relatively more difficult for Pathans and Balochs to speak Urdu than the Punjabis. However, as Urdu is the most developed language in Pakistan, there is no alternative to making it the official language as well as the medium of education. There can be some exceptions in this regard in relation to some technical and scientific areas, which may need to be taught in English. However, even in these, much can be done to reduce the use of English to a minimum.

My conclusion is that the Punjab government is embarking blindly and ignorantly on a very dangerous path in this regard, which will deform and distort a whole young generation.

Sakib Ahmad said...

ارشاد احمد عارف کا کلام، روزنامہ دنیا، ٢٠ اگست ٢٠١٥:

http://dunya.com.pk/index.php/author/irshad-ahmad-arif/2015-08-20/12347/59294953#.VdzLzLRd-EM

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