Only 7pc Pakistani speak in Urdu
-2pc Bengali-speaking live in Pakistan
-Pakistan whimsically tries to make Urdu as state language
Enayet Karim: Urdu-the wrong language policy of Pakistan by the then army ruler in 1952 was totally a misconception of Muhammad Ali Jinnah led government. The percentage of Urdu speaking people in 4 provinces of West Pakistan was only 7 percent in 1951, which remained almost same in 2020. Whereas, the Urdu speaking population in the Eastern part or East Pakistan (presently Bangladesh) was less than 1.0 percent in 1951, which is now almost ‘zero’.
The wrong policy of Jinnah led government was trying to force making the state language as Urdu in East Pakistan, where almost 100 percent inhabitants are Bengali speaking. As a result, East Pakistan steps forward for freedom by staging demo against the decision of Urdu as the state language in this part like other parts of Pakistan.
Bangladesh freed in 1971 from the Pakistani rule but it has created a new history by sacrificing blood for its mother language. Pakistan had honoured the demand of 4 states as the separate provincial state languages excepting Bangla in East. These are now the state languages besides Urdu.
Pakistan is home to many dozens of languages spoken as first languages. Five languages have more than 10 million speakers each in Pakistan – Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Saraiki and Urdu. Almost all of Pakistani languages belong to the Indo-Iranian group of the Indo-European language family.
Pakistan’s national language is Urdu. It is also proposed to be the co-official languages along with English.
The country also has several regional languages, including Punjabi, Saraiki, Pashto, Gujari,
Kashmiri, Hindko, Brahui, Shina, Balti, Khowar, Dhatki, Haryanvi, Marwari, Wakhi and Burushaski. Four of these are provincial languages – Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, and Balochi.
Ethnologue lists 74 languages in Pakistan. Of these, 66 are indigenous and 8 are non-indigenous. In terms of their vitality, 6 are classified as ‘institutional’, 18 are ‘developing’, 39 are ‘vigorous’, 9 are ‘in trouble’, and 2 are ‘dying’.
Punjabi is the most widely spoken language in Pakistan. It is spoken as a first language by almost 39% of Pakistanis, mostly in Punjab. It is the 11th most widely spoken language in India, and the third most-spoken native language in the Indian Subcontinent. In Canada, it is the fifth most-spoken native language. It has a significant presence in United Arab Emirates, United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, and Netherlands.
Although Punjabi was the majority language in West Pakistan when Pakistan was created in 1947, and Bengali the majority in East Pakistan and Pakistan as a whole. Selection of Urdu was due to its association with South Asian Muslim nationalism and because the leaders of the new nation wanted a unifying national language instead of promoting one ethnic group’s language over another.
Article 251 of the Constitution of Pakistan declares that these two languages would be the only official languages at the national level, while provincial governments would be allowed to make provisions for the use of other languages. Eventually, Punjabi was granted status as a provincial language in Punjab province.
Punjabi language is spoken roughly in area between Islamabad and Delhi. The standard Punjabi variety the Majhi dialect is from the Lahore, Sialkot, Gujranwala and Sheikhupura districts and it is written in the Shahmukhi script. The speakers of Saraiki and Hindko have previously been included in the Punjabi totals.
Pashto is spoken as a first language by more than 18% of Pakistanis, mainly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including Tribal Areas of Pakistan formerly Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and in northern Balochistan as well as in ethnic Pashtun communities in the cities of Karachi, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Lahore. Karachi is one of the most Pashto speaking cities in the world. Pashto is also widely spoken in neighboring Afghanistan where it has official language status.
There are three major dialect patterns within which the various individual dialects may be classified; these are Pakhto, which is the Northern (Peshawar) variety, and the softer Pashto spoken in the southern areas such as in Quetta. Khushal Khan Khattak (1613-1689) and Rahman Baba (1633-1708) were famous poets in the Pashto language. In the last part of 20th century, Pakhto or Pashto has produced some great poets like Ghani Khan, Khatir Afridi and Amir Hamza Shinwari. They are not included in the overall percentage.
The Sindhi language is spoken as a first language by almost 15% of Pakistanis, mostly in Sindh province, parts of Balochistan, Southern Punjab and Balochistan. It has a rich literature and is taught in schools. Sindhi is spoken by over 53.4 million people in Pakistan and some 5.8 million in India as well as some 2.6 million in other parts of the world. It is the official language of Sindh province and is one of the scheduled languages officially recognized by the federal government in India. It is widely spoken in the Lasbela District of Balochistan (where the Lasi tribe speaks a dialect of Sindhi), many areas of the Naseerabad, Rahim Yar Khan and Dera Ghazi Khan districts in Sindh and Jafarabad districts of Balochistan, and by the Sindhi diaspora abroad. Sindhi language has six major dialects: Sireli, Vicholi, Lari, Thari, Lasi and Kachhi. It is written in the Arabic script with several additional letters to accommodate special sounds. The largest Sindhi-speaking cities are Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Shikarpur, Dadu, Jacobabad, Larkana and Nawabshah.
Balochi is spoken as a first language by about 3% of Pakistanis, mostly in Balochistan province. Rakshani is the major dialect group in terms of numbers. Sarhaddi is a sub-dialect of Rakshani. Other sub-dialects are Kalati (Qalati), Chagai-Kharani and Panjguri. Eastern Hill Balochi or Northern Balochi is very different from the rest.
Saraiki (also spelt Siraiki, or less often Seraiki) is an Indo-Aryan language of the Lahnda group, spoken in the south-western half of the province of Punjab. Saraiki is to a high degree mutually intelligible with standard Punjabi and shares with it a large portion of its vocabulary and morphology. At the same time in its phonology it is radically different (particularly in the lack of tones, the preservation of the voiced aspirates and the development of implosive consonants), and has important grammatical features in common with the Sindhi language spoken to the south. Saraiki is the first language of about 20 million people in Pakistan, its territory ranges across southern Punjab, parts of southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and some border regions of northern Sindh and eastern Balochistan.
Urdu is the national language, lingua franca and one of two official languages of Pakistan (the other currently being English). Although only about 7% of Pakistanis speak it as their first language.
It is the first language of most Muhajirs (Muslim refugees who fled from different parts of India after independence of Pakistan in 1947) and Biharis (coming from East Pakistan around the time of the 1971 Bangladeshi Liberation War), who form nearly 8% of Pakistan’s population, and is an acquired second language for the rest.
Gujari also known as Gojri is a variety of Indo-Aryan spoken by the Gurjars and other tribes including Bakarwals residing in all the provinces of Pakistan, and Azad Kashmir.
Brahui is a Dravidian language of central and east-central Balochistan. The language has been influenced by neighboring Balochi and to a lesser extent by Sindhi and Pashto. 1% of the Pakistani population has Brahui as their first language.
Shina (also known as Tshina) is a Dardic language spoken by a plurality of people in Gilgit-Baltistan of Pakistan.
The valleys in which it is spoken include Astore, Chilas, Dareil, Tangeer, Gilgit, Ghizer, and a few parts of Kohistan. It is also spoken in the Gurez, Drass, Kargil, Karkit Badgam and Ladakh valleys of Kashmir. There were 321,000 speakers of Gilgiti Shina in 1981. The current estimate is nearly 600,000 people.
There are around four million (40,00,000) Bengalis in Pakistan, and a significant portion of them live in Karachi. They are the poorest segment of Pakistani society and are hindered by their status as aliens in the country and there are very few, almost negligible portion, who hold official documentation as Pakistani citizen. Usman Town Bangalipara is the area in Karachi where Bengalis have been living for more than six decades. In fact they are living in Pakistan from the days of Partition.
Kashmiri is a Dardic language spoken in Azad Kashmir, about 124,000 speakers (or 2% of the Azad Kashmir population).
English (previous colonial and co-official language)
English is a co-official language of Pakistan and is widely used in the executive, legislative and judicial branches as well as to some extent in the officer ranks of Pakistan’s armed forces. Pakistan’s Constitution and laws were written in English and are now being re-written in the local languages. It is also widely used in schools, colleges and universities as a medium of instruction. English is seen as the language of upward mobility, and its use is becoming more prevalent in upper social circles, where it is often spoken alongside native Pakistani languages. In 2015, it was announced that there were plans to promote Urdu in official business, but Pakistan’s Minister of Planning Ahsan Iqbal stated,Urdu will be a second medium of language and all official business will be bilingual.” He also went on to say that English would be taught alongside Urdu in schools.
Arabic (historical official language, religious and minor literary language)
In the history, Arabic was the official language when the territory of the modern state Islamic Republic of Pakistan was a part of the Umayyad Caliphate between 651 and 750.
The Arabic language is mentioned in the constitution of Pakistan. It declares in article 31 No. 2 that “The State shall endeavour, as respects the Muslims of Pakistan (a) to make the teaching of the Holy Quran and Islamiat compulsory, to encourage and facilitate the learning of Arabic language …”
Arabic is the religious language of Muslims. The Quran, Sunnah, Hadith and Muslim theology is taught in Arabic with Urdu translation. The Pakistani diaspora living in the Middle East has further increased the number of people who can speak Arabic in Pakistan. Arabic is taught as a religious language in mosques, schools, colleges, universities and madrassahs. A majority of Pakistan’s Muslim population has had some form of formal or informal education in the reading, writing and pronunciation of the Arabic language as part of their religious education.
The National Education Policy 2017 declares in article 3.7.4 that: “Arabic as compulsory part will be integrated in Islamiyat from Middle to Higher Secondary level to enable the students to understand the Holy Quran. “Furthermore, it specifies in article 3.7.6: “Arabic as elective subject shall be offered properly at Secondary and Higher Secondary level with Arabic literature and grammar in its course to enable the learners to have command in the language.” This law is also valid for private schools as it defines in article 3.7.12: “The curriculum in Islamiyat, Arabic and Moral Education of public sector will be adopted by the private institutions to make uniformity in the society.
Persian (previous colonial and literary language)
Persian was the official and cultural language of the Mughal Empire, a continuation since the introduction of the language by Central Asian Turkic invaders who migrated into the Indian Subcontinent, and the patronisation of it by the earlier Turko-Persian Delhi Sultanate. Persian was officially abolished with the arrival of the British: in Sindh in 1843 and in Punjab in 1849. It is today spoken primarily by the Dari speaking refugees from Afghanistan and a small number of local Balochistani Hazara community, whereas most Pakistani Hazaras speak Hazaragi, which is considered a separate language by some expert and a variety of Farsi language by others. 
Bengali (previous regional and immigrant language)
Bengali is not an official language in Pakistan, but a significant number of Pakistani citizens have migrated from East Bengal and live in West Pakistan or East Pakistan prior to 1971. Bengali was recognised as the second official language of Pakistan on 29 February 1956, and article 214(1) of the constitution of Pakistan was reworded to ‘The state language of Pakistan shall be Urdu and Bengali’. Others include illegal immigrants who migrated from Bangladesh after 1971. Most Pakistani Bengalis and Pakistani Biharis, are bilingual speaking both Urdu and Bengali, and are mainly settled in Karachi.
Turkic languages (previous colonial and immigrant languages)
Turkic languages were used by the ruling Turco-Mongols such as the Mughals and earlier Sultans of the subcontinent. There are small pockets of Turkic speakers found throughout the country, notably in the valleys in the countries northern regions which lie adjacent to Central Asia, western Pakistani region of Waziristan principally around Kanigoram where the Burki tribe dwells and in Pakistan’s urban centres of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.
The autobiography of Mughal emperor Babur, TuzkBabari was also written in Turkish. After returning from exile in Safavid Persia in 1555, Mughal emperor Humayun further introduced Persian language and culture in the court and government. The Chaghatai language, in which Babur had written his memoirs, disappeared almost entirely from the culture of the courtly elite, and Mughal emperor Akbar could not speak it. Later in life, Humayun himself is said to have spoken in Persian verse more often than not.
A number of Turkic speaking refugees, mostly Uzbeks and Turkmens from Afghanistan and Uyghurs from China have settled in Pakistan.
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