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Pakistan and Language Conflict

At this point, it is safe to say that Pakistan is most certainly a conflict-riddled zone. And while we have spent decades convincing ourselves that the threat is merely external, whether its from our forever hostile neighbours or even the very 'secular ' West, the fact that internal conflict has taken an even harsher toll than an external one ever could, is become harder and harder to deny.

Pakistan has had a long standing history of internal conflict, be it ethnic or religion. But for the purpose of this blog, and for the sake of some sort of semblence, we will be tackling the ethnic conflict that arose due to one of Pakistan's many ignored issues, the language conflict.


Before actually moving onto the language conflict, we must first understand the relevance of it, and why it had such a huge impact on our social setup. And while conflict and conflict resolution can be a complicated matter, the answer to this question is quite simple: identity. Language is perhaps one of the closest ties one has to their cultural and ethnic identity. We are always told that Pakistan was founded for the Muslims (do not let any right wing propaganda convince you it was for Islam) but for which Muslims exactly ? That seemed like a minute detail when the country was being founded, but upon reaching its existence, it suddenly became a life threatening burden upon the state.

Since pre-partition India, the role of language in identity became more and more vital. It became one of the many ways the colonized expressed their represented identities in the face of their colonial masters, and was also one of the many many causes of conflict between the Hindu and Muslim community (Hindi versus Urdu conflict).


And while language played an important role in pre partioned role, it took on an even more important role in post partioned Pakistan, where the conflict started as early as 1947 when Urdu was announced as the national language of Pakistan, where in 1947 a Bengali linguist deemed the decision, ''tantamount to political slavery'' . And thus the language conflict began, starting from the Bengali language movement, which is considered one of the founding aspects of East Pakistan's eventual freedom.


While the Bengali Language movement acted as perhaps the most monumentous, other linguistic conflicts also arose. One of these was between the Sindhis and the Muhajirs, when military backed PPP tried to increase the usage of the regional language in Muhajir populated, Urban areas of Sindh, leading to riots between 1970-72 from the Muhajir community.


While the Sindhis and Muhajirs fought over Sindhi versus Urdu, the Balochis also stood to preserve their identity. However unlike the Sindhi conflict, it was little about political power or supression, but more about identity preservation, where the language gets little to no official patronage or attention. Sindhi is reinforced by the PPP, Punjabi is the language of the ruling class while Urdu is the national language, yet the languages of Balochistan, Balochi and Brahvi mainly, are largely ignored, leading to the birth of Balochi Language Movement in 1951.


Much like Urdu, Pashto had a long history of being used as a symbol against British colonialism and settlement, and its history of being used as means of identity preservation and politcal movements is perhaps too extensive for this blog to do justice to. However, despite having such an ancient and powerful history, the language has long been used by the ruling class a means of sideling the Pashtun community, despite the National Awami Party opting for Urdu as the national language during its brief rule. Even now, as many claim that tensions are decreasing amongst the communities, Pashto language is still looked down upon by the ruling class, yet it acts as means of identity preservation for its speakers.


Despite being spoken and used in Punjab, which is largely considered the home for Pakistan's ruling elite, Siraiki, spoken in the South of Punjab has been sidelined by the Punjabi ruling elite. However, since 1975 the language has seen a revival through the birth of movements such as the Siraiki Lok Sanjh.


As detailed above, nearly all languages have seen some sort of sidelining in the past, and all of them trace the sidelining back to the ruling elite. Raising the question that if Punjabi constitute the majority and the ruling class of Pakistan, then how come there hasn't been more promotion of their language in the larger social, political or educational sphere? The non ruling class and critics argue that the promotion of Punjabi has been halted due to the fact that the culture simply does not need any more representation, especially through language movements.

Punjabi activists that due to the importance paid to English and Urdu, the language has seen a downfall amongst the upcoming generations,

CONCLUSION: However, whatever the matter may be and whatever the language may be, Pakistan needs to drop its ideals of ignoring ethnicity as a source of conflict and rather understand and promote the delicacies of cultural and ethnic identities.

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