Why the sudden love for Punjabi?
Last week, a badly composed notice in English on cursing in Punjabi was issued by an “English-medium” school in Sahiwal, Punjab, unleashing a linguistic war, complete with a pro-Punjabi petition in the Lahore High Court, a protest demonstration, and angry denunciation on the Internet.
The luckless notice read: “Foul language is not allowed within and outside the school premises in the morning, during school hours and after home time. Foul language includes taunts, abuses, Punjabi and the hate speech.”
Why this reactive championship of Punjabi? Sure, Punjabi is rich in folklore and mystical poetry that is recognized—and praised—globally. It is also true that 45 percent of the population of Pakistan is Punjabi-speaking. But all the facts proclaim that Punjabis care more for Urdu—after all, there is no Punjabi newspaper or official dictionary in the country.
In 1959, Sindhi scholar N.A. Baloch brought out a two-volume Sindhi dictionary with federal funds. In 1970, Mitha Khan and Ata Shad published a 2-volume Balochi dictionary, also with federal funds. In 1979, a Pashto dictionary in two volumes, each a thousand pages thick, was published in today’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. However, in 1978, when the Punjabi Adabi Board in Lahore planned a 4-volume dictionary of Punjabi and asked the federal government for Rs. 7 lakh, Islamabad turned it down saying it was a provincial matter.
Pragmatically, private schools feed into the job market. What else should they do? The job market dictates facility with English unless you insist on remaining on the low periphery of jobs. Urdu is next in gradation because Pakistani nationalism is couched in it and our religious leaders, compared to our politicians, have a command over it. Punjabi is hardly a written language but, true, it is rich in cusswords.
Who knows, perhaps writing in “foul language” could help us get across our message more clearly. The Sahiwal notice was—as noted earlier—badly composed, which only proves that our proficiency in English is not of the desired level compared to other countries, including India, allowing them to make better headway in the global market.