Pakistan has finally confirmed a long-running rumour of dropping English as its official language and switching to its mother tongue, Urdu.
In an exclusive interview with TIME, Pakistan’s Minister of Planning, National Reforms and Development Ahsan Iqbal established that the change would come about as a result of a court directive.
However, an exact time frame was not provided.
Passed in 1973, the Constitution of Pakistan under Article 251 specifies that the government under all circumstances, must make Urdu the national language within 15 years; however, the law is yet to be implemented.
However, Iqbal clarified that switching from English to Urdu does not mean that the prior would be abandoned entirely and would still be taught in schools along with Urdu.
“This means that Urdu would be a second medium of language and all official business will be bilingual,” he added.
While some Pakistanis fear that the change would be a drawback for their children, Iqbal argued that the move will allow Pakistan to become more democratic as it will “help provide greater participation to people who don’t know English; hence, making the government more inclusive.”
Though several languages are spoken in Pakistan, English takes the lead among the elite and government ministries.
Further, according to the CIA Factbook, nearly half of Pakistanis speak Punjabi, while only 8% speak Urdu. Several other languages are spoken by a fraction of the population.
Meanwhile, India too has a similar clause in its constitution, however it continues to use English as well as Hindi as its official languages.