Urdu is the 21st largest language in the world with millions of its speakers in India, Pakistan, and other parts of the world. After the creation of Pakistan, Urdu assumed the role of the national language.
This article discusses the reasons behind making Urdu the national language of Pakistan.
Association with Muslims
Urdu’s link to Muslims and Islam is one of the reasons behind declaring it as the national language of Pakistan. It emerged as a new language as a result of the interaction of Muslim soldiers with locals at the beginning of the second millennium in India.
Furthermore, the Muslim rulers i.e. Sultans of Delhi Sultanate and Mughals not only patronized its development but also made it their court language. Under these rulers, people started to write this new language in Arabic script.
With time, the religious scholars translated Holy Quran and important Islamic literature into Urdu for Muslims who did not read and understand Arabic. Common Muslims belonged to different parts and spoke different languages. Urdu acted as lingua franca and a bond of unity among Muslims of the Indian subcontinent.
Similarly, Muslim scholars chose to address mass gatherings of Muslims in Urdu because of their familiarity with it as their second language. Thus Urdu served as a medium of instruction in Muslim schools throughout India thereby sowing seeds of strong attachment with it.
In Pakistan, people speak multiple languages but none of them could assume the role of the national language. A language easy to speak and understand and above all neutral and common to all would act as a vehicle of communication for people.
In East Pakistan, people spoke Bengali. Similarly in West Pakistan people spoke Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, and Balochi. Urdu was the only language that met the criteria of becoming the national language for the new state.
People of Pakistan would have opposed any local language as a national language leading to a controversy in the new state. It was against this backdrop that Urdu was chosen as a national language of the newly established Muslim state. Given its role as lingua franca for Muslims in Indian, Urdu was mostly likely to act as a symbol of national unity.
The official language of the Muslim League
As mentioned before, Muslims throughout India spoke different languages and dialects but they could understand and speak Urdu without much effort. This was the reason why Urdu was chosen as the official language of the All India Muslim League and Pakistan Movement.
Moreover, Urdu played a vital role in developing a Muslim identity and the establishment of a separate Muslim state in South Asia. Thus the official language of the league and Pakistan Movement only Urdu qualified to become the national language of Pakistan.
Similarities with local languages
Similarities of regional languages are another factor that makes it very easy to speak and understand. There is no other language with such a huge vocabulary of regional languages. Like Urdu, all regional languages are written in Arabic script.
The local languages share the same grammatical structure and more or less the same phonetic system. These all factors altogether make Urdu a common language and vehicle of communication among people of different regions with varied languages as their first language.