Iqbal Tareen appeals President Musharraf on Sindhi Human Rights and Language Amendment Bill


Dated: November 13, 2005 The Honorable Pervez Musharraf President of Pakistan Islamabad, Pakistan. Re: Sindhis` Human Right To Communicate and National Language Amendment Bill Dear Mr. President, Let me first offer my sympathies to the families of the victims of earthquake in Pakistan. I pray God to give them courage to bear this burden. As a US Citizen with Pakistani descent and Sindhi heritage, I am writing about the Language Bill that is presented by MNA Mr. Mujeeb Pirzada before National Assembly of Pakistan for its approval. This bill not only assures peoples of Pakistan their human right to communicate but it offers an exciting nation building opportunity in Pakistan. Pakistan like many countries is a multilingual and multi-national country. People of various provinces and their unique heritage make a beautiful rainbow of a nation yearning to live together as equals. The world community has come a long way to realize that it is not necessary to share common language, heritage, religion, or race to become a nation. It is will of living together that constitutes a nation. It is up to the leadership to formulate policies designed to create this capital of mutual trust and equity of will. I am sure you will agree that trust, respect, and recognition are the powerful tools to create sense of belonging and identity. Force and fear are temporary tools which can line-up and stack people together but will never create a lasting bond that glues them for ever. Especially when a nation-state picks its favorites in lingua franca, it alienates other native and spoken languages and creates their subordination and thus a status of lesser people. It is no surprise that English and Urdu are perceived to be the languages of "Upper Classes and privileged people" in Pakistan. By shoving Urdu down the throats of East Pakistanis, we created a divide that could never be bridged again. In my opinion, there is not an issue in Pakistan including Kalabagh Dam, provincial autonomy, equitable resource allocation, and host of other issues which can`t be resolved once a sense of equity, belonging and equality is created in the country. Recognition of any nation`s language is actually giving them a seat at the family table. All other issues can and will be settled in time. According to Pakistan Census Report of 2001, Urdu language is mother tongue of only 7.57% of Pakistani population. The purpose of submitting these numbers is not to be disrespectful to Urdu or any other language. In its own right, Urdu is one of the world`s simple and highly adoptable language but other languages have heritage and richness that can`t be ignored. Building of one language does not have to stand on the ashes of other languages. It is an example of vicious statecraft. Unfortunately it is this divisive governance that has pitched brothers against each other. According to the same census, following indigenous languages are spoken in Pakistan: Punjabi (44.15 %), Pashto (15.42%), Sindhi (14.1%), Siraiki (10.53%), Balochi (3.57%), and other 50 languages (4.66). Simply looking at these numbers, one would reject any notion of building a national identity by ignoring national heritage of more 92% of country`s population. Tariq Rehman of Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad in his article titled "Language policy, multilingualism, and language vitality in Pakistan" calls top-down imposition of languages as "Linguistic Imperialism". Citing European movement for preservation of minor (weaker) languages he says "if a child is told that his or her language is inferior, the message being conveyed is that he/she is inferior. In short, one is giving a negative image to children by telling them that the "cultural capital" they posses is not a capital at all but a stigma and a handicap. This makes children reject an aspect – and an essential one at that – of their legacy, history, culture and identity. What is created is "culture shame" – being ashamed of one`s own true identity" Mr. President, being a father yourself, how would you feel if you had to raise your children in a society, which constantly put them down as rejects and outcast? And by no means you will call that a freedom. Presenting a paper on "The role of cultural and heritage in nation building and development" to the African History Month Celebration on 25 February 2001 at King Luthuli Transformation Centre Johannesburg, Mr. Mosibudi Mangena, Deputy Minister of Education said " In addition to the fact that human beings have a bigger brain that allows them the capacity for profound and abstract thinking, human beings are also distinguished from other animals by the fact that they have culture. Without culture we all reduce to ordinary animals. That sum total of customs, rituals, norms and values make us human. They govern and regulate the patterns of our day to day life" In spite of common history, religion, culture, the matters of minority and majority language issues remain unsettled in the European Charter. Nation-states still play the role in defining these policies. Contrary to what "Salariat" would like you to believe, Mr. Pirzada`s proposed bill represents will of majority of the people of Sindh and other provinces of Pakistan. It is not a demand by "just a small elite of militants". Mr. President, I request you to get behind this bill and show all your support that you can. This is a rare and history making opportunity for you to create a new cultural capital in Pakistan. Passing of Language Bill will rightfully grant Sindhis, Punjabis, Siraikis, Balochis and Pushtoon their human right to communicate. Supporting this bill will not only establish a good example of leadership but it will be a right thing to do. I thank you for your kind consideration. Best regards, Iqbal Tareen

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