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Languages of Pakistan

Pakistan's national language is Urdu. English and Urdu are the official languages.
In 2015, the government announced its plans to make Urdu as the sole official
language and abolish English. The country is also home to several regional
languages, including Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Balochi, Kashmiri, Hindko, Brahui,
Shina, Balti, Kho war, Dhatki, Marwari, Wakhi and Burushaski. From among these,
four (Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, and Balochi) are provincial languages.
Almost all of Pakistan's languages belong to the Indo-Iranian group of the IndoEuropean language family.

National language: Urdu

Urdu ( )is the national language () , lingua franca and one of two
official languages of Pakistan (the other currently being English). Although only
about 8% of Pakistanis speak it as their first language, it is widely spoken and
understood as a second language by the vast majority of Pakistanis. It was
introduced as the lingua franca upon the capitulation and annexation of Sindh
(1843) and Punjab (1849) with the subsequent ban on the use of Persian.
According to the linguistic historian Tariq Rahman, however, the oldest name of
what is now called Urdu is Hindustani or Hindvi and it existed in some form at
least from the 14th century if not earlier (Rahman 2011). It was probably the
language of the area around Delhi that absorbed words of Persian and Arabic and
Chagatai (a Turkic language)the same process that created modern English. This
language, according to Rahman, is the ancestor of both modern Hindi and Urdu.
These became two distinct varieties when Urdu was first Persianized in the 18th
century and then Hindi was Sanskritized from 1802 onwards.

The name Urdu is a short form of 'Zuban-e-Urdu-e-Mualla' i.e. language of the

exalted city. In India the term Urdu, although it means 'military camp' in most
Turkic languages, was used for the capital city of the king. In other words, the
language of the king's capital was a Persianized form of the language known only
by its previous and currently less common name Hindustani. This was shortened
to 'Urdu' and this term was used for the first time in written records by the poet
Mushafi in 1780 (Rahman 2011: 49). It is widely used, both formally and

informally, for personal letters as well as public literature, in the literary sphere
and in the popular media. It is a required subject of study in all primary and
secondary schools. It is the first language of most Muhajirs (Muslim refugees who
fled from different parts of India after independence of Pakistan in 1947), who
form nearly 8% of Pakistan's population, and is an acquired second language for
the rest. As Pakistan's national language, Urdu has been promoted to promote
national unity. It is written with a modified form of the Perso-Arabic alphabet
usually in Nastaliq scriptand its basic Hindustani vocabulary has been enriched
by words from Persian, Arabic, Turkic languages and English.
In the last 150 years, and especially the last 6070 years, the Urdu spoken in what
is now Pakistan has gradually been influenced by many of the native languages,
such as Pashto, Punjabi and Sindhi, in terms of intonation, as well the
incorporation of terminology from those languages. As such, the language is
constantly developing and has acquired a particularly "Pakistani" flavour that
distinguishes it from the language spoken in older times. The first poetry in the
history of Urdu is attributed to Farid Ganjshakar of Pakpattan (1175-1265) and the
poet Amir Khusro (12531325), but, since the actual writing of the manuscripts is
of a later date, this cannot be said with certainty. Lines in what may be
understood as Urdu are scattered in the Persian biographies and conversations of
saints (Rahman 2011: 61-65) and the first book of Pashto Khairul Bayan, probably
written by Bayazid Ansari between 1560 and 1570, has some pages in the PersoArabic script that are written in this language. The image of these pages is
displayed by Rahman in his book From Hindi to Urdu (2011: 134-135). The
language was later on adopted by Mughal emperors, such as Aurangzeb Alamgir
(16581707), who spoke it fluentlyas did his descendantswhile his ancestors
mostly spoke Persian and Turkic languages.

Provincial languages
Punjabi ( )is spoken as a first language by more than 44% of Pakistanis,
mostly in Punjab. The exact number of Punjabi speakers in Pakistan is difficult to
ascertain since there are many dialects, such as Saraiki and Hindko which some
regard as part of Punjabi and others regard as a separate languages. If both are
included then 60% of the population speaks Punjabi which is the exact population

proportion of Punjab province to the overall population of Pakistan. The standard

Punjabi dialect is from the Lahore, Sialkot, Gujranwala and Sheikhupura districts
of the Pakistani Punjab, as was used by Waris Shah (17221798) in his famous
book Heer Ranjha and which is also nowadays the language of Punjabi literature
and music. Punjabi language in Pakistan is written in Shahmukhi script with the
Urdu alphabet.

Pashto ( )is spoken as a first language by more than 15.42% (c. 29 million) of
Pakistanis, mainly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Federally Administered Tribal Areas
(FATA) and in northern Balochistan as well as in ethnic Pashtun communities in
the cities of Karachi, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Lahore. Karachi is one of the most
Pashto speaking cities in the world.[3] Pashto is also widely spoken in neighboring
Afghanistan where it has official language status.

Pashto has rich written literary traditions as well as an oral tradition. There are
three major dialect patterns within which the various individual dialects may be
classified; these are Pakhto, which is the Northern (Peshawar) variety, and the
softer Pashto spoken in the southern areas. Khushal Khan Khattak (16131689)
and Rahman Baba (16331708) were famous poets in the Pashto language. In the
last part of 20th century, Pakhto or Pashto has produced some great poets like
Ghani Khan, Khatir Afridi and Amir Hamza Shinwari. They are not included in the
overall percentage.

The Sindhi language ( )is spoken as a first language by at most 14.5% of
Pakistanis, mostly in Sindh province, parts of Balochistan, Southern Punjab and
Balochistan. It has a rich literature and is taught in schools. It is an Indo-Aryan
(Indo-European) language, derived from Sanskrit, and Arabic languages;But here
it must be noted that some Sindhi scholars such as Dr. Nabi Bux Khan Baloch, Dr.
Bheru Mal MehrChandani, Dr. Ghulam Ali Alana, Sirajul Haq Memon, have

different notion for the origin of Sindhi language. Nabi Bux Khan Baloch said that
Sindhi is derived from Sami languages, Dr. Bheru Mal gave his notion that Sindhi is
derived from Sanskrit; whereas other said that Sindhi is sister language of
Sanskrit, Pali Language. Siraj Memon said Sindhi is not derived from Sanskrit but
Sanskrit is derived from old Sindhi language. The Arabs ruled Sindh province for
more than 150 years after Muhammad bin Qasim conquered it in 712 AD,
remaining there for three years to set up Arab rule. Consequently, the social
fabric of Sindh contains elements of Arabic society. Sindhi is spoken by over 53.4
million people in Pakistan and some 5.8 million in India as well as some 2.6 million
in other parts of the world. It is the official language of Sindh province and is one
of the scheduled languages officially recognized by the federal government in
India. It is widely spoken in the Lasbela District of Balochistan (where the Lasi
tribe speaks a dialect of Sindhi), many areas of the Naseerabad, Rahim Yar Khan
and Dera Ghazi Khan districts in Sindh and Jafarabad districts of Balochistan, and
by the Sindhi diaspora abroad. Sindhi language has six major dialects: Sireli,
Vicholi, Lari, Thari, Lasi and Kachhi. It is written in the Arabic script with several
additional letters to accommodate special sounds. The largest Sindhi-speaking
cities are Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Shikarpur, Dadu, Jacobabad, Larkana and
Nawabshah. Sindhi literature is also spiritual in nature. Shah Abdul Latif Bhita'i
(16891752) is one of its greatest poets, and wrote Sassi Punnun and Umar Marvi,
folk stories, in his famous book "Shah Jo Risalo" and the book was written by Shah
Abdul Latif Bhittai.

Balochi ( )is spoken as a first language by about 4% of Pakistanis, mostly in
Balochistan province. Rakshani is the major dialect group in terms of numbers.
Sarhaddi is a sub-dialect of Rakshani. Other sub-dialects are Kalati (Qalati),
Chagai-Kharani and Panjguri. Eastern Hill Balochi or Northern Balochi is very
different from the rest. The name Balochi or Baluchi is not found before the 10th
Century. It is one of the 9 distinguished languages of Pakistan. Since Balochi is a
very poetic and rich language and has a certain degree of affinity to Urdu, Balochi
poets tend to be very good poets in Urdu as well and Ata Shaad, Gul Khan Nasir
and Noon Meem Danish are excellent examples of this.

Other languages
English (previous colonial and co-official language)
English is a co-official language of Pakistan and is widely used in the executive, legislative and judicial
branches as well as to some extent in the officer ranks of Pakistan's armed forces. Pakistan's
Constitution and laws were written in English and are now being re-written in the local languages. It is
also widely used in schools, colleges and universities as a medium of instruction. Amongst the more
educated social circles of Pakistan, English is seen as the language of upward mobility and its use is
becoming more prevalent in upper social circles often spoken alongside native Pakistani languages. In
2015, it was announced that there were plans to promote Urdu in official business, but Pakistan's
Minister of Planning Ahsan Iqbal stated,"Urdu will be a second medium of language and all official
business will be bilingual." He also went on to say that English would be taught alongside Urdu in
Arabic (religious and minor literary language)
Arabic ( )is the religious language of Muslims. The Quran, Sunnah, Hadith and Muslim theology is
taught in Arabic with Urdu translation. The Pakistani diaspora living in the Middle East has further
increased the number of people who can speak Arabic in Pakistan. Arabic is taught as a religious
language in mosques, schools, colleges, universities and madrassahs. A majority of Pakistan's Muslim
population has had some form of formal or informal education in the reading, writing and pronunciation
of the Arabic language as part of their religious education.

Persian ( )was the official and cultural language of the Mughal Empire, a continuation since the
introduction of the language by Central Asian Turkic invaders who migrated into the Indian
Subcontinent,[9] and the patronisation of it by the earlier Turko-Persian Delhi Sultanate. Persian was
officially abolished with the arrival of the British: in Sindh in 1843 and in Punjab in 1849. It is today
spoken primarily by the Dari speaking refugees from Afghanistan and the Hazara community of Quetta.

Turkic languages (previous colonial and immigrant languages)

Turkic languages ( )languages were used by the ruling Turco-Mongols such as the Mughals and
earlier Sultans of the subcontinent. There are small pockets of Turkic speakers found throughout the
country, notably in the valleys in the countries northern regions which lie adjacent to Central Asia,
western Pakistani region of Waziristan principally around Kanigoram where the Burki tribe dwells and in
Pakistan's urban centres of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. The autobiography of Mughal emperor
Babur, Tuzk Babari was also written in Turkish. After returning from exile in Safavid Persia in 1555,
Mughal emperor Humayun further introduced Persian language and culture in the court and
government. The Chaghatai language, in which Babur had written his memoirs, disappeared almost
entirely from the culture of the courtly elite, and Mughal emperor Akbar could not speak it. Later in life,
Humayun himself is said to have spoken in Persian verse more often than not.A number of Turkic
speaking refugees, mostly Uzbeks and Turkmens from Afghanistan and Uyghurs from China have settled
in Pakistan.