Since the promulgation of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973, there has been a lot of debate, albeit intermittently, on the issue of national and official language of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Article 251 of the 1973 Constitution grants Urdu the status of Pakistan’s national language, yet clause 2 of the same says that “… English language may be used for official purposes until arrangements are made for its replacement by Urdu.” Now, we are still faced with the same question: should we make Urdu the official language? The debate got a fresh momentum, especially among CSS aspirants, when on February 14, the honourable Lahore High Court (LHC) directed the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) to conduct CSS examination in Urdu language next year i.e. from CE-2018 onwards.
Admittedly, obeying court orders in letter and spirit is binding on all; however, under Article 19 of the 1973 Constitution and Article 10 of The Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003, one has a right to make “… fair and healthy comments on a judgment involving question of public importance in a case which has finally been decided …” So, in the light of this right and given the importance of the same for the aspirants from across the country, we submit, with all due respect to the LHC, that the verdict has perturbed all.
It is to be understood that those aspiring to become a part of the prestigious Civil Service of Pakistan put in strenuous efforts, spanning many months, to prepare for the life-changing CSS exam (hereinafter exam). With this verdict, they all are at sea; finding it extremely difficult to plan their future course of preparation. They want answers to a lot of questions that have popped up in their minds in the post-verdict scenario. They want to know as to what will be the medium of the exam? Will they have to take exam in Urdu or there would be an option for English? What sources they need to consult to prepare themselves well for the exam? These are questions that cannot, in any case, be parried and they should be answered immediately so that the aspirants may go on with their studies with full concentration.
In this regard, the following assertions warrant special attention of the policymakers as well as of the Court, if the FPSC opts to go in appeal against the LHC verdict.
First of all, our education system is heavily loaded with the English language. Students are taught almost all subjects at matriculation, intermediate and graduation levels in English. It is unfortunate that no arrangements have yet been made to make Urdu a medium of instruction. When an aspirant had studied almost everything in English in his/her academic career, then won’t it be an injustice that (s)he is asked to take such a challenging exam in another language? Will one be able to get oneself adjusted with concepts on which no writer has assayed to write in Urdu? The answer is definitely a big ‘NO’.
Second is the issue of availability of reading material on subjects, for example, International Relations, Political Science, Computer Science, Accounting and Auditing, Environmental Sciences, and the list goes on. And, that is somewhat available, has been written in such a colloquial style that an average student cannot comprehend the essences of what (s)he reads. It will ultimately lead them to rote-learning that has been, and will always be, cancerous to the prestige and respect of any exam let alone CSS.
Third, the fact that persistent non-uniformity in the syllabus and medium of instruction over the past many years has created a wide gulf between the rich and the rest needs to be acknowledged. The aspirants having an academic background in Urdu cannot even think of outperforming their counterparts who have had the best of education from institutions studying where is practically impossible for students belonging to the middle class.
Given the challenging — nerve-testing, more rightly — nature of the CSS exam and the state of affairs in our education sector, it seems an implausible idea that within no time everything will be converted to Urdu in order to implement the LHC verdict. The punishment of state’s apathy and its failure in making arrangements for the replacement of English by Urdu cannot be given to the aspirants.
It is also important to mention that any transformation must always be gradual; upending everything is never a good idea. Doing away with an existing system, like the CSS exam, with a stroke of pen will surely have negative repercussions. As the FPSC has revised the syllabus for CSS exam after years of deliberations and consultations, it should be given time enough to do the same in the matter of language. At present, the best possible and practical option can be the introduction of a system where a candidate is free to choose the language in which (s)he wants to take the exam.