Do Pakistani Punjabis still speak Punjabi or
have they adopted Urdu?

Bilal Javed 

This is a highly complex question from the prospective of Pakistani Punjabis as the entire cultural shape of the region we are living in is dependent on what the answer to this question eventually turns out to be. As a Pakistani Punjabi I love Urdu and consider it my national language and feel no shame and hesitation in learning and speaking it but This should never and I really mean NEVER come at the price of replacing Punjabi with Urdu or discarding Punjabi for the sake of adopting Urdu. 

All languages of the subcontinent are our languages albeit not our mother languages and we should not hate any language but simply discarding your mother language for the sake of any other is just like discarding your own mother for someone else. And I really hope that the Pakistani Punjabis understand that without Punjabi spoken in our streets, homes, and markets, there will be No Punjab left. 

I was listening to "Noam Chomsky" (Perhaps the greatest linguist of our era) the other day at Google talks and according to him "When a language dies the entire history, human contribution, and culture of that region dies with that language". 

listen from 19:00 onwards. I am at times really frustrated that the Pakistani Punjabis at times don't understand a basic thing that the Punjabi poetry, Bhnagra, Upbeat and humorous nature of Punjabis, their dresses, sweets, food, and all other things they are so proud of would simply disappear if they stop teaching this language to their younger generation and start adopting other languages in place of Punjabi.

Having said that all is not lost. There is still a huge majority of people in the rural areas of Pakistani Punjab that speak the purest punjabi you could listen to, from their childhood to the rest of their life. One thing that is really alarming is that Punjabi although still the most spoken language here in Punjab is no where to be seen in the written form. No building, sign board of any sort in the Pakistani Punjab would be in Punjabi. In this regard everything is replaced by either urdu or english. Although we adopted the "Shah Mukhi" script of Punjabi from ages ago but that is rarely seen anywhere these days let alone the Grumukhi script.

It really hit me one day when a friend of mine from Karachi who was a native urdu speaker asked me that "Punjabi does not have any script right? you guys just preserve your language by the spoken tradition alone ?" ... and after considering his point it seemed very legit for a non-punjabi pakistani to think this way since there is nothing to be seen in Punjabi in the written form here for the common man. I know that there are lot of poets and writers who still write many books in Punjabi every year here but then again those are hardly read by the general public and specially the younger generation.

The only way Punjabi as a spoken language is making a come back in the general masses is through our "Punjabi stage drama" culture (which of course has it's own gray areas) and "Punjabi jugat bazi" which has been popularized through  talk shows like "Khabarnak" and "Hasb-e-Haal" and the Punjabi film dubbing like "Butt and Bhutti". No matter how idiotic and vulgar this seems to the sophisticated urdu speaking class of Pakistan it is simply the muscle and power of punjabi that you can never deliver the same amount of crispness and indirect way of critique that punjabi delivers and hence even in a program where everything will be in urdu when there is a time to crack a joke you would have to use Punjabi.

¬†Also many artists, who can't even speak Punjabi have their greatest hits and most soulful performances as Punabi songs of our great sufi poets like "Bulle Shah" and "Khwaja Ghulam Fareed" and some times even completely new songs written in Punjabi. But I really hope that we restore the status of Punjabi as a rich and literary language of our region that it has always been and go beyond it's use for the purpose of joke cracking  and singing sufi medleys only.

Another very alarming situation that is steadfastly consuming Punjabi here is it's scarcity in the urban areas of Punjab like Lahore. If you go to the more developed area of Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi etc You would hardly see punjabi spoken anywhere. Even more alarming is the parents not talking and teaching their kids punjabi at all. If this attitude continues then Punjabi will soon be totally replaced by urdu in the major cities of Punjab.

And the last nail in the coffin that we are steadily putting since 1947 is thatPunjabi is no where taught in the schools of Punjab. I guess this is truly disgraceful on our part as Punjabis and needs no explanation or justification. And I never get that why are we so silent and Ok over this?

All in all Punjabi is still there as the majority spoken language here but if the Pakistani Punjabis did not understand the gravity of the situation then it will soon be actually replaced by other languages. And I really hope that this day never comes... As on that day there will no Punjab left in Pakistan.





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