Pakistan, a country in South Asia, is the sixth most populous country in the world. The country encompasses an area of 881,913 square km, the 36th largest in the world, and has a population of 201,995,540. The territory that now is the modern country of Pakistan is considered as a cradle of civilization and housed several ancient cultures. The Mehrgarh of the Neolithic period and the Indus Valley Civilization of the Bronze Age grew up in this region. Several dynasties and empires have ruled over the region in the past and left behind their traces in the form of the varied cultures and the rich linguistic diversity of Pakistan.
Official Languages Of Pakistan
Both English and Urdu are the official languages of Pakistan.
A remnant of the British colonial rule in the region, English serves an important medium of formal communication in the country. The Constitution and the laws of the country were originally written in English and are now being translated into the local languages. Many educational institutes in the country also use the English language to impart education. English is spoken in the homes and informal circles of the elite class of the country along with the local languages.
Urdu is also an official language of Pakistan and is used in formal occasions, government administration, and taught in educational institutions. The origin and role of Urdu are discussed further in the section below.
The National Language Of Pakistan
Urdu is not only the official language of Pakistan but also the national language of the country. However, only about 8% of Pakistanis speak Urdu as their first language. However, a vast section of the population speaks it as their second language. The origin of Urdu goes back several centuries, and according to some historians, Urdu has evolved from an Indo-Aryan language spoken in the area around Delhi which absorbed words from Arabic, Persian, and Chagatai. The Government of Pakistan has strived to promote the national language of Pakistan to encourage national solidarity.
Provincial Languages Of Pakistan
Punjabi is the most popular of the regional languages of Pakistan. Over 44% of Pakistani Punjabis speak Punjabi as a first language which is written using the Shahmukhi script which uses the Urdu alphabet.
Pashto, the official language of neighboring Afghanistan, also has a significant number of speakers in Pakistan. This language of Pakistan is spoken by over 15.42% of the entire population of the country. The Pashto speakers are concentrated in northern Balochistan, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa regions of Pakistan. Pashtun communities in the cities of the country also speak this language. Pashto has a rich literary tradition, and some famous poets who used the Pashto language in their literary work are Khushal Khan Khattak, Rahman Baba, Khatir Afridi, and Ghani Khan.
Sindhi is spoken as a first language primarily by Pakistanis residing in the Sindh province of the country. Nearly 14.5% of Pakistanis speak this language of Pakistan. Some scholars claim that Sindhi is derived from Sanskrit with Arabic influences and others believe it has its origins in the Sami languages. Sindhi is also spoken by a significant section of the Indian population.
Another provincial language of Pakistan, the Balochi language is spoken by about 4% of the country’s population, especially by those residing in the Balochistan province.
Minority Languages Of Pakistan
A large number of languages can be included in the category of minority languages of Pakistan and are spoken by minority communities residing in the country. Speakers of these languages number from a few hundreds to a few thousand. Some of these languages are also endangered and might disappear altogether quite soon.
Foreign Languages That Have A Significant Impact In Pakistan
As mentioned above, English, the official language of the colonial British Empire, continue to play a major role in Pakistan as one of the official languages of the country. Besides, English, the other important foreign languages of Pakistan are:
Since Pakistan is a Muslim major country, Arabic, the religious language of Muslims play a major role in the religious education of the Muslims. The Quran, Hadith, Sunnah and other Islamic religious texts are taught in Arabic and translated in Urdu. A major section of the Muslim population of Pakistan is given some form of informal or formal religious education in the Arabic language.
Persian was the language spoken by the Royals of the Mughal Empire and served as the cultural and official language of this Empire. As such, it had a high status in the Muslim society in the past. However, the British abolished the official status of Persian during their colonial rule over the Indian sub-continent. Today, only a small section of the Pakistani population speak this language.