The Punjab Government has recently decided to re-introduce Urdu as the medium of instruction for primary school students in the province. There are two sources for this ill-advised move. The first one is of course, a misplaced sense of nationalism that seeks to put Urdu above all else. The second one is our self styled foreign returned education experts who argue that “native language” allows for better education. Both views are utterly and completely divorced from any reality whatsoever.The supremacy of the British Empire in the post-industrial age and then the rise of its successor state, the United States (US), ensured a place of primacy for the English language as the language of science, law, politics, economics and so on. It is not out of any love for the English language that one must contend with this fact of history but because it happened. It happened and we are living in the world that we are, for better or for worse. It so happened that enterprising South Asians beat the erstwhile British and American masters at their own game. A generation of South Asians, Pakistanis and Indians, emerged who spoke English, some times in their own accents, as their main language of communication. They rose to be physicists, authors, historians, economists, physicists and also lawyers. For those who harp on from the nationalist angle against English should be reminded that this country owes its existence in main part to one such man who spoke only in English. The record shows that at the very first meeting of the constituent assembly that the founding father presided over, he made it a point to enforce the rule that vernacular could only be used if the member was not fluent in English. For several political exigencies however, Mr Jinnah later was forced to later declare Urdu as the lingua franca but that decision, one dictated to him, turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. Official business nevertheless remained in English and it continued to serve Pakistanis well till the post-colonial bug bit us in the 1970s and the 1980s. The can of worms subsequently opened led to endless linguistic strife. Language wars will be the undoing of a diverse country like Pakistan. We should respect unity in diversity by continuing to preserve all languages spoken in this great landNow our self-styled modern-day theorists who know nothing of the history and complexity of either the world or this region want to open another can of worms. Even though the constitution of Pakistan accords protection to each language and culture in Pakistan, these would be reformers of the Pakistani education system insist that every child be taught physics, chemistry, biology and so on and so forth in his or her mother tongue. In other words, let us throw away the one good thing that the British gave us along with cricket. The people of Pakistan and India (along with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh) have had this competitive edge on other parts of Asia. We have an Anglophone population. That means that professionals trained in these countries have an easier time adapting to the world where ultimately the disciplines that matter happen to be inevitably in the English language. We are not alone by the way. The miracle of Africa, the one country that is a model of ordered growth and success in that continent emerging out of the ashes like a phoenix is Rwanda. The official language of Rwanda, along with their national language is English. It is also the sole medium of instruction. They went through a lot of conflict including genocide to get there. Try selling them your fancy theories about mother language and such.Think about it. What is the replacement you propose and is it really going to be the mother tongue? For Punjab it naturally becomes Urdu because Urdu has been the language of lower bureaucracy and lower judiciary since the 1840s in the province. Punjabi has never been developed to incorporate scientific knowledge. I am not well versed about the situation in other regional languages but I am willing to wager that none of the other languages spoken in Pakistan are any better and for those who do not know there are many more languages in Pakistan than you can imagine. It is not as simple as Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi and Pushto. Seraiki for example, is not a dialect of Punjabi. Neither is Hindko. These are original languages. So is Brahui. A section in Karachi has Gujurati as its mother tongue. Kashmiri language is not one. There is the Bilti language, the Sheena language, the Burukshahi language, the Khowar language, Wakhi, Gujari, Domakhi, and of course Dari. All these are languages of Pakistan and mother tongues of Pakistani citizens. Now imagine if we took the mother tongue theory to its extreme, would we be segmenting our population into all these languages when its comes to education? As many of these geniuses who come up with harebrained ideas are often trained in North America, would it be possible to ask them if the US has introduced separate Spanish and Native American language mediums of instruction? It is an impractical and foolish idea given the natural direction in which humankind is marching which is towards one world and a common lingua franca for all of humanity. We may not like that the language humanity has chosen is English, but this is how it is. It certainly will not be Urdu either because creating a medium of instruction in Urdu, just like Hindi or any other language, will merely be a futile exercise. The reason why the English language has become synonymous with education is not because it is the language of the elites but because it is practical. If there is a problem with the level of instructions, the easier route is to train better teachers rather than devising 50 different curricula in “mother tongues”. Pakistan certainly cannot afford the latter. Finally, these language wars will be the undoing of a diverse country like Pakistan. We should respect unity in diversity by continuing to preserve all languages spoken in this great land of ours and by developing literature and even translating important works into them. What we cannot do is throw away our one major advantage arrived at through an accident of history. Human beings are not monolingual creatures. We can pick up a variety of languages and science shows that knowing more than one language is often good for mental synapses. The world has to learn to speak with each other, to each other, not at each other. English is the language of the world. The sooner we accept it, the better. One can only advise the Punjab Government to rethink its disastrous course of action. It would also be worthwhile to note who benefits from us giving up the English language. Let that sink in.The writer is a practicing lawyer and was a visiting fellow at Harvard Law School in Cambridge MA, USA Published in Daily Times, February 25th 2019.