Several events and protests are held in different parts of Karachi on Sundays in connection with International Mother Language Day, a worldwide commemoration held every 21 February to promote multilingualism and awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity.
The Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and the Punjabi Student Union (PSA) organized separate demonstrations outside the Karachi Press Club, during which speakers called for saving the mother tongue to forge a greater national unity and pluralistic society.
When speaking to the protesters, PkMAP President Sindh Nazir Jan Lala and Central Executive Abdul Rauf Lala said that the mother tongue is the identity of the community and reflects the culture and traditions of the indigenous population.
They called for the teaching media in schools and colleges to use the mother tongue, especially in Pashto in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and in Balochi in Balochistan. Nazir Jan from PkMAP said that Pakistan is a multilingual country, but successive governments have neglected the importance of mother tongue as a medium of instruction in schools, which has created a sense of deprivation among indigenous peoples.
A large number of PSA members from various city academic institutions attended the rally to commemorate International Mother Language Day. Speakers at the rally demanded the promotion of their native Punjabi and its teaching in schools.
PSA leaders said that because Pakistan’s constitution also regulates the promotion of regional languages, Punjab must immediately make Punjabi a medium of instruction and also make it a compulsory subject in public and private schools.
On February 21, 1952, students at the University of Dhaka staged a protest demanding that Bangla be declared the national language of Pakistan because 56 percent of the country’s population at that time were Bengali speakers. The police opened fire on them and killed five students.