Language, Ideology and Power (Language-Learning Among The Muslims of Pakistan and North India)

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Item Code: NAI303
Author: Tariq Rahman
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 9788125034636
Pages: 682
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 650 gm
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Book Description

About the Book


This revised and updated edition of Language, Ideology and Power was first published by Oxford University Press, Karachi in 2002. It is the first book-length study of the history of language teaching and learning among the Muslims of north India and present day Pakistan, and then relates language-learning (the demand) and teaching (the supply) to ideology (or world view) and power. It makes the point that the Muslims in this part of the world, like other people elsewhere, learned languages to empower themselves by acquiring marketable linguistic skills at all periods of history. It also argues that those who determine what languages and what textbooks, are to be taught, would like to, and are in a position to promote the ideology which, in their opinion, promotes or consolidates their own power, or maintains the status quo. In short, the teaching of language is linked to the distribution of power which, in turn, is connected to employment, promotion of certain ideologies, shaping of identities, and national interest.


About the Author


Tariq Rahman is Presently National Distinguished professor of Linguistics and South Asian Studies, in the National Institute of Pakistan, at the Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He was a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar at the University of Texas at Austin in 1995-1996. In 1999, he was a guest Professor at the University of Aarhus, Denmark. He has also lectured extensively at many universities as well as in academic institutions abroad. He established the Quaid-i-Azam Chair on Pakistan Studies at the University of California, Berkeley (2004-2005). He has published numerous research papers and nine books. His book, Language and Politics in Pakistan (1996) has received two awards from the Government of Pakistan. His most recent book, Denizens of Alien Works: A Study of Educational policies and polarization in Pakistan (2004), links education policies and practices in Pakistan with the socio-economic stratification in Pakistani society.




When I had finished writing my book Language and Politics in Pakistan in 1995, 1 had begun to despair of ever being able to write a book again. Lack of funds, non-availability of research assistants, lack of material, and public indifference to scholarship in Pakistan had discouraged me to the point of despair. But Language and Politics in Pakistan was very well-received and I felt encouraged to take up another big research project (this book). While I was hesitating whether to do so or not, the Fulbright Foundation of Pakistan gave me a senior research fellowship at the University of Texas at Austin for one academic year beginning in September 1995. This tilted the balance in favour of embarking upon the long and tortuous research trail for this book and I started off with great enthusiasm. For one year I collected published research material related to this book. It was a happy year and one without which this book would not have begun at all. This chance happening, and two others like it, enabled me to carry on with this book. Let me mention the other two too.


The second fortunate incident occurred in July 1996 soon after I had returned from the United States. This was the offer of the post of research advisor at a think tank, the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), in Islamabad. I was supposed to spend the equivalent of one day in a week there. The Executive Director, Dr Tariq Banuri, put no restrictions upon me and I came and went as I liked. I was supposed to give some research papers of mine to be published by the SDPI. I did so and, indeed, contributed more research publications (thirteen papers and a book) in the next three years than most other fulltime researchers at SDPI. The SDPI paid me a monthly sum which indirectly helped me in my research though it was not specifically meant for this book. Tariq Banuri’s successor, Dr Shahrukh Rafi Khan, continued with this arrangement till July1999 when it was discontinued. I thank both Tariq and Shahrukh for contributing indirectly to my research.


The third incident which helped me in my research took place in August-September 1999. It was an invitation from the University of Aarhus (Denmark), initiated by my friend, the eminent linguist Dr Anjum Saleemi, to accept a Guest Professorship in the University. I went to Denmark via London where I stopped for a month and spent the time in looking at the archival sources at the Oriental and India Office Collection in the British Library. But for this providential help I could not have afforded to go to London and complete this book.


During my years at the SDPI I could afford to employ a private research assistant, Ashfaq Sadiq, who helped me collect a lot of basic data for this book. I want to thank him for his help. The major survey of research material for this book has taken me to many countries: America, India, England, France, and Denmark. The first three, I visited to collect research material and the last two happened to come in the way. It also took me to many places in Pakistan; some of which I had never visited before. I was lucky to have found some very helpful and decent people who extended warm hospitality to me or helped me in some other way. Though all of them are too numerous to mention, let me, however, mention a few of them -Drs Makarand Paranjpe and Harish Narang (Delhi); Mr and Mrs Razi Siddiqui and Dr and Mrs B. Chandramohan (London); Dr Anjum Saleemi (Denmark); Colonel Azam Jafar (Bahawalpur); Lt.-Colonel (retd.) and Mrs Khalid Khan (Hyderabad); Major (retd.) Khalipur Rehman (Peshawar); Mr Nayyar Iqbal, Mr Sikandar Jamali, and Mir Jan Jamali (Quetta); Brigadier M. Junaid (Karachi): and the members of my family (in Karachi) and my wife’s family (in Lahore).


Among those who helped me procure material were Mrs Ameena Saiyyid, Managing Director, Oxford University Press, Karachi; Mr Waseem Altaf Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax and a personal friend; Professor Umar Memon of the University of Wisconsin; Mr Salman Khurshid, ex-Foreign Minister of India; Mr Nadeem Siddiqui, my colleague from the Department of History at QAU, presently in the United States, Ms Nabiha Mahmood, and Tariq Ahsan, a childhood friend now living in Canada. I am most grateful to all of these people for having made books, data, and other documents available to me-sometimes at great personal cost.


The most difficult part of research for the book was a survey of the opinion of more than 1500 students. This was undertaken after Ashfaq was no longer available. I personally visited schools in the Punjab, NWFP, Balochistan, and Sindh. However, some people volunteered to help me and accepted no remuneration of any kind from me. I am deeply indebted to them. Their names, including the places where they administered the questionnaires to students, are as follows: Northern Areas (Ms Bernice Archer, Mr Barcha, etc.); Turbat (Liaquat Baloch); Lahore (Zafar Jamal, Manzar Shah Khan, Khadija Hassan); Rawalpindi (my sister Tayyaba Azam): Swat (Akhtar Hussain); Mianwali and surrounding areas (Sajid Awan); Hazro (Hamid ul Haq); Jhelum (Major Farrukh Mahmood); Karachi (Farooq Dogar); Wazirabad (Shahbaz Malik); and Punjab (Tahir Waseem). I also thank the teachers and administrators of the institutions who allowed me to administer the questionnaires to their students. Apart from the work involved in administering the questionnaires, I interviewed a large number of people and read manuscripts in peoples’ private collections. I thank all the interviewees most of whom are mentioned in the bibliography. However, out of the hundreds of students, teachers, and principals I talked to, very few are mentioned by name. Let me take this opportunity to thank them. Without their cooperation, this book could never have been written. The only reason for not mentioning them individually by name is lack of space for which, I hope, they will excuse me.


Likewise, I hope the librarians and archivists whom I have not mentioned individually by name will excuse me. Among the major libraries I must thank here are: the library of the University of Texas at Austin; the University of Cambridge Library; the British Library, especially the Oriental and India Office Collection; the Bodleian Library, Oxford; the Library of the Institute of Folk Heritage, Islamabad; the National Archives of Pakistan, Islamabad; National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT), New Delhi; the Jawahar Lal Nehru University Library, New Delhi; the Institute of Sindhology, Hyderabad, and the Library of the University of Aarhus, Denmark. My debt to the libraries of my own university is deep and ongoing.


I would also like to thank my colleagues at the Quaid-i-Azam University, especially Drs Sikandar Hayat and Mohammad Waseem, who gave me many valuable ideas for this book. This book was word- processed by Mr Khalid Mahmood Dar whose skills, patience, and good humour were a great help in the frustrating experience of writing it. I hope those whom I have not mentioned, the innumerable officials in the offices of Boards of Education and universities, personal friends, acquaintances, readers, and students do not mind that they are not mentioned individually. Their contribution is too great to be ignored though it is impossible to make long lists of people here.


Above all, I thank my university for giving me the time for undertaking this research. The time and flexibility necessary for research are generously provided by Quaid-i-Azam University. In fact it is this aspect of academic life which first attracted me to the university and keeps me in this profession. However, I have said it before and I repeat that this is not enough to encourage academics to undertake research ventures of this kind in Pakistan. In my case, although I embarked upon research for this book in 1996, I got no money for it from any source till 1999. At last, when I was in great frustration as the indirect help from SDPI had also dried up, I got Rs 25,000 from the National Institute of Pakistan Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University in July 1999. Later, a research assistant Mr Farooq Dogar, was sent at the expense of the same institution (my parent institution) to Hyderabad. I thank Dr Hyder Sindhi, the then Director of NIPS, for this help. As more money was needed for a project as huge as this one, I had to rely on my family’s income. My deepest thanks, therefore, go to my wife who encourages me to keep spending on research even when it means that other heads of expenditure get lower priority. I also thank her, my children, and my parents who put up with the fact that I give so little time to them. Although research is my hobby as well as part of my profession, the low priority given to it by the state is disappointing. Generally people ask why it is that Pakistani academics produce so little research? I would like to invert this question. The question should be: why is it that-despite being deprived of research material, assistants, funds, and other facilities and knowing clearly that promotion does not depend upon “research-some Pakistani academics still produce the research they d02 I salute such academics and I am proud of the fact that most of them are my colleagues at the Quaid-i-Azam University. Such scholars and the reading public inspire me not to despair.


In the end I want to thank Ms Uzma Gilani, Editor at the Oxford University Press, Karachi, for reading this book several times from cover to cover. If you are satisfied with the product you hold in your hands today, it is because of her competence and dedication and, of course, the silent efforts of her colleagues, the printers, and the binders.




Pakistan is a multilingual country but most people can neither read nor write any of these languages.’ Literacy was 17.9 per cent in 1951 and it was estimated to be 38 per cent in 1995-still among the lowest in the world as Mahbubul Haq laments (Haq and Haq 1998: 51). Because the country is multilingual, however, language is a marker of ethnic identity which makes it a politically sensitive subject. Thus Bengali, Sindhi, Pashto, Siraiki, and the Balochi languages have expressed the ethnic identities of their speakers as dealt with in detail in my previous book Language and Politics in Pakistan (1996). This ethnic aspect, though not the subject of this book, will inevitably be mentioned again and again in connection with language-teaching too. Ethnicity is obviously related to the pursuit of power-mobilization of groups with reference to evocative identity symbols such as language, religion or experience in order to obtain some share in goods and services in a modern multi-ethnic state-and is, indeed, one of the most discussed aspects of modern politics. The other aspect, illiteracy itself, may not immediately appear to be connected with power. However, considering that all middle class employment is dependent upon the manipulation of print languages, it is obviously empowering to be literate-especially in the language (s) of the domains of power. Thus, our focus on the formal and the informal aspects of the teaching and learning of languages will give us insights into the way power is distributed and operates in Pakistan.


First, however, let us list the languages of Pakistan. The Ethnologue published by the Summer Institute of Linguistics lists seventy-two languages (Gordon 2005). However, this list includes deaf sign language and mutually intelligible varieties of several languages. Thus, perhaps a total of fifty-five may be nearer the truth.” This estimate includes English, which is a second language for educated Pakistanis, and some languages which only refugees from Afghanistan speak. Moreover, some of these languages can claim no more than a few thousand speakers nor are the boundaries of language and dialect (defined as mutually intelligible varieties of a language) always clear. The major languages according to the 1981 census are: Punjabi (48.17 per cent); Pashto (13.14 per cent); Sindhi (11.77 per cent); Siraiki (9.83 per cent); Urdu (7.60 per cent); Balochi (3.02 per cent); Hindko (2.43 per cent) and Brahvi (1.21 per cent). If Siraiki, Hindko and Punjabi, being mutually intelligible, are considered varieties of the same language, as they are by J.L. Breton in his Atlas of the Languages and Ethnic Communities of South Asia (1997: 198), we get a figure of 60.44 per cent. Among the ‘other languages’ spoken by 2.81 per cent people there are more than fifty names, some of which are known only to professional linguists. These include the languages of the Northern Areas, Kohistan, remote parts of the NWFP, Balochistan, Sindh, as well as the minor languages of Punjab and other parts of the country (see, Annexure 1 - A pp. 27 for details). These minor languages add up to more than fifty in number. So many languages are never easy to deal with in the modern state which requires ‘language rationalization- defined by Laitin as’the territorial specification of a common language for purposes of efficient administration and rule’ (Laitin 1992: 9). However, as in India, there are only a few major languages in which most Pakistanis can communicate. The minor languages, therefore, do not affect what Mahapatra calls ‘the communication environment’ in Pakistan as they do not in India (Mahapatra 1990: 13).


This study concentrates only on the Muslims of Pakistan and north India. Pakistan is the larger focus but language-teaching in Pakistan cannot be understood unless one takes north India into account. North India is a term used by South Asian scholars, such as Paul Brass, for the Hindi-Urdu and Punjabi-speaking states of pre-partition India. This area is significant for understanding present day Pakistan because ‘this area, especially the Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, has been the primary arena in India of religious cleavage-between Hindus and Muslims in Uttar Pradesh and among Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs in the Punjab’ (Brass 1974: 22). Language-teaching in these areas, especially that of Urdu and Punjabi, is linked with the struggle for power which created Pakistan and agitates both India and Pakistan even now. As the focus is on the teaching and learning of languages still used in Pakistan with special emphasis on how these activities are related to power, it was necessary to exclude Bengali, the language of the majority of the Muslims of South , but one which is no longer used in Pakistan. Bengali will, however, be mentioned in other contexts during the course of this study. The emphasis on the Urdu-speaking Muslims of India, who were concentrated in north India but some of whom also live in Hyderabad, is also necessary because it is their language, Urdu, which is the national language of Pakistan. Even more relevant for our purposes, Urdu has been related with the struggle for power among the Hindus and Muslims; the Bengalis and West Pakistanis; and smaller ethnic groups and the dominant Punjabis in Pakistan. In short, it is at the centre of the power struggle in Pakistan and should be dealt with in great detail. It is also related to Muslim identity in India and, therefore, its teaching helps us understand the Muslim community in north India. This has been done by looking at the policies and processes of teaching and learning languages in the centres of the civilizations of Urdu-speaking Muslims-hence, the focus on north India. But this focus on India, as mentioned earlier, is to help us understand Pakistan better.


There are many ways to approach language learning and teaching in a country like Pakistan. From the point of view of the state the question is: which language(s) should be taught to achieve national (i.e., political) interests-language rationalization? Such a question can only be answered once it is determined what these interests are? Keeping the various ethnic groups together is obviously an interest. Does this mean then, that only one ‘national’ language should be promoted? But suppose this creates a backlash and language-based ethnic movements force the state to change such a policy as the Bengali language movement did in Pakistan (Rahman 1996: chapter 6) and the Dravidian language supporters did in India (King 1997: chapter 4). Would it not be more useful to aim at ‘the 3 ± 1 language outcome’ which Laitin predicts and prescribes for multilingual societies like those of Africa where such rationalization cannot be the norm? (Laitin 1992: 18). Another interest could be the creation of a modern and technological society. For this English seems most cost-effective. And it is because it is cost-effective and empowers individuals and groups that it is expanding so fast. It is a world language with between 235 to 2090 million users. Out of these, 350 million may be quite competent while others would vary in competence. Even if we take cautious estimates of 1200-1500 million people, it is the most used language in the world in the domains of power and high culture, i.e., administration, business, media, research, flying, advertising, travel, and so on. To ignore English would be to get locked out of the most powerful and lucrative jobs in the world because it is, as David Crystal (1997) shows, a world language. But in Pakistan, English facilitates the elite and is the marker of upper social status. The promotion of English then goes very much in favour of the westernized elite and is unjust towards the masses. Then there is the question of literacy. Without knowing how to read and write, people cannot operate machines and read instructions. Moreover, literacy creates a change in world view and expectations (Ong 1982). One consequence of this is that literate societies have less children, are more conscious of their rights and tend to accept modernization more easily. Thus, as Myron Weiner has pointed out, schooling (i.e., the acquisition of literacy and numeracy), precedes industrialization and modernization (Weiner & Noman 1995: chapter 6).


The major question for any developing country is always about the creation of the ‘communication environment: as mentioned by J.L. Breton in the case of India, in the formal domains. This is done by making people literate but, the problem in multilingual countries is, in which language 2 The language of literacy is, after all, a standardized print-language and not a non-standard spoken variety of a language. Thus, it is taught in schools and has primers, grammars, and dictionaries available in it. A large number of teachers are employed to teach it to children. In short, modern states have to create a policy for the teaching of this language because, unlike the spoken mother tongue, the child does not acquire it simply by listening to others. This policy, called acquisition planning by Cooper, ‘is directed toward increasing the number of users-speakers, writers, listeners, or readers’ (Cooper 1989: 33) of a language. This policy, like other policies, is also connected with world view and power: the nationalist imperative of creating a national identity; of consolidating the rule of an elite; of modernization and development, etc., etc.








Translation and Transliteration









Preface to this Edition






Theoretical Framework









English and Indian Muslims



Urdu in British India



Urdu in the Hindi Heartland



Urdu in Pakistan



English in Pakistan












Balochi, Brahvi and Minor Languages



Foreign Languages



Language Texts and World View















Sample Pages

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