The Express Tribune Editorial 14 December 2019

Let a thousand flowers bloom


Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar has emphasised the need for promoting Punjabi language and has said Punjab University will be made a role model in this regard. We welcome the announcement. Speaking at the Baba Fareed and Baba Guru Nanak International Conference at Lahore recently, he said he has lived in Britain for 40 years and his children have been brought up there, but his family fluently speaks Punjabi at home. It is a good thing to remember one’s mother tongue while living in a foreign environment, because generally what happens is that while living in an alien environment people gradually tend to forget their own language. It happens because they don’t hear their language in their surroundings. This is not so with expatriate communities in Britain, especially in the case of Asians. There are sizable numbers of these immigrants there and because of this factor they remain in daily contact with people who speak their languages.
We should consider all languages of mankind as our own mother tongue. This will help us remove linguistic prejudices. In order to promote a language it is necessary to popularise its folklore and classical literature, especially among those outside that language group. All languages have important things to enrich the culture of entire humankind. It is a noble thing if one knows more and more languages. Formerly, there was a tendency to purge one language of words from other languages. This did only harm to languages whose champions in their misdirected zeal engaged in purifying their languages of the ‘bad outside influence.’ Now languages are liberally borrowing from one another. This process is enriching all languages.
One may be a polyglot but he describes humour in a more effective way in his own language, because humour is the gift that perishes in other language. Let a thousand flowers bloom! All Pakistani languages, including the national language Urdu, should be promoted. It will benefit all Pakistani languages.


Facilitating expats.


A Senate panel has asked the government to ease visa processes for Pakistani expatriates intending to visit their home country. Among them are people who due to pressure of circumstances had declared themselves of some other nationalities while immigrating to European countries. The other day, the Senate committee was having a briefing on the assistance provided to such Pakistanis who were now having difficulties visiting their country of origin. In its previous meeting, members had discussed whether Pakistanis living abroad should be given the facility of Pakistan Origin Card (POC) to enable them to visit the home country on social occasions like wedding and funeral and to buy property here.
In the previous meeting too, the committee had asked the Ministries of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development to put in place a mechanism to help Pakistanis living abroad to get the POC smoothly. However, some members of the committee had opposed the move, saying those who had acquired citizenship of other countries by describing themselves as Afghan nationals should not be given the POC. Senator Sajjad Turi saw no harm in issuing the POC to Pakistanis who had extended families and roots in Pakistan. Senator Dilawar Khan endorsed this view.
In the present-day world people are being driven to migrate to other countries due to a variety of reasons like civil strife, lack of job opportunities, growing poverty in their own lands, etc. The latest addition to such groups is climate refugees, who are being forced to leave their ancestral lands due to changes being brought about by climate change. A few years ago, Bhola Island in Bangladesh partially disappeared, and as a result around 200,000 inhabitants of the island were forced to migrate. These people are now settled in Venice, Italy, and other places of the world. Expatriates should be given all necessary facilities for they benefit the home country in one form or the other.


Punjab LB elections


The Punjab government continues to move ahead with steps to hold local bodies elections. Punjab Local Government and Community Development (LGCD) Secretary Ahmad Javed Qazi has directed chief officers to start work on implementing the Punjab Local Government Act, 2019 to allow for a smooth transition from the previous defunct system to the new local governments once they are elected. A notification seems to prioritise a smooth financial transition. The Punjab Cabinet has already given its approval for the accounts of defunct local governments to remain operational until January 5, 2020, to give time for the bank accounts of the succeeding local governments to be opened.
Existing competent authorities from the previous district councils and municipal corporations are managing these accounts. These officers have also been made ‘transfer-proof’ to ensure there is no outside meddling ahead of the elections. These changes also tie into the new law’s goal of making local governments more financially independent. In fact, the PTI’s local government laws, while ambitious, seem intent on devolving real fiscal and administrative powers to the local level. While we wish them success, huge questions remain. The most significant, perhaps, is when will the elections even be held?
On May 3, all local governments in Punjab were dissolved through legislation passed by the Punjab Assembly. Balochistan’s LGs were gone even earlier — on January 27 — while Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s were tenure ended on August 28. The fact that the government has not made concerted efforts to hold LG elections in any of these areas speaks volumes about its interest in grassroots democracy. It wasn’t until last week that Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar constituted a committee to determine the date for holding local government elections in the province. And while credit is due to the PTI for introducing a better governing law than the PML-N’s Punjab Local Government Act, 2013 — which even allowed unelected political cronies to become mayors — Prime Minister Imran Khan undercut some of this earlier this year by suggesting that his party wanted the new local government system to strengthen the PTI’s prospects in the next election.

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