The language question in Pakistan has remained a politically contested one since the creation of Pakistani state in 1947. In a multilingual society like Pakistan, language becomes an important marker of identity of various communities and groups of people. Language is not simply a communicative device but inhabits a distinctive worldview, a cultural symbol and a set of meanings. Tariq Rahman’s works on Pakistan have continued to inform us about issues of education, ethnicity, identity and community formation within the problematic of linguistic politics. The book under review examines various language movements, their historical development and variegated forms in various parts of Pakistan. Examining the ideology and power bases of these movements reveals to us the close connection between language and culture such as Bengali identity and not Islamic identity or Balochi and Sindhi identity against Urdu identity.
Rahman considers the category of language being important for understanding the problem of ethnicity in Pakistan. Urdu and Islam, in his view, have been used from time to time as ‘key symbols in constructing a sense of unity’ (p.2). On the other hand, the state support to Urdu as the national language has been countered by various other regional language groups who want their own languages to be recognized in the spheres of education, administration, economy and judiciary.