The Senate on Monday approved the Compulsory Teaching of the Arabic Language Bill 2020 which makes teaching of the Arabic language mandatory in primary and secondary schools in Islamabad.

The bill was presented by PML-N Senator Javed Abbasi and approved near-unanimously by members of the Senate, with PPP Senator Raza Rabbani offering the sole dissenting note. The ministry concerned will implement the bill within a period of six months.

The bill states that Arabic will be taught in schools in Islamabad from grades 1 to 5, while Arabic grammar will be taught to grades 6 to 12.

Abbasi said Arabic is the world’s fifth most-widely spoken language and the official language of 25 countries. He emphasised that learning Arabic could open up more job opportunities for Pakistanis in the Middle East and lead to lower unemployment and increased remittances. He also said the Holy Quran and daily prayers were read in Arabic and “we would not go through the problems we are currently facing if we understood the Holy Quran.”

He added that he was in favour of multiple languages being taught such as Russian, Spanish and English. “No one objected to this [teaching of English] and said that English shouldn’t be taught.”

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan concurred with Abbasi, saying that the government “categorically supported” the bill. He added that according to Article 31 of the Constitution, “Measures should be taken to spend our lives according to the Holy Quran and Sunnah.”

According to Khan, learning Arabic was crucial to “become a good Muslim […] and understand God’s message”.

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri also voiced his support for the bill and said, “Arabic is the language of the heavens.” He added that learning Arabic could help in understanding the Holy Quran.

Rabbani, meanwhile offering his dissenting note, alleged that the legislation was the state’s attempt to use “Islam for achieving a political agenda”. He further added that the state was trying to eliminate Pakistan’s multicultural and multi-lingual diversity by importing “Arab culture”.

“The Arab culture is not mine, [the] Indus Valley [Civilisation] is my culture.”

He said that the bill would give priority to Arabic over regional languages when, according to him, Arabic had nothing to do with the religion of Islam or the Holy Quran beyond being the language it was revealed in. “We don’t need a certificate from anyone of being a Muslim,” Rabbani said, while disagreeing with the notion of being outside the fold of Islam if one didn’t support the adoption of Arabic.

The bill was earlier moved by Abbasi in a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Federal Education in October 2020. The committee had approved the bill and directed the education ministry and Federal Directorate of Education to complete tasks related to its implementation within six months.

The bill next required approval by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Education and then by both the Senate and National Assembly.

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