Dhaka : A Pakistani university has decided to open a Bengali department this month. This is a good 55 years after the demand for its recognition as an official language unleashed protests in the country's the then east wing, which is present-day Bangladesh.
Bengali will be the latest among 26 languages to be taught at The National University of Modern Languages in Islamabad, rector Aziz Ahmad Khan told a group of visiting journalists from Bangladesh.
The demand for recognition of Bengali had sowed the seeds of Bangladesh's independence movement. Hundreds of students and teachers died for the cause in police firing on Feb 21, 1952, in what is called Martyr's Day in Bangladesh. The day was declared International Mother Language Day by Unesco in November 1999.
Seventeen students from three West Asian countries have so far enrolled in the course in Bengali.
The university authorities appointed the staff to run the language course and set up a language lab at the department.
The university has also sought help from Bangladesh, writing to its high commission in Islamabad for two teachers for the department, said Aziz Ahmad.
According to the Ethnologue 1999 of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, Bengali ranks as the fourth in the world in terms of the number of first-language speakers and the eighth in terms of the number of second-language speakers, New Age newspaper said.
While nearly 500,000 non-Bengali speaking people are 'stranded' in Bangladesh after the country separated from Pakistan, fighting to be repatriated, there is no real estimate of Bengali speaking people living in Pakistan, a large number of whom are said to reside in the slums of Karachi.