ISLAMABAD - How long will it take to declare Urdu as official language and what are the reasons that despite the lapse of 67 years, the national language has not been established as the language of coordination, a question by a lawmaker stunned members in National Assembly on Wednesday.

MQM MNA Sheikh Salahuddin, while directing his question at Minister of Information Pervez Rashid, objected to the claims by authorities of undertaking remarkable steps for the promotion of national language. "What do they mean by the word remarkable? Has Urdu been declared official language? It is an irony and sheer inability on part of the government that even after the passage of 67 years, Urdu is being treated as a language of strangers," the lawmaker said.

Members in the otherwise uninterested and buzzing house soon took interest in knowing the reasons that the national language has so far not been declared as official language with some lawmakers putting supplementary questions  from treasury benches.

"Can we be assured that on which stage Urdu would be made as official language? Can we expect in near or far future that science subjects in schools and colleges would be translated into Urdu instead of English," asked PPP's Nafeesa Shah.

Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, perhaps knowing the minister concerned would be able to answer the volley of questions on the subjects, asked the concerned parliamentary secretary to inform the house about the issue.

Mohsin Shah, the Parliamentary Secretary, said National Language Promotion Department (NLPD) had taken some steps to promote the national language and to adopting Urdu as official language.

He added the NLPD had developed lot of material for the language development that included publication of more than 669 books, dictionaries of various fields besides translating around 75,000 pages of official documents.

He informed the house that 4,500 government officers had been trained to work in Urdu Master Trainers at Secretariat Training Institute in order to impart training to government functionaries for working on Urdu as computerized language.

But members in the house deemed the training of 4,500 officers very nominal in a country where 20 million people had to learn the national language seeking training of more officers in this regard.

The house was informed that the NLPD had submitted its recommendations to the federal government on adoption of Urdu as official language in 1981 and 2005.

There was laughter in the house when it was told that the federal government had been asked twice to declare Urdu as official language but that the federal government had not taken any concrete steps in this regard.

Another MQM lawmaker recited a couplet literally meaning that the national language was being treated as an alien language in its own land.

But the government said it was committed to developing Urdu software in order to make it easy for people to do official business in national language adding that authorities had joined hands with Unicode Consortium to standardize Urdu and other local languages to be used over internet, computer and cellular phones.

In a written reply, it was told that Urdu and other Pakistani languages were now technically supported worldwide without any technical problems.

Meanwhile, the legislators from treasury and opposition benches on the first day of 16th National Assembly session condemned the tragic incident of public lynching of a Christian couple at Kot Radha Kishan, saying such incidents are causing fear and terror among the minorities.

The lawmakers from government side said the incumbent government was serious about resolving this important issue but did not mention any corrective steps being taken on their part.

"If proper punishment was given in the past then such kind of incident might not have been repeated," said Minister for Ports and Shipping Kamran Michael, ostensibly giving response to concerns raised by lawmakers. "The government itself is petitioner in this case as it has taken it as a test case... Investigations are underway," he said while condemning the incident.

Aasia Nasir, a lawmaker of JUI-F which is a government coalition partner, said the incident of Kot Radha Kishan has created barbarian image of the country and minorities are perturbed to see such incidents. "If culprits of Gojra were punished such incident would have been prevented," she said, mentioning that there was a need to check misuse of blasphemy laws. She further said that the culprits of this incident should be punished.

A treasury lawmaker Shaista Pervaiz assuring full support to minorities also put weight behind the MNAs who raised voice against the brutal killing of the Christian couple.

The house which consumed most of the time on point of orders also debated the issue of recovery of 26 minor girls in Karachi who hailed from Bajur area. The lawmakers from both sides of the aisle asked for forming a parliamentary committee on this matter.

A Bajaur area lawmaker Shahbuddin drew the attention of the house to the issue of girls recovery. "A parliamentary committee should be formed to investigate this mater," he said. PkMAP chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai also put weight behind the proposal.

MQM MNA Nabeel Gabol said that there was a need of proper probe into the incident to ascertain the reason behind kidnapping of these girls. Another MQM lawmaker Salahuddin criticised Interior Minister Nisar Ch for not giving proper attention to the concerns raised by lawmakers. "The interior minister should have informed the house on this important matter but he left the house in the middle of proceedings," he added.

About call-attention notice on Ebola virus raised by PPP lawmakers, Parliamentary Secretary Raja Javed Akhlas said that the government was fully vigilant on this important matter. "There was no existence of Ebola virus in Pakistan," he informed, adding the government was alert to deal with this issue.