By Intikhab Hanif

DAWN: June 7, 2004

LAHORE, June 6: Tactfully handling opposition within the official circles and the cabinet has been the major task for the government for realizing its dream of creating an institute for the promotion of Punjabi language and culture.

The name of the institute and the method to give it a legal cover has been changed twice mainly to address the opposition and to maintain its basic aspect of creating a unified Punjab and bringing Punjabi-speaking people all over the world into the body's fold.

At present, the Punjab Assembly is dealing with a bill which would legalize the institute so dearly wanted by the chief minister. According to sources, the idea to establish the institute was launched by the chief minister early this year.

He wanted to announce its creation on the occasion of the Punjabi conference held in Lahore in January and attended among others by Indian Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Amrinder Singh.

But the idea was opposed by the official circles on the ground that creating the institute was like promoting chauvinism and it would itself create rift in different parts of the Punjab using different dialects of the language.

The chief minister then decided to bypass the opposition by directing the officials concerned to have the institute registered under the Societies Act. This was followed by the immediate sanctioning of Rs10 million for the institute. At that time the body was given the name of Institute of Punjabi Language and Culture

After a gap of few months, the chief minister expressed his desire to frame a law for the institute, sensing that the initial objection to it had been subsided.

But, when the bill was presented before the cabinet recently, the government faced opposition from certain ministers who said that it should have representation from all regions of the province to promote their respective languages like Seraiki, Potohari and Hindko.

But the demand by the ministers to give representation to the Seraikis and Potoharis on the board of governors of the institute was again handled tactfully. They were satisfied by saying that the representation would be given without specifically mentioning it in the law.

Another major objection was raised on the nomenclature of the institute, with some ministers suggesting the title of Institute of Punjabi Languages and Culture instead of the Punjabi Language and Culture. After some deliberations, the tag of Punjab Institute of Languages, Art and Culture was agreed upon.

Sources said the new name of the institute had addressed the issue of also promoting Seraiki and Potohari languages but they did not mention as to which would be its official language.

They said the changes had been brought about to achieve the institute's main objective of giving the sense of a unified Punjab and attracting Punjabi speaking people all over the world. "The government envisions it to become the biggest representative of a unified Punjab," they claimed.

They said the government was paying extra attention to the institute and was spending huge funds for the construction of its building and related paraphernalia. "It is putting in so much money for the design of the building which would exclusively reflect culture of the province," they added.

They said foreign collaboration would be sought for advancing the aims and objectives of the institute which would also upgrade and renovate cultural places pertaining to the history of Punjab.

Its aims included introduction of Punjabi teachings in schools and colleges and publication of Punjabi textbooks. "We would use research on the language conducted in the East Punjab without adopting Gurmukhi," they said.

Meanwhile, the provincial government has selected a private place in Gulberg for initially establishing the offices of the institute. At present, its director general, Dr Shehzad Qaiser, a senior DMG officer, is operating from his official residence. A seven-kanal plot located near the Qadhafi Stadium has also been acquired for constructing the headquarters of the institute.