European Journal of Law Reform

Article

Legislative Drafting in Plain Urdu Language for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan

A Question of Complex Intricacies

Keywords Urdu, Pakistan, multilingual jurisdictions, legislative drafting, plain language movement
Authors Mazhar Ilahi
Author's information

231189 Mazhar Ilahi
The author is Solicitor in England and Wales and currently an Associate Research Fellow as well as Director of the Legislative Drafting Clinic at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London. Previously, he has worked as a Civil Judge/Judicial Magistrate and practised as Advocate of High Courts in Pakistan. He is also a country (Pakistan) representative of ‘Clarity’, an international association promoting plain legal language.
  • Abstract

      The plain language movement (PLM) for the writing of laws calls for improving legislative clarity by drafting the laws in a clear, simple, and precise manner. However, the main purpose of this aspiration is to facilitate the ordinary legislative audience to understand the laws with the least effort. In this respect, turning the pages of recent history reveals that this movement for plain language statutes has mostly been debated and analysed in the context of English as a language of the legislative text. However, in some parts of the multilingual world like India and Pakistan, English is not understood by the ordinary population at a very large scale but is still used as a language of the legislative text. This disparity owes its genesis to different country-specific ethnolingual and political issues. In this context but without going into the details of these ethnolingual and political elements, this article aims to analyse the prospects of plain Urdu legislative language in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan by by analyzing (1) the possibility of producing a plain language version of the legislative text in Urdu and (2) the potential benefit that the ordinary people of Pakistan can get from such plain statutes in terms of the themes of the PLM. In answering these questions, the author concludes that neither (at present) is it possible to produce plain Urdu versions of the statute book in Pakistan nor is the population of Pakistan likely to avail any current advantage from the plain Urdu statutes and further that, for now, it is more appropriate to continue with the colonial heritage of English as the language of the legislative text.

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