On the 1st of June 2011 at 23.58 EST, my mobile phone beeped while I was reading an online article. When I clicked to see the message from my cousin in Karachi, the screen displayed: BAD NEWS : PROFESSOR SABA DASHTYARI HAS BEEN KILLEDBY UNKNOWN TARGET KILLERS AN HOUR AGO IN QUETTA. Shocked! Disbelieve! Anger! Deeply hurt and saddened – I lost my Teacher!
I’m writing this article in the memories I shared with this great teacher, philosopher, poet, writer, linguist, activist, socialist, nationalist and above all a great human being – Professor Saba Dashtyari Shaheed.
As a young boy, I’ve heard fascinating stories from my cousins and friends about a Lyari-born Baloch Professor who was an atheist but, ironically, thought Islamic studies and theology at University of Balochistan. Another thing that took my attention was his love and deviation for Balochi language, literature, culture, history and the desire to build and institutionalise Balochi language and culture for research purpose which eventually laid the foundation of first Balochi Library, Syed Zahoor Shah Hashmi Reference Library in Karachi.
It was the mild winter of 2002 when my cousin Aamir and friend Alam introduced me to one of the greatest man I have ever met and shook hands with Professor Saba Dashtyari.
There was this tiny cafeteria located in Lyari where I first interacted with the Professor. As I entered the cafeteria, my friend pointed at a man facing the wall, saying, Ustaad auda neshta(The “Teacher” is sitting there). He was having a cup of tea and a newspaper beside him along with his brown threaded bag; hooked on the edge of the chair. I walked closer to him facing his back, looking at his curled whorl hair with specs visible from behind. As I stood in front of him, I had a feeling of meeting a clean shaven Saint sitting with a pen in his fist. I shook his hand and introduce myself:
Salaam Waja (Hello Sir), mani naam Kambar’e (My name is Kambar). He replied spontaneously: ‘’O bezaa’n tae naam Kambar’ee… Meer Kambar’e shayra zanee ? (Oh so your name is Kambar, do you know the couplets on Mir Kambar?). Kambar is a famous heroic figure in western Baluchistan (Iranian Baluchistan) which dates back from 18th century. Many poets and singers have written and sung verses for Mr Kambar.
I humbly replied ‘’Ji waja (Yes, Sir) Man Zana (I know it) and I started to recite the verses just to show off that I know it:
Meer kambar o sabze sagaar.. Zahma beja naama bedaar! (Great Kambar of an astonishing gesture… Swing the sword and prints its name in history)
He used to be very happy when his students recited Balochi poems and proverbs in a situation where Balochistan’s borders are occupied and both the “superior states”, Iran and Pakistan, have imposed Farsi and Urdu languages on the native Balochs in all spheres of life.
Professor Saba Dashtyari, mostly known for his contribution to progressive Balochi language and literature, was born as Ghulam Hussain in 1953 in Lyari district of Karachi and attained his education in the slums. He was highly influenced by Syed Zahoor Shah Hashmi, another late Baloch intellectual and linguist. He obtained a Masters degree in Philosophy and Islamic studies from Karachi University. He was fluent in many languages including English, Farsi and Arabic. The Professor always believed in freedom of speech and expression.
His literary contributions include more than 24 books on Balochi literature, history, poetry and translations. He also established the Syed Zahoor Shah Hashmi Reference Library, Pakistan’s largest library on Balochi literature, in Malir area of Karachi. From 1996-2002, the Professor went on a charity mission and travelled to Gulf countries, Europe, and America requesting Baloch masses to join the cause in order to preserve our Balochi language and literature in a shape of library.
One day, he told me in a lighter humour ‘”I spend six years travelling in four different continents to collect nearly four to five hundred thousand rupees in order to start the library work and construction but I could only collect Rs 250,000!”. Then he continued, “If a mullah(priest) had travelled for charity in the name of a Masjid (mosque) he would have received a bigger amount of money in few months from your nation and else where’’. But Waja Dashtyari was very much optimistic and continued until finally he laid the foundation of first Balochi reference library. He funded the library with his own salary and spent money on its development untill his death.
Currently, the library houses more than 150,000 books in various languages on Balochi literature, culture and civilisation. Furthermore, he also compiled an index and bibliography of Balochi literature published in the past 50 years.
I remember once I went to visit him in at the University of Balochistan, along with my cousin and a friend, back in 2003, he was lecturing a class on Islamic Philosophy. Three of us quietly entered his classroom and sat down. He was explaining the characteristic of Islamic states in the Khalifa era, the concept charity and zakat system, the actual phenomena of masjid, the rights of women and care of ageing people as mandatory duties in Islam etc. which took me to immense surprise to see the level of passion with which he performed his job, keeping aside his own believes. As the class ended, we walked toward his apartment. Being sceptical to what I saw, I impatiently raised a stupid question;
“Waja (Sir), shoma Islamiyat baaz shariye sara dar borta” (You really have a good knowledge in Islamic studies). I say it was a stupid question because I knew that he had remained a lecturer of Islamic studies and philosophy for past 30 years.
The Professor very charmingly said “Aday bechaa Elm’e Zaanag dege gapp’e O Elm’e Mannag dege chiss ze ‘’ (Acquiring knowledge on a particular thing doesn’t necessary means you have to believe in it as a sole truth). I just loved the way Saba spoke Balochi. The tone, the style and variant he had while speaking sounded like a hymn to my ears. Then we sat at his apartments for an hour where you could see medium size posters of Gandhi and Syed Hashmi next to each other on the wall, numerous numbers of audio cassettes in his cupboard, mostly those of leading Indian singer Mohd Rafi Saab’s and when I expressed my favouritism to Rafi, he smiled and said:
‘’Achaa guda to haa choo borzee surr’ey goshdaaroke haa (So you also prefer the high pitch singers ha) I smiled and replied ‘’Jii Waja’’ (Yes Sir).
Saba was astonishingly brave with a charismatic personality. He was an ardent reader and one who purely understanded the philosophy of democracy, liberalism and nationalism. He drew more of his respect as being one of the most versatile teachers who had mastered in many field of life. If he speaks on history it means he had mastered the science of it. If he spoke on politics or philosophy then he would cite several books to support his arguments.
One of Balochistan University student-turned-journalist, Malik Siraj Akbar, has rightly argued in his article The Martyred Professorthat ‘’Saba ran kind of a (liberal) university within the (strictly controlled) university’’.
I completely endorse what Malik wrote. Often, students would sit beside him and hear him for hours. He was in all sense a Balochi Encyclopaedia; he carried an Academic account in himself. He could speak and debate on any topic be it religion, politics, philosophy, history, linguistic, science. As a keen learner I’ve always listened to and admired what he said about literate balochi words, adjectives and the style. He’d always increased my interest and knowledge for the language. He was the gravity of attention among the students and activists wherever he went.(To Be Continued)
A recent seminar organized at Karachi Press Club on the issue of the missing Baloch persons was disrupted by a female journalist for unknown odd reasons. A dramatic scene was created when the female journalist stepped forward against a guest speaker, Professor Dr. Saba Dashtiyari, who teaches at the University of Balochistan in Quetta. She went on to remove a wooden piece from the dais and point it to the speaker seemingly to threaten him that if he continued to speak up, she may physically assault him.
Apparently, the only purpose of such an ugly disruption was a difference of opinion between the speaker and the journalist who was a part of the audience. Conferences, seminars and public discussions that focus on Balochistan often face such interruptions and sabotage from certain vested groups. Much to the regret of the female journalist, Professor Dashtiyari responded democratically, bravely and reasonably when he refused to get down from the stage in spite of the female journalist’s unprofessional behavior. He continued to insist that he had the basic human and constitutional right to the freedom of expression which nobody could take away from him. At the end of the day, Professor Dashtiyari prevailed and the female journalist had to face humiliation before a brave man professor who did not succumb in the interest of freedom of expression.
What Professor Dashtiyari said in response to the journalist during the skirmish was enough to humble the entire media community. “If you are a journalist,” he pleaded, “then you must behave like one, not like a scoundrel.”
While one does not have to necessarily agree with what Dashtiyari or people supporting him believe in, what needs to be guarded in a democratic set-up is the people’s right to freedom of expression. Unfortunately, it was the second time in the recent months when journalists, ironically, made a desperate attempt at the Karachi Press Club to discourage the freedom of expression at the press club. Previously, when a group of liberal bloggers had endeavored to speak at the KPC against the Lahore High Court ban on the popular social network, Facebook, some journalists disrupted the press conference. They used abusive language and literally scuffled with a male blogger who had a dissenting view on the ban.
Such intolerant, and now even violent, reaction exhibited on the part of journalists is a very alarming trend. While Press clubs are meant to be the centers of freedom of expression, journalists are expected to behave neutrally and objectively even in situations when they drastically disagree with certain points of view. When press clubs and journalists refuse to provide space to people possessing dissenting views, where else can people take refuge in a democratic set –up to vent their divergent views? The presence of such journalists who show by their actions that they act strangely to please certain groups rather than performing their journalistic duty is a disquieting leaning in the national media.
The governing bodies of all press clubs across the country, particularly in Karachi, the country’s largest city, should take notice of black sheep in the media who act beyond their professional mandate. A press card does not entitle a journalist to publicly humiliate someone else. Journalism should be practiced with responsibility, sensibility and tolerance. If journalists become biased while covering issues on which they may have a different opinion, they will only be compromising their professional integrity.
This country and the fledgling democracy should be given sufficient time and space to flourish. Criticism should be made without transgressing professional standards of journalism.
As far as Balochistan is concerned, the province needs to be heard. Disruption of seminars and conferences does not help to put out the fire in the province. Balochistan desperately needs attention. There is a need to open up the debate on Balochistan irrespective of difference of opinion as this is the only civilized and democratic way of responding to the situation.
Whoever killed him was not in a hurry. The murderer lent him time to mend his ways. But just because Saba Dashtiyari was an emotional man and used his heart more than his brain thats why he could not figure out how to make use of this ultimatum and how to play within the rules. He kept on playing with fire through his firebrand speeches and rousing work for the rights of the Baloch nation.
It is true that universities are the havens of freedom of speech and freethinking but this is a western principle and is alien to our culture and traditions. We believe that freethinking and infidelity have little or no difference. They go hand in glove. So, if you had to become the icon of freethinking, you should have gone to a place where the society and state have the tolerance to put up with such ideas. Such a luxury cannot be bestowed upon you in a theocratic state. Here, you have to keep your pupils limited to the curriculum that has been well-defined by the state…
Saba Dashtiyari’s killers were generous enough to give him a chance to follow the code of conduct of the government service and let him secure his promotion, pension and other retirement benefits. If he was so hell bent upon fighting for the rights of his people, he should have quit the university first and then have his passion of speaking the frame of mind fulfilled.
Mr. Dashtiyari, it is beyond any doubt that you’ve played a vital role in promoting Balochi literature, history and philosophy according to the 21st century standards and we respect you for that. But bear in mind that at least two dozen of the books you wrote were published by the very state who you deem as the murderer of your nation’s rights and wishes.
We’re very pleased that you collected hundreds of thousands of books and documents in various languages of the world that featured Balochi literature, history and culture and preserved them as “Zahoor Shah Hashmi Reference Library” which is one of its kind in the world. How nice it would have been had you dedicated the rest of your life in this noble work…
Mr. Dashtiyari, you were a great man. At least you should have thought about your nobility. Does it suits, a man of your calibre, to sit with students in the canteen, chat with them, take part in politically-motivated hunger strikes, address public rallies, join demonstrations and chant slogans just like the common man?
Do you think that everything on your mind needs to be told and everything in your heart needs to be let out? You used to say that one should have the courage to say and face the truth. Does every truth need to be told? If this is such a great principle, why won’t your colleagues follow the suit? Do they not see the things that you do?
Mr. Dashtiyari, we know that you were the ocean of history and knowledge. But were you unaware of the treatment the Greeks meted out to Socrates? What the Nazis did to the scholars who opposed their ideology? How Soviet and Chinese Communists purged the so-called “liberal” teachers and philosophers? What pains the freethinkers went through during the McCarthy era in the USA?
Well, these might be far fetched examples to you. So let’s talk from our history shall we. Have you forgotten the fate of the professors and teachers of the Dhaka University who harboured “anti-state thoughts”? How they were eliminated from the face of the earth right after the initiation of “Operation Searchlight” on 25 March, 1971? We so wish you had visited the national museum of Dhaka to see the blood-stained carpet that serves as the relic to the cleansing of great Bengali icons of knowledge and wisdom.
You can’t fool us long by insisting on calling yourself as a knowledge-seeking man and that you’ve got nothing to do with the armed resistance. You’re more dangerous than them. You’re the kind of people who can arm the minds of the masses. In order to get rid of a snake, its head needs to be crushed. Likewise, it is only natural to stamp the people who become the brains of an awakening nation. Brain dead, thoughts vanished, man finished and problem solved…
Saba Dashtiyari, we really wish that you had understood all that we mentioned above. It is true that you were a great thinker and teacher but maybe you lacked common sense. But it is not your fault as every great man suffers from the same problem. And this deficiency leads to the inability of speaking the right thing at the right time.
Saba, we are really sorry for your death. But this sorrow is quite less than the pain of seeing you alive. However, consider your death as our compulsion. After all, we have to run the state…
Note: Wusat Ullah Khan is the author of this article which was written in Urdu and published on BBCUrdu.com. The translation into English is done by after seeking permission from the author. Please credit both the author and translator while republishing it.
Intellectuals, teachers, journalist and political people are said to be the eyes and voices of the nation’s .But how the anguish of this nation will be measured to be described or inscribed, when the nation’s face is being mutilated by picking out eyes, cutting tongues, and suffocating the voices of the mentioned characters. Believe it: Baloch is the nation which is suffering from this terrible loss.
Though the adductions of Baloch political workers, leaders, lawyers, writers, Journalists and people from diverse walks of life ,is continued, another initiative in this “slow-motion genocide” is currently the target killing of high profiled Baloch teachers, or those who can be the good source of raising political maturity ,they are being extra- judicially killed.
The assassination of Professor Saba Dashteyari is one of the terrible moves. Baloch nationalist allege intelligence agencies of state for target killing of professor Saba Dashtiyari. Professor Saba Dashtiyari was prominent Baloch linguist, writer, poet and Baloch nationalist. He was target killed on 1st of June 2011, in Sanjrani Street Quetta, the capital city of Balochistan.
Professor Saba Dashtiyari belonged to oppressed Baloch nation in Leyari Karachi. He is said to be the author of two dozen books on Balochi literature, history, poetry and translations. He held Master degrees in Islamic studies and philosophy. He was Professor of Islamic studies at the University of Balochistan and was respected as a top Balochi language writer and intellectual. “Islam and Philosophy “is his first book .He founded the Syed Zahoor Shah Hashmi reference library. The library houses more than 150,000 books in various languages on Balochi literature.
Prof. Saba Dashtyari always remained respectable not only in his teaching field but also his efforts for promoting Balochi language, particularly, over the past few years; he reportedly backed the call for resorting to arms for an independent Balochistan,his this participation in Baloch national movement for libration of Balochistan remarked him a Baloch nationalist. Therefore, on the assassination of him the Baloch National Front (BNF) declared him with the title of (the Teacher of National Freedom). (BNF) is a coalition of Baloch nationalist parties, who are politically struggling for freedom of Baluchistan. And Baloch Libration Army (BLA) declared him the title of (Qandeel Baloch) an under ground organization struggling for libration of Baloch freedom.
Amnesty International has also condemned the extra-judicial murder of Baloch scholar. In the report Amnesty International has reminded the state of Pakistan to its legal obligation under international law to respect the right to life in all circumstances. The former Organization has urged the authorities to ensure an independent, impartial, transparent and thorough investigation into the incident and to bring all those suspected of involvement in his killing.
The thing which remarked Mr. Dashteyari’s personality or enraged state against him, was, definitely, returning of presidential award, which was given to him in his excellent services in Balochi literature. Which he returned after the murder of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, a former Governor of Balochistan and federal minister , assassinated in military operation in Kohlu, about 150 miles east of Quetta Balochistan in the fifth military operation launched in notorious regime of General Pervez Musharraf.
Since the martyrdom of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti Professor Saba Dashtyari had became very active nationalist, and started rising political maturity in Balochistan for the movement what the Baloch nationalist call it “freedom movement”. The Baloch political organizations those are striving for the independence of Balochistan welcomed participation of Professor Saba Dashtyari in protests and seminars, even he had become a need for such occasions.
Interaction of Professor Saba Dashtyari with the activists of BSO-Aazad was more than other political parties. He could always be seen with them holding protest, seminars, and strikes including daily based circles at the University of Balochistan. He would look professor less but BSO activist more. Baloch students considered him not less than an institution, where they would learn nationalism, value of Baloch land and political responsibility. He was not more than an institution for freedom seekers. His efforts remained effective because he was a teacher at the university and continued raising awareness among the Baloch students for the political and educational purpose.
Undoubtedly, teacher is the symbol of revolution. The guidance of teacher plays a vital role in any movement. Because not only his guidance and teaching changes the minds but the effects remain stable and such a teacher who ,Baloch youth consider teacher of national freedom and state authorities think it a dangerous source for insurgency or rebelling. Then there comes a time the opposed groups take a decisive decision to eliminate such people who make minds, Such as Saba.
What was the need to eliminate Professor Saba Dashtiyari? He had brought a tremendous change in the atmosphere of Balochistan University for the Baloch student and followers of Nawab Khair Bux Marri and Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch. After the disappearance of Baloch leaders of BSO-Azad ,such as Zakir Majeed, Qambar Chakar Baloch, Ilyas Nazar, and many others and some of them were extra-judicially killed .BSO Azad needed man to guide and encourage the students as a leader or teacher and here Saba played a vital role.
His active participation and motivation had made hundreds of staid and committed Saba Dashtyari .Who all in future can be freedom fighters or political activist to continue the struggle of Baloch rights or what the Baloch call it independence movement. It is no need to discuss who killed Saba Dashtyari because it is the act of those perpetrators who assassinated Nawab Akbar khan Bugti ,Waja Ghulam Muhammad , Advocate Ali Sher Kurd and continue Kill and Dump or disappeared more than ten thousands Baloch .
Balochistan is the land where rulers and occupiers always faced resistance. A famous saying of British Military commander” More Marri more problem, less Marri less problem and no Marri no problem” .This saying shows the resistance of one of the Baloch tribes. The perpetrators might have kept in their mind. “No Saba, No problem”. Since Saba had not remained single any more. He had become guider and spiritual father of Baloch students and became successful to make hundreds of committed men like him.
The birth of such people like Saba Dashtyari was becoming a burning issue. Therefore, it was perceived by perpetrators “More Saba more problem, less Saba less problem and no Saba no problem”, and then a heinous practice of killing Mr. Saba took place. I think this is one of the failed practices taking place in Balochistan by the state. Which can not be pronounced “No Saba No problem” but “No Saba more Problems”
I do no know any young Baloch of my generation who was not keen to meet Professor Saba Dashtiyari during his early school days. As a school student in Panjgur, my hometown, I first heard about Saba, who was brutally shot dead on Wednesday night in Quetta where he was among the very few remaining brave men who would still take a walk on Sariab Road in spite of serious law and order problems confronting the provincial capital.
As young kids, we had heard charming stories about a Baloch professor who was an atheist but, ironically, taught theology and Islamic studies at the University of Balochistan. Another thing that fascinated us about him was the narrative that he spent most of his salary on the promotion of Balochi language academies and preparation of Balochi text books.
I was in my early teens when I met Professor Saba at Panjgur’s Izat Academy, a local organization that used to publish a Balochi language liberal magazine Chirag under the editorship of Karim Azad. The magazine was eventually shut down because of a chronic financial crunch.
My interactions with Saba increased in Quetta at the University of Balochistan. There were always two things one could not overlook while entering the University: the heavy presence of the Frontier Corps (FC) and Saba Dashtiyari’s table surrounded by students. Saba ran kind of a (liberal) university within the (strictly controlled) university. He was an easily approachable professor who would sit outside the canteen to share ideas with students. While getting into our classrooms, I would often see two to three students sitting with the Professor at around 10:00 am. Within two hours, when I’d walk to the same place, the circle of the students by that time would have expanded to 20 to 30.
If you walked individually, he’d excuse the group of students surrounding him and call at you “Biya day bacha” (Come over, boy) but if you walked in a group of students, “he’d pluralize it “biye e day bachikan” (Come over, boys).
The group of students that surrounded the Professor often comprised of progressive and liberals. One would barely make sense of the composition without squinting at the books they carried in their hands. These students held books written by free thinkers like Bertrand Russell and others held some Russian fictions by Leo Tolstoy or Maxim Gorky. There were the ones who’d be holding Syed Sibth-e-Hassan’s work or that of Dr. Mubarak Ali.
After seeing these books, one would sit down to listen to the contents of the discussion taking place on this exceptional circle. Discussions headed by Saba were far more liberal and enlightening than what we could learn from our classrooms. The participants of the discussions would talk on a variety of topics ranging from politics, religion, revolutions, nationalism to taboos like sex and homosexuality. Students often wondered why rest of the professors at the university were not as liberal and easily approachable as Saba.
The great Professor’s humbleness dated back to his family background. He came from a low-income family of Karachi which had actually migrated from Dasthiyar area of Iranian Balochistan. Thus, he alluded to his ancestral town throughout his life with his last name “Dashtiyari” (which meant someone who came from Dashtiyar).
Saba was born in 1953 in Karachi and attained his basic education in the slums. He obtained a Masters degree in Philosophy and Islamic Studies from the Karachi University. In 1980s, he began to teach at the University of Balochistan. His love for different languages took him to the Iranian cultural center where he spent four years to learn Persian and then learned Arabic from the Egyptian Radio.
Very few people took the responsibility of promoting Balochi language and culture with such a great personal and professional commitment as Professor Dashtiyari did.
Although, he silently remained involved in teaching and promoting the language for around two years, he subsequently realized he was not sufficiently contributing to the Baloch movement. Thus, he walked outside the University and joined as an activist. During the last three years, Saba was seen in the forefront of the movement demanding the release of thousands of missing Baloch persons. He used to sit at different hunger strike camps to sympathize with the families of the missing persons and address various seminars.
In one such seminar, a female journalist interrupted Saba’s speech and said she would not let him speak on Balochistan. The lady’s interruption did not discourage or humiliate the Baloch professor who said in front of an august gathering that he would exercise his right to freedom of expression. Freedom in its all forms meant a life to him.
Two days before coming to the US, Saba and I spent around five hours together in Quetta. After he transported two boxes of books to a Karachi-based academy, we sat along with some other friends in Quetta’s Pishin Stop at a fast food restaurant to discuss the situation in Balochistan.
I inquired about the remarkable transformation in his personality and the causes that forced him to become an activist. In response, he sounded very frustrated with the state of affairs in Balochistan and did not mince words.
“Pakistan is a colonial state,” he said, “It is trying to eliminate the Baloch people and their culture. As professionals, we have to understand it’s our responsibility to come forward to assure our people that they are not alone.”
He believed that the Balochs should establish parallel educational institutions to counter the official propaganda and efforts to assimilate the Baloch into an alien culture. He was perturbed over the lack of official encouragement for the Balochi language and emphasized on the need for societal efforts to preserve the Baloch identity.
A practical man, he had established a prestigious Balochi reference center which was named after Syed Zahoor Shah Hashimi, another respected Balcoh intellectual.
He never married; spent whole his life for the promotion of Balochi language and culture.
Before I bid farewell to him outside his residence at the University Colony, Saba referred to my upcoming trip to the US and instructed: “Day Bacha mara odha washnaam bekan” (Oh boy, do make us proud there — in the US).
It is utterly futile to demand an inquiry into Saba’s murder as a probe is not what is going to help. All that we need to mourn is the great loss of an extraordinary educator of Balochistan. This is no longer a secrete how the government is target killing Baloch professors, writers, journalists, lawyers, human rights activists and political leaders. This is a period of unity among the people of Balochistan and the Balochs all over the world.
Every day, I receive a number of phone calls, emails and Facebook messages advising or ‘ordering’ me to “be careful” over whatever I write. What does it actually mean to be careful? There is no way carefulness can bring an end to this traumatic cycle of systematic elimination of Baloch scholars. It is worse not to speak up against this barbaric cycle of violence. The killing of enlightened writers and professors, such as Saba, is simply a clear message to all the liberals that we should either give up or get prepared to be killed.
I know getting killed is a heavy price for anyone of us to pay for our work but to live under oppression and injustice is like getting killed every other day. There is no justice without struggle. We all need to stand up for truth and refuse to succumb to this challenge.
It’s no cliché: Saba was unique and irreplaceable. You will not find a man who’ll spend his salary to impart cultural awareness and secular education at a time when the State of Pakistan is spending billions of rupees with the assistance of its Saudi cronies to radicalize the Baloch society by constructing more and more religious schools to counter the liberal nationalist movement.
QUETTA: A prominent Baloch linguist, writer and a professor of the University of Balochistan, Dr. Saba Dashtiyari has been assassinated in Balochistan’s capital Quetta, sources confirmed.
According to the details Professor Dashtiyari was gunned down by unidentified persons on Wednesday night by unidentified attackers while he was on his way home. The professor instantly succumbed to the injuries after receiving bullets in his head and and neck.
Baloch nationalists have blamed the death squads of the country’s military for target killing of the top scholar. However, no responsibility has been claimed by any group yet.
Professors assocociation at the University of Balochistan and the Baloch Students Organization (BSO-Azad) have strongly condemned the killing. The University of Balochistan has announced a three-day mourning over the killing.
Saba held a Masters Degree in Philosophy and Islamic Studies and taught theology. He was fluent in many langauges including English, Persian and Arabic.
Born in 1953 in Layari district of Karachi in a lower-middle class family, Mr. Dashtiyari taught Islamic studies at the University of Balochistan and was respected as a top Balochi language writer and intellectual whose literary works appeared in leading journals and magazines. He had authored several books and laid the foundation of a premier Balochi language academy in Karachi.
“He devoted his whole life for the promotion of Balochi language and culture,” said an intimate friend of the professor while reacting to the incident.
For the last couple of years, he had become a staunch backer of the Baloch armed resistance for national liberation. He had participated in plenty of protest rallies and spoken openly in support of an independent Balochistan.
“He was a liberal and open-minded person,” said Ubaid Baloch, a student of the University of Balochistan, “he was one of the few professors who was willing to sit with the students at the cafeteria to discuss politics and religion with an open mind. We have lost a very liberal Baloch.”
June 1st marks the second death anniversary of Prof. Saba Dashtiri. Born in Karachi in 1953, Saba, served Balochi literature for three decades. He was simultaneously, a fiction writer, poet, critic, research scholar and above all an intellectual with liberal espousal. He has to his credit more than a dozen of books ranging from literature to philosophy and religion. Apart from his fiction work, Balochi zoban ay aaqibt (a compiled work on Balochi linguistic),Gul kar o chakan kar (analysis of various poetic genres) and Angaren wahag (literary criticism) can be placed among his best known contributions in the field of Balochi literature. He also compiled the voluminous bibliography of Balochi literature, published in past five decades.
Although he generally contributed to all forms of Balochi literature, fiction was his mainstay. So for three collections of his short stories namely Hon o Hosham, Trangaani Bonzeh and Aas o Aaseb, are published in 1994, 2001 and 2006 respectively. What marks him distinguished in the realm of Balochi fiction is the subject he picked for his short stories. Belonging to a middle class family of Lyari, Karachi, in most of his stories, he poignantly portrays the woes of this deprived class; a subject hitherto untouched upon by any other Balochi fiction writers. Short stories such as Lyari ay jyala, Aas o Aaseb and Dardan kay bemaarit depict the unending socio-economic plight of the lower middle class Baloch community of Karachi.
Though Saba led a life of celibacy, he had an intense feeling for the endless pain and miseries of women. In a number of his short stories he touchingly narrates the sufferings of the dejected and marginalized Baloch woman. Stories such as Dood (the custom), Sunt (the barren woman),Hon o Hosham (blood and thirst), zird ay trambol (a boil on the heart) and Jeeg bund ay Ars ( And overflowed the tears) reflect that how pitiful is the life of Baloch women.
Jeeg bund ay Ars (And overflowed the tears), included in the second collection his short storiesTranagani Bonzih (In-depth Memories), is one such story that narrates the sorry tale of a dejected widow, Sammi, hailing from the tribal belt of Balochistan.
Tragically shunned by her relatives soon after the death of her husband, the ill-fated widow lands in Karachi in search of food and shelter but fails to find any means of subsistence. Finding no way out, she opts for the worst profession she would haven’t even thought for a moment during her not-too-good old days: street begging. Later on, she comes across another woman who took her to a factory where along with some other women she began working to eke out an earning.
The short story ranks among Saba’s good works of fiction which on one side brings to fore one of the bleakest aspects of tribal customs still in vogue in our Baloch society. Women are blatantly denied the right to inherit their fair share from the property of their deceased husbands, parents and brothers. Even worst, to preempt the possibility of any claim for the same right, at times women are shamefully married with the Divine Book. No doubt women over the years have been the worst victims of male chauvinism in the feudal, male-dominated society of Pakistan. Such a society mainly believes in power dynamics to perpetuate its hegemony over women. They are treated worse than cattle. Their plight is lamentably voiced by Sammi the protagonist of this story:
“For a piece of bread I was disgraced and humiliated and treated like animals”.
As a poet, Mr. Dashtiari wields equal command over both genres, gazal and free verse. However, he did not follow the cliché of traditional Balochi romantic poetry. Mainly gaining inspiration from stalwarts like Mir Gul khan Naseer and Syed Zahoor Shah hashmi, he distinctly highlights the sufferings of his people. His free verse is somewhat an extension of Gul Khan Naseer’s voice:
For several years,
I am preoccupied by a dream,
When comes the day,
A legend of my clan would break the shackles,
That have long enchained my dejected people. (My Dream).
In the territory of darkness,
It is a sin to long for the dawn,
The glittering ‘sun’ has been assassinated,
And the moon is suffocating. (Look! How helpless is the life.)
Beside gazal and verse, Mr. Dashtiari was also inclined towards Japanese poetic genre, haiku. His collection of haikus, Gungdamen Sarzameen (the silent territory), is up to now the only book on this genre in Balochi literature. He is the only liberal Baloch poet who overtly condemns the religious fanaticism and intolerance prevailed in our society. A number of his haikus reflect his intense love for humanity and hatred of extremism:
Torch not our homes
In the name of religion,
Don’t make our life hell.
Humanity worth everything
Useless without humanity
Be it Kaabah or a temple.
(Note: These translations are not in accordance with the syllabic structure of original haikus)
In 2003, he founded the Syed Hashmi Reference Library (SHRL) in Malir Karachi. It is the biggest library of Pakistan in terms of books on different aspects of Baloch culture and literature in various languages. The prime objective behind the establishment of SHRL was to collect and preserve whatever has been written in the past and being written today on Baloch, Balochi and Balochistan and to provide a resource centre to those who wish to explore the subjects mentioned earlier.
Another objective tagged to SHRL was to arouse awareness among the Balochi speaking public of Karachi, regarding the importance of their mother language, Balochi. It also aimed to ameliorate the poor standard of Balochi readership across Karachi and Balochistan. As Balochi lacks official supervision and not being taught at school level, a vast majority of people even cannot properly utter pronunciations while reading text in Balochi, let alone writing.
The SHRL introduced various basic certificate courses in Balochi language across Karachi and various cities of Balochistan. Mr. Dashtiari himself taught these classes in Quetta and Karachi which attracted a number of students. He attributed the SHRL to as the first step towards the destination: The International Institute of Balocheology. In the last days of his life, he was relentlessly working on the Encyclopedia Balochistanica; the maiden encyclopedia in Balochi language. Unfortunately, his cold blood assassination terribly interrupted this important project.
In 2003, the government of Pakistan awarded him Tamgha-i-Imtiaz for the meritorious services he rendered in the field of Balochi literature. However, he returned the award back to the government in the wake of Nawab Akbar Bugti’s assassination, protesting against the brutal murder of the veteran Baloch leader.
After the demise of Syed Zahoor Shah Hashmi, undoubtedly, Mr. Dashtiari’s killing was the biggest loss Balochi language has suffered in the past four decades.
Now what is the need of the hour is to continue his mission with the same vigor as he did till the dream of his vision institute (the International Institute of Balocheology) comes true.