This is Balochistan, where keeping books is a crime
By Meerain Baloch
Some years back a Punjabi lecturer at Turbat Residential College made a complaint to the paramilitary troops of the Frontier Corps (FC), formed totally of non-Balochs, that some Baloch professors had desecrated Islam by hanging rosaries on a picture of a monkey. The FC invaded a teachers’ hostel and arrested two Baloch professors on charges of making a mockery of Islam since the rosary was thought to be a symbol of Islam only, although in fact the rosary is found in many religions and is not limited to Islam.
The teachers were tortured and an FIR (charge) was registered against them at the local police station. Local people reacted strongly to a call by the Baloch students’ organization and Turbat city was completely shut down in protest. The case was brought before judges but Baloch lawyers took a strong stand in support of these teachers and refused to appear before the court defending the FC. The teachers were acquitted after a lot of mental and physical torture but the case was finished there. Other such cases have happened in Balochistan where Islam is often used as a weapon to attack the Baloch and restrain their freedom of expression. The Baloch live under occupation and so such practices are common.
On January 13, 2014, the FC held a press conference at Turbat where they displayed books confiscated during a raid at the Government Degree College Turbat’s boy’s hostel. Pakistani electronic and print news media gave extensive coverage to this event, showing books and magazines found during the raid. The daily ‘Express News’ reported that “large quantities of anti-Pakistan literature as well as maps of a separate Balochi-stan were recovered during a raid of Atta shad Degree College in Turbat district of Balochistan”. It also said that a Baloch student had taken over a hostel in the college and a Frontier Corps (FC) spokesperson claimed that he was brainwashing students to conduct acts of terrorism in the country.
These were books were displayed as being “anti-Pakistani”
These books were displayed as being “anti-Pakistani”
The books shown to the electronic and print media included works by Bertrand Russell, biographies of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Nelson Mandela and Che Guevara, a history of Balochistan by Meer Gul Khan Naseer, poetry books of famous poets like Ata Shad – whom Turbat’s only college is named after – Kareem Dashti and Gholam Hossain Shohaz, literary magazines such as ‘Mahtak Balochi’, ‘Mahtak Sangat’, ‘Mahtak Sechkan’, ‘Sangar’, ‘zrumbish’ and much more. Course books on Balochi grammar and literature were also labeled as ‘anti-Pakistani’ because reading and teaching Balochi is considered anti-Islamic and anti-Pakistani by the forces of occupation in Balochistan.
Another problem with the FC and other armed forces in Balochistan is that they come from outside Balochistan, with no knowledge of the Balochi language, and they see every single book read in Balochistan as being anti-state.
Previously, on January 8, 2014, the FC raided an English language teaching school in Turbat, making similar claims of having confiscated anti-Pakistan literature and arresting a large number of students on charges of keeping anti-state material. On that occasion they also displayed literature – mostly books on history, literature, Balochi grammar and language because the school teaches Balochi, which is prohibited in Pakistani schools, to its students. The FC forcibly sealed the school, handed over 1000 rupees (US$9) bank notes to each student and sent them to their parents asking them to not return to the school where Balochi was taught to students. However, several of the students were abducted by the FC from the same institution and they are still missing.
The act of the FC has been criticized by Baloch writers but the silence of Dr Malik’s Balochistan government is also under fire for not saying a single word in support of these students who read books on world personalities and world literature.
One blogger, Nissar Hoath, said: “The raid on the college is a bloody joke. All the books and literature were nothing but collections of great Baloch poets’ like Atta Shad, Gul Khan Naseer, Pir Bukhsh Piral, Murad Sahir, Zafar Ali Zafar; and novels and short stories by our men and women of pen – great writers we are proud of. All the “documents” were nothing but Baloch literary works.
Another blogger reminded us that when Osama bin Laden was captured in Abbott Abad by US Navy Seals pornographic material was allegedly found there. Another writer reminds us that when police raided the hostel room of the Jamiat e Islami student organization president in Punjab University, a pistol and a number of whiskey bottles were recovered. On the other hand, only books were found from the hostel of Turbat. It must be a matter of pride for their parents to learn that their kids keep books of world fame. This is not the first time that the occupying army has invaded Balochi houses and hostels and destroyed books, the source of knowledge. In 2006, when the house of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was raided by the army of Pakistan, they burnt to ashes his library as books are seem to be the most dangerous weapon in the hands of a colonized people, a weapon that paves the way of their liberation. (COURTESY TO, THE KURDISH TRIBUNE)
Meerain Baloch is a senior member of Baloch National Movement and a student of accountancy and finance in London. He tweets at @meerinjo and he can be reached at Meerinjo@hotmail.com