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The Balochi Academy on Adalat Road.—Photo by writer AT

Situationer: Saving Balochi Academy

Muhammad Akbar Notezai

AT the main entrance of Quetta’s tiny Adalat Road in the heart of the city, a signboard with ‘Balochi Academy’ written on it points to the right direction. After taking a few steps to the right, one can find a three-storey building on the middle of the road which always remained packed with people and vehicles. This is the building in which the Balochi Academy is housed. The academy is frequented by not only lovers of Balochi literature, culture, art and civilisation, but also by people like me who have developed an interest in Balochi literature for the sole purpose of enjoying a cup of superb coffee served by Baloch intellectual and linguist Nako Jan Mohammad Dashti. In my opinion, the best coffee in Quetta is served at this place, even though it is free of cost.

The Balochi Academy was established in 1958 with the aim to promote Balochi language, culture, literature, art and civilisation. Although the academy — which is run by grants provided by the provincial government — does not have a large infrastructure, it has made great contribution towards the promotion of Balochi literature.

According to its office-bearers, a large number of people — both in Pakistan and outside the country — who have great interest in the promotion of Balochi literature have some kind of connection with this academy.

They say the tenure of former chief minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch proved to be a good period not only for the Balochi Academy, but also for such other academies working for the promotion of the Pashto and Brahvi languages because he increased their grants. The office-bearers, however, seem not to be happy with the current Balochistan government, claiming that it has curtained the Balochi Academy’s funds by 25 per cent.

This is beyond comprehension as to why the provincial government has curtailed funds of the Balochi Academy, says its secretary for press and publication Habitan Umer. He says the Balochi language is spoken not only in Balochistan, adding that this language is spoken by a large number of people in almost all parts of the country, especially in Sindh and Punjab. The provincial government needs to understand that the Balochi Academy is the only institute in the country which works vigorously for Balochi literature and culture, he says, adding that if people in the current provincial government think that the funds of the academy are being embezzled they should hold its office-bearers responsible for it. Mr Umer says the academy’s office-bearers are ready for any kind of inquiry. “We ought to be given grants based on our performance. The government officials should come and see. If our performance is not satisfactory, they have the right to hold us accountable. If it is satisfactory, they should give us our grants based on our performance.”

Understandably, the Balochi Academy cannot work properly without support of the government.

Successive governments in the country have traditionally taken least interest in the promotion of regional languages. And perhaps this is one of the reasons behind some division among nationalities living in this country. Had they taken interest in promotion of regional languages, there would have been cultural interactions among different ethnic groups in the country.

Acknowledging the services of the Balochi Academy, Prof Hamid Ali Baloch — who teaches the Balochi language in the University of Balochistan — says that survival of such an institution is very important. He says the academy has conducted research on the Balochi language, adding that now it is translating the Oxford dictionary into the Balochi language and working for a Balochi to English dictionary. He says there are several other projects the academy is working on for the promotion of Balochi literature and culture.

With 60-member staff and its meagre resources, the Balochi Academy publishes books not only in the Balochi language, but also in other languages of the country, including Urdu and English. It has so far published 480 books in the Balochi language and some of them are taught in syllabus in Balochistan’s schools, colleges and universities. About 70pc material of the Balochi language used in the University of Balochistan has been produced by the Balochi Academy, says Mr Umer. The academy wants to work on some other projects, but for them it needs financial resources, he says, urging the government to increase its funds.

In Balochistan, there is no culture of providing royalties to local writers, researchers and poets. They also do not receive much support from private publishing houses. In this environment, the Balochi Academy’s performance is exceptional. It not only gives them royalties, but also publishes their books. Confirming this, Gulzar Gichki — one of prolific writers of the Balochi language — says that the academy is playing a great role in encouraging writers to produce literature in this language.

Mr Gichki says according to his information the current chief minister of Balochistan, Jam Kamal Khan Alyani, takes great interest in all regional languages and that he can speak some of them. He, however, says that it is a tragedy that during Mr Alyani’s tenure an institution which has made great contribution to the promotion of the Balochi language should be facing shortage of funds.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2018

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