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Why books on Balochistan are banned in Pakistan?

By: Abid Mir
Translated by Almaas Baloch

Some ten years ago, there was a newspaper in Balochistan, the daily “Asap”. After the Pakistan government’s intervention, its publication stopped in 2000. However, the newspaper decided that a selection of articles and opinions once published in its editorial pages on the issues of Balochistan should get re-published in the form of booklets. This was a decade back. I was Editor of the newspaper’s editorial page during those days and so this task was assigned to me. 

The ten-year selection was compiled in the form of around sixty books. Each book comprised of two hundred pages. Unfortunately, only thirty to thirty-three of them were published and then the newspaper and later the institution itself, inhaled its last breath.

Well, it happened that when the first eight books were compiled, our Editor-in-Chief (the well-known Baloch intellectual and former bureaucrat Jan Mohammad Dashti Saheb), who had been writing in English for a certain time of period, was enthusiastic that some of the selected articles should be translated into English so that the Baloch case reaches to foreigner readers as well. The task was then entrusted to his brother Dr. Naseer Dashti, who had returned from London after completing his PhD in health. He selected twenty to twenty-five articles and translated them into English, which appeared in a compilation of two books. This was during the period of 2008. The province was ruled by the Pakistan People’s Party. 

A few months after the books were published, the government imposed a ban on them. One of our contemporary journalist friends, Malik Siraj Akbar, interviewed Dr. Naseer Dashti for the newspaper “Aaj Kal”. Dr Naseer Dashti laughed over a question and said, “It’s a weird spectacle. The articles of this book were published in a newspaper years ago. These articles have been available in the market in Urdu in the form of books for all these years. To ban the English translations of these books indicates that the government either doesn’t read or is intimidated by the Baloch case being read by the foreigner readers.” Later on, Dr. Naseer Dashti was compelled to flee to London to seek political asylum.

Recently, the Urdu translation of a famous English book by the prominent novelist Mohammed Hanif was banned. Its English version was published some eleven years ago. It is astonishing to see that English translations of several Urdu books are readily available and accessible in Pakistan and also the copies of original English novels are still available in this market. On the other hand, English translation of Urdu writings in Balochistan get banned while the original Urdu books are still available today.

Well, what does this prove?

Nevertheless, it has proved that the attitude of the Pakistan government fluctuates and varies in relation to Balochistan. Pakistanis only want to keep the alternative commentary, and critical point of views out of the reach of the readers abroad.

Why?

This is because most of the people in Pakistan view Balochistan’s problems as a domestic matter and one that should not be highlighted.

Remember, the same Muhammad Hanif who wrote his first document on the missing persons of Balochistan, which was translated into Urdu by Wassatullah Khan titled “Ghaibistan Main Baloch” was not considered worthy of being banned. Pakistan’s mainstream media likewise narrates the narrative of powerful authorities when it comes to Balochistan and the issues facing its people.

In Balochistan, if anyone screams, shouts intensively and cries either in Urdu or Baluchi, it goes completely unnoticed. Also, if anyone screams, agitates and shouts angrily in Pakistan about the issues of Balochistan then it doesn’t seem much difficult for the authorities to silence her/him. This also reminds everyone in Pakistan that the Balochistan problem should not transcend beyond the boundaries of Balochistan.

One can observe that those who ascribe to a narrative contrary to those held by the state authorities and document their narrative in English are either abroad or will go abroad. If they stay longer in this country they will go “missing”. And if they are alive, they will be branded traitors or foreign agents.

And of course, there are signs for the wise.

This article was first published in Urdu in Haalhawal. Its English translation appeared in News Intervention

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