By Malik Siraj Akbar
Balochistan’s banned author, Dr. Naseer Dashti, is astonished to learn that two of his books pose ‘a threat to the very integrity of the federation of Pakistan’. Citing the same reasons, the government of Balochistan last week ordered the confiscation of all copies of the two recently published books of Dr. Dashti, besides imposing a complete ban on their display at the bookstores. Holding a PhD on Baloch health-seeking behavior from the University of Greenwich, London, 50-year old Dashti, is a renowned Baloch nationalistic scholar and a medical doctor by profession.
He compiled two books, In a Baloch Perspective and The Voice of Reason, comprising of newspaper and research articles written by several prominent Baloch scholars and journalists. However, majority of the articles in these two books are penned by Dr. Dashti himself which largely revolve around theoretical discussions on Baloch nationalism. Asaap Publications of Quetta, which has equally come under the eye of storm in the past due to its anti-government publications, printed Dr. Dashti’s ‘controversial’ books.
The government of Balochistan maintains that both the books are replete with anti-state contents. They promote national disharmony and malign the Pakistan ideology. Therefore, it is essential to prevent the readers from reading these books so that, ironically, the very ideology of Pakistan is preserved.
“Look, if a book is to disintegrate a country then there is nothing that can integrate a country,” Dashti told me, who insists that his books contain nothing misleading or factiously wrong. The factors that compelled him to compile the two books are implicitly mentioned in one of the books, In a Baloch Perspective:
“The official ‘academics’ and ‘writers’ had persistently been engaged in the deliberate distortion of history of Baloch people and obnoxious act of degradation of Baloch traditional values without any qualm of consciences. As access of Baloch writers and intellectuals had been denied to the media, the biased, one-sided picture of social, cultural and political scenario were unilaterally and erroneously portrayed as actually representing the Baloch point of view.”
The theme of the arguments pursued in both of the books is that the Baloch are a separate nation by every definition of the word. The rulers of the countries where the Baloch are inhibited viz Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan, have deliberately destroyed their distinct Balochi identity by applying the repressive state machinery.
For instance, Jan Mohammad Dashti, one of the contributors and the brother of Dr. Naseer Dashti, writes in the same book in his essay The Baloch National Question:
“The Baloch is discontented because it had not been allowed the right to use its native language. The Baloch is disenchanted because it does not possess its resources. It is disillusioned because they are exploited economically and in the process is kept away from power structure of the state. The Baloch resent the artificial partition of their land into three different countries. The Baloch are disappointed because religion is manifestly used as a means for integration of the Baloch identity into broader majority nationalities of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.
Dr. Naseer points out the ‘paradox’, as he bills it, that the government of Pakistan, on one hand, is using the sophisticated USA-made weapons to crush the ‘innocent Baloch people’ but it is, on the other hand, unwilling to let a Baloch scholar speak up freely. “I am not claming that mine is the last word. All that we need is an open discussion on historical issues. Banning a book is no solution but a lam excuse to hide pressing realities,” he stated.
“Had the books been published in a regional language, the government may not have reacted so bitterly,” Dashti says, “but since they are in English and they can expose the injustices of the ‘anti-Baloch’ forces, the government does not want the international community to know the truth from Balochistan.” The practice of banning nationalistic books is not a new phenomenon. The government of Balochistan has been scores of books in the past written about the Baloch nationalistic movement. Consequently, such restrictions have intensified the demand for such books among the readers.
The authors in both the books are extremely critical of not only the government of Pakistan but also that of Iran and Afghanistan who they accuse of suppressing the Baloch on the name of religion. Writing on page 24, the writer says: “In a Baloch context, language, which is undoubtedly the main carrier of ideas, sentiments, traditions, customs and religious dogma from one generation to another, has been the prime target. In their assimilative efforts, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan have not allowed Balochi to be the language of instruction in schools even at primary level. Balochi publications and institutions for academic research are never encouraged. Print and electronic media in these countries have been manipulated by people from dominant nationalities and all state institutions run by the non-Baloch are assigned the task for media management formulating policy approaches aimed at so-called ‘assimilation’ and ‘integration’”
When I tried to reach the concerned authorities in the Home and Tribal Affairs Department, which imposed the ban the books, no one, including the Home Secretary Furqan Bhaduar, was willing to provide a justification for the ban.
Naseer Dashti believes the next five to ten years are extremely essential in the Baloch movement. “The more you ban a book, the greater its demand becomes. The government of Pakistan needs to realize that we live in the 21st century and it is not possible to burry the truth,” he concluded.