Bad-e-mudat “kisi or ko bi” dekha logo!
I don’t know either to describe it as a coincidence or another wonderful pleasure. Another friend of mine, to whom I spoke for the last time when I was in India in 2005, gave me a call today after reading the second last post on this blog. An internationally popular figure in Baloch nationalistic politics, this friend of mine said he too had read and liked that post. What a pleasure, I said. Hey, how did you find out my blog?
“So this post equally applies to you,” I laughed and said. But he assured me that we won’t lose track of each other once again and meet soon. I am very glad to get another lost friend. Wow! How changeable this life is!
This friend, whom I don’t want to name him, is among the very few lucky ones who have got their names written in the Baloch history with golden words in their lifetime. He galvanized and inspired the present generation of the Baloch towards the ongoing movement for just rights. All that I like about this fellow is that he is not merely a demagogue. Instead, he literally spent several months in the torture cells administered by intelligence agencies. I equally have deep admiration for this friend because he helped me very much at the inception of my journalistic career. In 2005, when I was 22 and had begun writing for Pakistan’s most respected current affairs magazine, the Herald, I was lucky enough to work with M. Ilyas Khan, who was the Executive Editor at the Herald. Ilyas was the most encouraging fellow in the world of journalism that I had ever come across in my whole career. Now in the BBC, he encouraged me to write a piece on the ‘disappeared people’ in Balochistan.
“Phew, how would I do it? How can I write a piece on such a serious issue that too for a very standard magazine like the Herald,” I muttered. Then I thought of calling the lost-and-found friend of mine (who was not my friend by that time but a hero of the Baloch people after resurfacing from his seven-month long detention). I called him up and discussed the story idea.
“I am ready to help you, brother, as much as I can,” he replied on the phone. “This is a common cause. We need to help the missing people.”
You can’t imagine how hard circumstances for journalists in Quetta were during those days. Our telephone calls, besides that of Baloch politicians, were regularly recorded by the intelligence agencies. They wanted to know what we talked about and who we talked to. Therefore, we always tried to cut our calls as short as possible. Notably, in our conversations, we could not use all the “anti-Pakistan Bs”, such as “ Baloch”, “Bugti”, “Balaach”, “BLA”, “Bramdug”, “Balochistan”. These were the taboos of our age. We equally endeavored not to mistakenly mention the other taboos in our telephonic conversations as “Army”, “ Zindabad”, “Punjabi” “Murdabad”, “Establishment”, “Qili Camp” “ISI,”, “Asaap” etc etc.
Coming back to my efforts to fix an appointment with “Mr. lost-and-found”, hence we fixed a ‘safe’ place to meet to discuss the story idea. They were, as Dickens put it, “the best of the days and the worst of the days”. I was staying at the Balochistan university hostel. I could not manage with the food. Thus, I was badly sick those days. On the one hand, I had to stay in the bed; on the other hand, I needed to do the story for the Herald. I didn’t want to waste the opportunity of writing for the Herald. I know it was the right time for the issue of the missing persons to be highlighted in the press. I didn’t care much about the mid-fever weakness and rushed to the the place that we had deiced to meet up. The room displayed a typical revolutionaries’ hideout. Revolutionary Balochi literature, including the BSO mouthpiece SAGAR, and several other books were scattered all around. Despite my weak eyesight, I could still read the Balochi verse inscribed on one of the walls: “Tho par Sarani Gudaga…..My eyes glittered when I was provided several hundred pages comprising of information about the missing persons. I thanked him and got back to Ilyas at the Herald. Unexpectedly, Ilays’ response was more than what I had expected.
“ Wow! I liked the story idea. We can do opt for a cover story on this issue,” he said. It was done. I am very proud to recall that all the title photos for the title of the Herald in October/November 2005 were provided by this friend via me. Plus, I contributed two stories for that cover story. The magazine was very well received and everyone appreciated our efforts. “The success of the latest issue was beyond our expectation,” said Ilays on the phone as I entered the Balochistan University hostel to go to my Room (No 10) in the First block.
After that, in the same month I moved to India to undertake my post-graduation studies in journalism. Thus, I kept in touch with this friend through e-mails. In the meanwhile, I received his phone call in India in which he told me that they were planning to launch a Balochi language TV channel. “Would you be interested to work with us,” I was asked. Before I could give a final word, I came to know that the intelligence agencies had picked up the famous Baloch Voice Managing Director, Munir Mengal, from Karachi Airport. Mengal was returning to Pakistan from Bahrain. After his detention, the whole idea of Baloch Voice went into cold storage.