I Cried For Jalib
By Malik Siraj Akbar
Finally, I have no option but to delete 03003823908 from my cell phone. This was the phone number I often used to dial or get calls from. “late” Habib Jalib, secretary general of the Balochistan National Party who was killed here on Wednesday by unidentified assailants, used this number and humbly received phone calls after the second ring.
In the last couple of years, I have deleted several phone numbers from my cell phone after the contacts were target killed from time to time. I deleted the phone number of Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, the chairman of Baloch National Movement (BNM), even though he had promised to meet me “soon” in Quetta.
Every time 03003823908 rang, I would hear from the other side:
Han Siraj Kooo jaaa hey tho [Hey Siraj, where are you?]
I loved Jalib’s accent.
“Waja [sir],” I’d say jokingly, “You even speak Balochi in a Russian accent.”
He laughed. Straightened his long hair. Resumed talking.
Tho Harjoka hey, maan wathi gari hey sara kaheen. Tho bas sadak e sara bosth.
[Wherever you are. Stand on the road. I will come in my car (to pick you up).
Jalib had a wonderful sense of humor.
“You know what,” he told me one day as we drove from Zarghoon Road to Prince Road, “Pakistanis do not value us. We have so much gas that if Dera Bugti was located in a Gulf country, all these Bugtis would have to add Shiek with their names,” he said.
I was feeling inconvenient in my conversation due to the loud noise his kids, who were also in the car, made.
“waja thi gwando baaz kokar kanaan,” I brazenly complained. [Sir, your kids make a lot of noise].
He laughed again, indicating that he would still not silence them.
” Let’s give them some democratic space. Let them say what please them,” he replied.
Jalib was man who staunchly believed in freedom of expression and democratic space.
Now that Jalib is no more, A Pakistani journalist based in Germany, who had met Jalib in Quetta while preparing a report on Balochistan, Facebooked me:
“OMG! He mentioned his small kid so many times when I went to see him last sept(ember).”
It took me several months to convince Jalib to write his memoirs. Finally, he agreed but insisted that I should write it for him as he did not find sufficient time to do the job. I reminded him that he was an extraordinary figure in the Baloch nationalist movement.
” Becha waja, Raziq Hancho shoth….hech he na liktha. Tho chosh makan. Thi yaad dashth baz alimi inth pa Baloch raja.”
[Sir, see Raziq (Bugti) died even without penning his memories. You should not do so. Your memoir is very important for the Baloch nation].
Jalib never got time to write his biography and I remained guilty of not visiting him more frequently.
Nargis Baloch, editor Daily Intekhab, is right: ” Balochs barely get time to do anything else except burying their dead bodies, mourning the disappearance of their beloved ones or nursing their wounds from a military operation.” Amid such circumstances, how would one get the peace of mind to sit and jot down one’s autobiography. Jalib’s autobiography would have been a wonderful addition to literature on Baloch nationalism. Perhaps both of us underestimated the enemy and overestimated the perpetuity of life.
Jalib never liked it when journalists added the word “Mengal” with BNP. He said calling his party BNP-Mengal was unfair because it was the real BNP. The rival faction, in his words, had the right to call itself “awami” or whatever but the BNP was simply BNP (not Mengal).
The best time for me to see Jalib very closely was a trip to Islamabad in which we spent several days together. I found him a very very humble, punctual and principled man. Jalib was an avid reader and one of the very few people who truly knew what Baloch nationalism was all about. As long as he was on the stage as a speaker, I remained convinced with my eyes closed that Balochitan’s case was being cogently pleaded. I envied his command over Baloch history, theory of nationalism, statistics on economic affairs and the maneuvering and penetration of the military in coastal areas of Balochistan. He was a marathon orator. He could speak for several hours without being repetitive at all.
Jalib was not a sardar, nor a Nawab’s son. He was a powerful man. A self-made man: Self-made from head to toe. Empowered by education. Like every middle class shining star, he was unacceptable to Balochistan’s tribal elite and the country’s military establishment. Tall trees cannot survive long in Balochistan. People with a tall stature get their heads chopped off. Educated people are a rare species in Balochistan. They come once in centuries. Jalib was one of them. They killed him because he was too brave to be ousted from Balochistan. He did not surrender in spite of being put into jail by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf.
I cried. (Honestly, I had not cried for Nawab Bugti or Balach Marri).
I cried once.
I cried twice.
I cried again and again.
Jalib was among us: The middle class. The poors. The pedestrians. The dreamers.
This friend of mine whined that The Baloch Hal went overboard in covering Jalib’s assassination.
“Jalib wasn’t such a big guy to fill the whole of Baloch Hal with his news,” he grumbled.
I agreed with him. Jalib was not a big guy. He was not a landlord. He was not a feudal. He was not an intelligence tout. How could he then be a big guy?
The Pakistani media did not cover him the way he deserved to be reported. Except Samma TV and Duniay TV, rest of the TV channels put the news on number six to seven of their headlines’ list.
Was it that Jalib was not a big guy because Nawab Raisani or Nawab Magsi could not spare time to attend his funeral? No. Jalib was the big guy of the voiceless, educated middle class Baloch. Jalib was the hero of our times. He inspired our generation. He left a generation to adore his struggle. He captured the full page of the Baloch Hal and the front pages of several newspapers simply because he was Habib Jalib not the grandson of a great tribal chief who inherited large agricultural lands for collaborating with colonial masters to enslave the people of this land.
Those of us who knew comrade Jalib would surely testify Jalib’s love for Atta Shad’s couplet that I cite here to pay panagryic to him at the end of this rambling write-up. He never forgot to cite these lines in any speech he made.
Tao Pa Sarani Goddaga Zende Hayalaan Koshe
Pa Sendaga Daasht Kane Pulla`n Che Bo Taalanya
[Can you, by serving the heads
From the bodies,
Kill the living thoughts
Can you, by wrenching
The flowers from branches,
Stop their fragrance
(This article originally appeared in The Baloch Hal, Balochistan’s first online English newspaper)