Asad Rehman: A Hero Gone
Asad Rahman was a 20-year-old young man from Lahore who, in 1970s, joined Balochistan’s resistance movement as an armed fighter. Along with his elder brother and some other companions, he was deeply devastated over Pakistan’s dismemberment.
He believed that the Pakistani establishment had not treated the Bengalis fairly and it did not respectfully treat the Baloch either. He came from a well-educated family of the Punjab province whereas his father had retired as Pakistan’s chief justice.
Before joining the movement, Asad had never been to Balochistan nor did he have any Baloch acquaintances. So what motivated him to go there and fight for the Baloch rights? Asad, who passed away earlier this week, told me some years back that it was his motivation to fight against injustice. He would have probably gone anywhere in Pakistan to struggle for the rights of the underrepresented communities.
If the military had not unleashed an operation in Balochistan, Asad would have probably gone somewhere else to fulfil his passion for ending inequality. His motivation for quitting an elitist life and fighting in dangerous mountainous regions was extremely significant. He showed that a young boy from the Punjab could actually stand up against the army and tell it in the face: You can’t kill your own people and get away with it.
Through his life, Asad proved that one could be rich but still spend several years with absolutely poor tribesmen. He showed one could come from a comfortable background but still spend sleepless and hungry nights in the hilly towns under military operations. By learning fluent Balochi and tribal traditions, he dispelled the notion that kids from the elite families could only adapt western culture. Asad’s biggest contribution was to tell the Baloch that he was a Punjabi but not an oppressor. To the Punjab, his message to the military was, if the Baloch were ‘traitors’ (because they asked for equal rights) then they were not alone but joined by ‘traitors’ from the Punjab.
Asad was more of an idea than an individual. His idea was to care for the underrepresented segments of the Pakistani society. His departure from this world leaves us with one critical question: Why are we left in Pakistan with so few people like Asad Rahman? While living in the advanced age of technology, media and faster transport system, why do the people in rest of Pakistan know so little Balochistan?
Four decades later, why do we not find Asad Rahman-like spirit among our youth?
During all these years, Balochistan and the Punjab (Islamabad as well) should have improved relations by learning more about each other and battling collectively against injustices.
In the 21st century, according to the BBC Urdu Service, a vast majority of the people in the Punjab almost know nothing about Balochistan while a Gallup Survey says only 52% of Pakistan’s population knows about the Balochistan’s most critical issue of the missing persons. The Baloch complain that Punjab’s key leaders, top intellectuals do not come out in public to protest against the ‘kill and dump’ operations carried out by the security forces. In the time of distress, the Baloch no longer see a rebel and a fighter like Asad Rahman reaching out to them and then educating the Punjab about what the Baloch actually demand.
Wait a minute…what breaks my heart is not only why my generation in the Punjab could not produce people like Asad Rahman. We in Balochistan have also had our share of responsibility that I do not wish to shun because it equally perturbs me.
As a young Baloch journalist, I must say I am absolutely ashamed of all the killing of the Punjabis and settlers in Balochistan. I consider it a politically immature conclusion to blame every (Balochistani) Punjabi for Punjab’s domineering role in the Pakistani Establishment.
The Baloch nationalist movement seems to have shrunk from an anti-Punjab/center movement to anti-Punjabi. All these years, the Punjab failed to produce another Asad, while the Baloch, on their part, could not make new friendships with those intellectuals and human rights champions in the Punjab and elsewhere in Pakistan who truly wanted to help the Baloch. The Baloch should stop judging their non-Baloch supporters as ‘ISI agents’ if they want to make more lasting friends like Asad. In fact, it takes ages to make reliable friends while enemies are crated in minutes.
Only time will tell if we will ever see another Punjabi-Baloch hero like Asad Rahman in the future.
(Courtesy: Express Tribune Blogs)