ISLAMABAD: “You cannot discuss Balochistan without talking about the political situation there, it will be dishonest,” said former ambassador Ashraf Jahangir Qazi at a panel discussion on ‘Baloch Literature and Society’.
Again and again, moderator Mujahid Barelvi insisted that the discussion not be politicised, but the panellists, in turn, emphasised the need to highlight Balochistan’s struggle for acceptance.
“In the 70’s, people in Punjab were unaware of Baloch culture and literature; their people and society needed to be understood. They were not just fighters, they also ran their shops and lived normal lives,” said Fehmida Riaz, an Urdu poet who has travelled in and written about Balochistan extensively.
Although the panel began to the sight of empty chairs, the hall became packed to capacity as the discussion progressed. Many were restless to ask questions, but time was short and only a few got the chance.
Provincial Assembly Speaker Raheela Durrani shared her struggle to get into politics as a woman living in Balochistan. “People from Balochistan still don’t get our quota (of jobs) from the federal government,” she lamented.
Dr Wahid Jan Bux, who teaches at the Quaid-i-Azam University, said: “Baloch writers and poets talk about peace and democracy. But they have a weakness for beauty and an aversion to ugliness.”
He said that writers and poets such as Mir Gul Khan, Malik Mohammad Panah and Surat Khan were some strong voices from Balochistan.
Talking about censorship, Fehmida Riaz recalled the time when copies of Gul Nazir Khan’s book on the history of Balochistan were burnt.
Answering a question raised by an audience member on how the glory of Balochistan could be restored, Ambassador Qazi retorted: “By bringing peace and providing justice to the people of Balochistan”.
But many in the audience were disappointed that the discussion did not feature much reference to contemporary Baloch literature and poetry, a fact that poet Harris Khalique referred to when he raised his question.
However, the panellists seemed ill-equipped to dwell on the subject.
Ms Riaz concluded the session with a recitation of her poem on Balochistan, which she wrote during a bombing raid on mountain villages:
Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2016