Monthly Archives: January 2013
By Muhammad Akbar Notezai
Balochistan, which is the economically shattered province of Pakistan, has been hosting Afghan refugees for more than three decades. The Afghan refugees, as analysts say, are still reluctant to return back to Afghanistan from Balochistan, Pakistan. Instead they are trying to settle themselves entirely in Balochistan. As they have been expanding their businesses, particularly in Quetta, which is the metropolitan of Balochistan.
The long and tiresome presence of Afghan refugees has not only been creating hurdles for Balochistan’s poor class but also put them into chaos. Also, financially sound Afghan refugees have made Pakistani CNICs by bribing NADRA officials. And with the same CNICs, they go to abroad, especially Saudi Arabia for performing Hajj, while local people are deprived of it. Moreover, they have been getting their all sorts of requirements full-filled. They have snatched the livelihood from local people’s mouth.
The majority of Afghan refugees are unregistered in Balochistan. They are mostly living in Quetta, Balochistan’s Pashtun belt and Baloch belt, particularly in Dalbandin and Nushki.
It is also manifest to everyone that that Balochistan’s borders are loosely governed; therefore, Afghan refugees can travel between Pakistan and Afghanistan in ease. They don’t face any hindrance in this regard.
Baloch IDPs (Baloch Internally Displaced Persons), who have been living on Balochistan and Sindh border, also in interior Sindh, don’t have facilities of food and drinking water. They are even suffering from lethal diseases due to floods. As compared to Baloch Internally Displaced Persons, Afghan refugees are living more comfortably in Balochistan. On the other hand, Afghan refugees are split over to urban centers all over the province unlike Baloch IDPs.
Balochistan’s political parties blame that Afghan refugees are involved in drug trafficking and criminal activities.
While United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) official told this writer under the condition of anonymity, “UNHCR has got nothing to do with Afghan refugees’ illegal activities, remember, UNHCR is responsible for providing assistance to them so that they may return back to Afghanistan voluntarily.” As it is stated unofficially that 4 million Afghan refugees inhabit in the province, and many of the Afghan refugees who repatriated to Afghanistan, now have come back illegally into Balochistan province. UNHCR official negated this claim by saying, “We have only half million Afghan refugees registered in Balochistan. If some of them have come back to Balochistan, Pakistan, because they fear in their mind that law and order will be ruined again if NATO withdraws in 2014 from Afghanistan.”
On the other hand, when this writer spoke to Balochistan National Party Mengal (BNP-Mengal) leader, Agha Hasssan Baloch, who said about Afghan refugees, “Baloch is a secular nation; but it is being marginalized by allowing Afghan refugees on their land. For example, Afghan refugees have been accommodated in Balochistan’s Baloch populated districts, namely, Chaghi and Nushki, which are attached with Afghanistan border. On the other hand, Quetta, which has been the land of four tribes Shahwani, Kasi, Syed and Marri, and market language of Quetta, was Bravi before 1958. But it is now replete with Afghan refugees. They dwell in Pashtunabad, Kharotabad, Satellite town, Nava Killi and so on.”
He further said that “Baloch Internally Displaced Persons (Baloch IDPs) have been living a miserable life in Naseerabad, Sangarh, Jaffarabad, etc. Unfortunately, UNHCR doesn’t seem to help them. They are fully marooned. So, it is better that they all should be rehabilitated to their old indigenous places, and Afghan refugees, as it is UNHCR’s and government’s responsibility to send them back to Afghanistan involuntarily.”
It is, however, to be noted that Afghan refugees are merged with Balochistan’s local Pashtoon people, so in this context, it is difficult for UNHCR and Government officials to separate them from them. And, to a greater extent, Qilla Abdullah, Kuchlak, Chaman, Lorlai and Qilla Saifullah’s population increased. So, it is pertinent that not only Balochs but also Pashtoon people’s population affected. Balochistan, despite suffering already from economic, political and social problems, as also suffered a lot from the accommodation of Afghan refugees on their land.
In recent past, as Baloch nationalists claimed that Afghan refugees had also been counted in census, while Balochs had boycotted from it. And this, as they speak out, is a plight to convert local Balochs into minority.
Lastly, Balochistan’s local people have been living in constant fear due to the presence of Afghan refugees. They also think that Afghan refugees’ further presence may compound their economical problems. So, in this light, government ought to escalate the repatriation process of Afghan refugess, so that Balochistan’s local people may live peacefully and comfortably in their own indigenous places.
(Courtesy to: Daily Balochistan Express Quetta)
Dr. Lakhmi Chand, who hailed from district Mastung, Balochistan, shot to death by assailants in broad day light. He was waiting for his visa to migrate to India, reason he was receiving threats. “He also once saved himself from kidnappers when they came to him”, said a Quetta based Hindu.
Unfortunately, Balochistan’s hapless and insecure Hindus are presently undergoing some sorts of great hardships. They, in spite of being Balochistan’s archaic dwellers, are now on the verge of manifold of problems. They are living in a nightmarish condition whether they reach back home after getting out for their work. That is why they are craving for a chance to migrate to India, or somewhere else from Balochistan.
It is, however, to be noted that the migrated Hindus, who have gone from Balochistan, living in a very pathetic condition in India. As Balochistan based disgruntled Hindu intellectual, Mr. Sham Kumar, said in an interview to this writer about the exodus of Hindus, “Hindus are migrating from a hell to an abyss of an unknown death”.
In addition, Hindus are culturally merged with Balochistan’s Balochs. They have been living for centuries together amicably. Also, Balochistan’s prominent poet, writer and author, Mir Gul Khan Naseer, writes in his book that a Baloch even forgives his mortal enemy if an old lady, Holy Quran, Syed or a Hindu is referred his home for forgiveness.
But in contemporary times, Baloch people are themselves in a state of chaos along with Hindus. They are jointly confronting the issues of abduction, inhuman tactics and killing.
Balochistan’s Hindus have become Red Indians in Balochistan. They are gradually and slowly being forced to leave their places because they can neither run their businesses nor can work freely. Unfortunately, they are being pushed up to the wall.
Moreover, unlike previous times, Hindus are compelled not to come out of their streets. They are confined in their homes, as well as cut off from local people socially, politically and culturally. They, due to sense of insecurity, can’t meet their relatives who are living in other cities. Its typical example is the Maharaj Lakhmir Gir Chand’s (The spiritual leader of Balochistan’s Hindus) abduction in recent past months, who paid the ransom’s amount to the abductors for getting himself released.
So, surprisingly, if a Hindus’ spiritual leader gets himself released after paying the ransom, then what about a common Hindu?
Mr. Sham Kumar also said about the religious freedom of Hindus in Balochistan, “Currently, the Hindus are living in a constant nightmarish situation where they endlessly fear for their lives, faith, honor and property. The living conditions of a common Hindu have become more precarious and worsened with the passage of time. In the midst of these inhuman conditions, who do you think cares for religious freedom?”
There have also been the cases of rare forcible conversions in Balochistan’s Kalat and Mastung districts.
On the other hand, many of the Hindus migrated from Nushki, kalat, Khuzdar, Quetta, Dalbandin and Mastung, etc, in which doctors, engineers and teachers are included.
It is, indeed, too hard to leave your indigenous place where you are living for centuries. But Balochistan’s Hindus don’t have any alternative left, except migration. They are in restlessness and helplessness condition in their own places. And, no doubt, a sane doesn’t quit his old place until he gets compelled.
Nevertheless, it is high time for government to resolve problems of Hindus whether that is of exodus, abduction or killing. Because Hindus’ issues are not only being discussed at national level but also at international level, therefore, government ought to root out these all evils as well as assure them their safety at any cost. In doing so, Hindus can live peacefully and comfortably at their own indigenous places, again.
(Courtesy to: Daily Balochistan Express Quetta)
Interviewed by Muhammad Akbar Notezai
Manzoor Baloch is a well known multilingual poet, writer and a lecturer of Brahui language at the University of Balochistan in Quetta. He spoke to The Baloch Hal in an exclusive interview about a number of cultural topics concerning Balochistan. Excerpts.
What is culture?
Well, whenever we go through the term culture, then some people call it tradition and others describe it as custom. Scholars have differences with regard to the definition of these terms. They talk of civilization with the term culture. But broadly speaking, ‘culture is the interaction of particular groups, and it is bound by economic system’.
We often say Baloch is culturally a secular nation. Baloch is self-respected. Baloch is hospitable and so on. Or, those features which expose your emotions and feelings. In recent times, culture gives several meanings. It, I think, is impossible to cover the concept of culture by shedding light upon its few aspects. But if you are talking about post-modernism, you language, its structure are very crucial.
What do you say about its evolutionary process?
In the very commencement, people were farmers. Subsequently, they learnt hunting. Then gradually and slowly they started developing. But, in contemporary times, the way of living is entirely changed, remember, a man’s mind’s evolutionary process takes place very slowly.
Accordingly, as far as we Balochs are concerned, some of us are still living a nomadic life, and some of us are the part of cyber society.
But, in spite of being the people of cyber society, our mental evolution is quite slow. We are still tribal-minded. Unfortunately, no one is paying heed to enhance our mental evolution. In Balochistan, if number of schools, colleges and universities are increasing, and with the same ratio our mental evolution is expanding.
How would you define the Baloch culture?
The Baloch culture is not merely our nomadic lifestyle, huts, abodes and sheep grazing. Look at the way we interacting with each other. In detail, it is impossible to know its back ground. Because our Balochi code of conduct, as I say it, is not in written form. It might have been lost. Nevertheless, we can bring into light our hospitality, generosity, taking revenge, reverence, etc, in it. Whenever our Baloch elders issue a verdict at a gathering, then we give the reference of our Balochi custom that it says so. Actually, they don’t have it in written form.
How do you compare Balochi culture with other nations’ cultures?
Baloch nation, if it has been living with other nations, then it possesses a resemblance like them. Because due to interaction with each other, culturally, many good features diffuse, likely Baloch nation possesses alike properties with its neighborhood nations.
On the other hand, if it is isolated from other nations, so it will have different features from them culturally. Likewise, Mr. Surat Khan Marri uses the terms ‘Heterogeneous’ and ‘Homogenous’ in his writings. It means that a society can be of a same color, or it can be a mixture of different colors. Similarly, Balochi society is full of colors: It has many languages, shapes and structures. If an outsider comes to Balochistan, he gets merged into Baloch society.
What challenges does the Baloch culture face due to official negligence?
If we have a look at the past colonialism, European countries would go to poor countries of Subcontinent, Middle East under the pretext of prospering them culturally. But in reality, their aim was to exploit them. It is said that the propertied class claims mendaciously that it would prosper the poor class’ literature, language. In reality, they merely exploit them, not to prosper them. They don’t let their literature and language flourish. Similar is the case with Baloch nation as the Pakistanis often depict them as savages, wicked and uncivilized people in a typical colonialist tone. So, how can you expect such a government to flourish the Balochi culture?
Then how can it be revived?
It is our responsibility to revive and promote our culture because we ourselves can take care of our language in a batter way. It is also our responsibility, not that of outsiders, to promote the Balochi culture. Balochi and Bravi academies, despite receiving grants, are not striving for Balochi language and literature. There are not enough Balochi magazines and newspapers in the market. We are dependent on newspapers and magazines published in other languages.
How many languages does Baloch nation speak?
Besides, Balochi and Bravi, the Baloch nation speaks Sindhi, Persian, Aghani and Siraiki.
Balochs are divided among three countries; therefore, due to this major factor along with neo-colonialism the Balochi culture is diminishing. Likewise, Iran’s Balochs have adopted the culture of Iranians, while Afghanistan’s Balochs and Pakistan’s Sindhi Balochs have adopted their Afghani, Sindhi culture. Accordingly, Balochs don’t have a nucleus or center, they are dispersed culturally.
The arrival of Afghan refugess in Balochistan is the other factor. They are expanding in interior and exterior Balochistan to counter Balochs.
Baloch has culturally a splendid past, but it is under threats in present, so how can the splendid past be resurrected in future?
No, you cannot talk of Past. Past has gone; and there is no use crying for past.
However, according to present time’s needs, requirements, thoughts and technologies, we can reform ourselves culturally. Also, if we want to remain alive in the history, then we must keep our literature, language and recognition alive.
What has been the relation of Hindus with Balochs, culturally?
Hindus are culturally merged with Balochs. They have had amicable relations with Balochs. Its typical example is the before partition’s period that Hindus and Balochs were living together peacefully although the whole subcontinent was in chaos. In present times, Hindus are being deliberately harmed for the purpose of accusing Balochs. In reality, Balochs have been very sympathetic to Hindus.
How much have the Afghan refugees changed Balochistan’s demography?
Their arrival has affected us tremendously as 50 per cent of Afghan refuges are living in Quetta. As a result, many Pashtun nationalists are stressing to be given equal rights in Balochistan. It is due to the same factor. In previous times, local Pashtuns were in less number but now their number has substantially increased due to the influx of Afghan refugees. According to a recent report, in upcoming decade, number of Karachi’s Pashtuns will be 28 per cent, and Urdu Speakers will be 29 per cent. And same is going to happen in Balochistan.
Published in The Baloch Hal on January 20, 2013