Slain Baloch scholar buried in Karachi
KARACHI, June 2: A renowned educationist, writer, poet and Baloch nationalist, Prof Ghulam Husain Dashtiari Baloch, gunned down in Quetta on Wednesday, was buried at the Mewashah graveyard here on Thursday afternoon. He was popularly known as Saba Dashtiari.
Although the professor had been in poor health for some time, he and his well-wishers had feared that because of his espousal of the nationalist cause his end would be violent, probably at the hands of pro-establishment forces. They told Dawn on Thursday that their worst nightmare came true when Saba Dashtiari was gunned down on Wednesday.
Mourning at the funeral of the 58-year-old professor at the Hasht Chowk in Lyari amid slogans against the government and security establishment, his fellows expressed the apprehension that the scourge of killings would not stop anytime soon. As a result, they only saw hatred growing in Balochistan against the federation.
Carrying his coffin wrapped in the Balochistan Liberation Army flag, many charged youths were heard chanting slogans for an ‘independent Balochistan’.
Businesses around the Hasht Chowk were shut and the streets filled with hundreds of Prof Dashtiari’s students, admirers, community activists, writers, intellectuals and literary figures.
“He had undergone an open heart surgery a couple of years ago,” said Ghulam Rasool Kalmati, who felt proud to be called
Dashtiari’s student rather than his friend.
“This (ailment) cannot kill me, I know it. My hunch is that I will be found shot dead along a road,” Mr Kalmati recalled Prof Dashtiaris words that he had uttered at their last meeting a few months ago.
Born in 1953 in Baghdadi’s Saifi Lane, Prof Saba originally hailed from Dashtiar, a region in Iranian Balochistan. He obtained a master’s degree in philosophy and Islamic studies from Karachi University. His love for languages took him to the Iranian
Cultural Centre, where he spent four years to learn Persian, and then learnt Arabic through an Egyptian radio programme.
In the 1980s, Mr Dashtiari moved to Quetta after being appointed lecturer in Balochistan University’s department of Islamic studies. Empowering youngsters of Balochistan with education, his contribution to his hometown of Karachi is the Syed
Hashim Reference Library. Spread over an acre in Malir, the library is “the only research centre on Balochi literature, history and culture”.
“The library was finally launched in 2003,” said Mr Kalmati, currently serving as its librarian. “Professor Dashtiari helped build a strong 8,000-book library –– all on Balochi language and literature, and Baloch history and culture. When it was
started, we used to entertain eight to nine students. Now more than 200 students, mainly from different parts of Balochistan,
are benefiting from it.”
Prof Dashtiari authored about 24 books, mainly on Islamic studies and philosophy, which were the areas of his major interests.
A brother of international footballer Ghulam Abbas, Prof Dashtiari was second among the five siblings.
“We have lost a great asset — in fact the entire nation lost it,” said Ramazan Bmari, an assistant professor of Persian at the University of Karachi and close aide of the slain intellectual, in an almost inaudible voice while sobbing. “Among scholars of
Balochi literature, Baloch history and culture, he was like a giant among dwarfs. He paid the price for what he spoke and lived for.”
Hours after his killing in the Sariab area of Quetta, a man identifying himself as a spokesman for a hitherto unknown group called Ansarul Islam rang the Quetta Press Club and claimed responsibility for Prof Dashtiari’s assassination. But marching towards the Mewashah graveyard near Pak Colony for the burial, participants of the funeral procession were sceptical of the claim.
In their hundreds, the participants were convinced the responsibility claim was ‘fake’ and an attempt to eliminate the hope of justice.
“In his entire struggle, he served to explain Islam and its real philosophy. What harm had he done to the religion to deserve to be executed?” said Azkaar Baloch, a student of Prof Dashtiari. “If he was killed by Ansarul Islam, then who is responsible for the killing of dozens of his aides, colleagues, students and youngsters of Balochistan? It’s simply a message for all of us that ‘don’t even dare point an accusing finger at the known groups or institution’ and instead keep condemning this non-existent group –– Ansarul Islam.”
During the last three years, Prof Saba was seen as an activist in the forefront of the movement demanding the release of Baloch “missing persons”. He sat at many hunger strike camps to sympathise with the families of “missing persons”.