Some Observations On Dr Naseer Dashti’s Book “The Baloch And Balocistan” By Akbar Barakzai

Coming back to the book I find it invaluable. This is the first serious attempt to trace the origins of the Baloch and their long and arduous journey from the Caucasus, through the vast stretches of Iranian plateau to the present day Balochistan.

Before I proceed to talk about my observations and opinion in relation to Dr Naseer Jan’s book I must make one thing clear that I am not a historian. Whatever opinions I will put forward will be from the perspective of a layman but, at the same time, from the perspective of some one who has tried, throughout his adult life, to study and indeed understand the history of the Baloch people and Balochistan. I would also like to point out that, since I had a very short time to read the book and write about it, I perused those chapters which I thought were more important than the others. So please do not expect a comprehensive review from me.

I am sure many of you already know that the word history is derived from the Greek word ‘historia’ which simply means investigation or inquiry. It later came to mean knowledge acquired through investigation, and still later, the investigated story of an individual, people or a country. History in popular perception is a record of the past events. It may, on the surface of it, seem easy to compile a history but for a historian involved in gathering millions of pieces of information, some of them totally unconnected and random, is definitely not an easy task. Investigating, collating, organising, selecting and finally compiling and presenting the relevant information can be a most gruelling and, at times, an extremely agonising task. When we see the finished work we do not fully realise that it is the outcome of years and years of painstaking research for which the author would have encountered enormous challenges. To write about a people or country such as ours about whom recorded information is either scanty or at best very sketchy is an extremely difficult job. Naseer Jan deserves our thanks and congratulations for not giving up half way through and succeeding against all odds to produce such a brilliant work of historical importance.
I am not ashamed to openly praise Naseer Jan’s book which I find very fascinating. It contains a mine of information. Apart from Dr Inayat Baloch’s and Dr Taj Mohammed Breseeg’s works I have not come across a book by a Baloch writer, except of course the present work by Naseer Jan, which contains such a vast selection of scholarly references. He has dealt with the subject with scholarly passion, without compromising objectivity. The contents of the book have been systematically arranged and each topic has been dealt with with utmost care and insight. Nowhere in the book does he advance an argument without appropriate references. His methodology is scientific through and through and his style is so lucid and straightforward that once you start the book you don’t want to put it aside until you have finished the very last paragraph.

So far hundreds of books have been written in English, Urdu, Farsi and Russian on the history of the Baloch and Balochistan. But only a handful of them do justice to their subject. However, I believe that Naseer Jan’s book is the most comprehensive and I have no hesitation to say that it is the best. Most history books in English were written, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, by colonial officers who either served in Balochistan or in India. They obviously wrote from a colonial perspective. While most of the Urdu and Farsi books were written by the non-Baloch who wrote from the viewpoint of Pakistani and Iranian establishments. Their cardinal objective is to deny that the Baloch are a nation. By denying their national status the Pakistani and Iranian establishments are intent upon perpetuating their occupation of Eastern (Pakistani) and Western (Iranian) Balochistan. Almost all Pakistani writers claim that the Baloch are not the only ‘nationality’ which inhabits Balochistan. They mention many others, among them even some Baluch tribes and social groups, to insidiously try to imply that the Baloch do not enjoy a majority in their own homeland. Some of them have tried to stretch this scandalous argument even further to suggest that Balochistan itself is a misnomer.
In their misguided zeal they invent “new” national entities in Balochistan as they go along. They list Pashtuns, Sindhis, Lasis, “Makranis”, “Brahvis”, “Darzadas”, “Nakibs” and even “Looris” as nationalities. Of course we have Pashtuns and Sindhis living in Balochistan in the same way as Sindhis, Baloch and Pashtuns live in all the other provinces of Pakistan. The whole world knows that Brahvis are Baloch but these so-called historians refuse to budge. Some of our great leaders like Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizanjo, Agha Abdul Karim and Abdul Aziz Kurd were Brahvis. Another great leader Sardar Ataullah Mengal also happens to be a Brahvi. Will these pen-pushers be convinced by these facts? Of course not. They write as they are told by their masters. Makran, as is well known, is a vast region in Eastern as well Western Balochistan. People who live in Makran are collectively called Makranis or Makuranis. 99.9% of the population of Makran is Baloch. Likewise Darzadas, Nakibs and Looris are small social groups but most definitely are as much Baloch as other Baloch tribes and clans. The Looris, for example, are artisans and minstrels. I am sure a day will come when all the tribes and social groups in Balochistan will, without exception, be called “nationalities” by the loyal servants of the Pakistani and Iranian establishments. Not only that; in order to create more and more “nationalities” people living in different areas of Balochistan will be named after their respective areas, such as Kharanis, Bolanis, Rakhshanis, Sarawanis, Jhalalawanis etc. etc. and they will all be granted the status of “nationalities”. There is such a thing as intellectual honesty but the so-called Pakistani and Iranian historians obviously do not believe in it. For them intellectual honesty is a totally alien concept.

Coming back to the book I find it invaluable. This is the first serious attempt to trace the origins of the Baloch and their long and arduous journey from the Caucasus, through the vast stretches of Iranian plateau to the present day Balochistan. It may sound quite incredible but it took the Baloch roughly 2500 years to complete this most amazing journey. This is a story on an epic scale. And Naseer Jan has succeeded in relating it in a professional manner. He takes you with him from the very beginning when the Baloch first appear on the map of Eastern Caucasia down to the present day. You don’t ever get bored or tired. In fact your curiosity keeps on growing after each milestone until you reach the final destination. Not only does he tell the story but deals with events and personalities with critical scrutiny. Naseer Jan has made some important historical discoveries during his ventures into the foggy maze of antiquity. Most significant of these is the discovery of Balaschik, Balashgan and Balas. I dare say that Naseer Jan, with this momentous discovery, has finally hit upon the missing link of the origin of the Baloch. Prior to this the origin of the Baloch always remained a mystery. I am quite intrigued at the scenario of the very crucial moment of this discovery. He must have experienced quite an uncontrollable thrill of joy and excitement. I hope at the very Eureka moment his immediate reaction was not as compromising and dramatic as that of Archimedes.

For me it is a great honour and indeed a privilege to have known Naseer Jan for the past few years. He is a committed writer and activist. He writes from the perspective of some one who holds the interests of the Baloch people at heart. I am convinced that he has succeeded in presenting an absolutely objective history of our people. I am sure that this book will give a new stimulus to our movement and inspires the educated Baloch youth to take a more active part in the struggle for national emancipation.
Before I conclude my observations I would like to say a few words about the proof-reading quality of the book. It is most unfortunate that there are proofing mistakes in the beginning chapters of the book. If one compares these with the final chapters one would immediately notice the difference. The publishers have not just let the author down but have let themselves down as well. Naseer Jan is fully aware of this. I am sure he would very much appreciate it if these errors are pointed out to him.
I conclude my piece with a quotation from the very last paragraph of the book which is as follows:
The historical journey of the Baloch is still not ended. The struggle to regain their lost sovereignty is continuing. The contemporary history of the Baloch is marked with tales of heroism from the Baloch resistance fighters and violent events causing human tragedies, human right violations, and acts of genocide on the part of the powers controlling the Baloch and Balochistan.

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