Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Baloch, not Baluchis

Published in Daily Times, Lahore February 23, 2005

Sir: A lot is being written and said about Balochistan nowadays. It’s a shame that it had to be a heinous crime and the consequent violent reaction to it by the local Baloch people that woke up the rest of Pakistan to the situation in Balochistan.

I think the problem is that the Pakistanis in general are largely ignorant about Balochistan and so, it seems, is the government. A small indication of this ignorance is that almost everyone including some of the leading newspapers, and even government leaders, persistently refer to the Baloch people as Baluchis — a term used by the British because of their phonetic difficulty with the native language.

The fact is that "Baluchis" call themselves Baloch. Balochi (not Baluchi) is their language. Interestingly, if you happen to drive past the Army’s Baloch Centre in Abbottabad you will see a very large, freshly painted, billboard welcoming visitors to the “House of Baluchis.” Clearly, there aren’t any Bugtis, Bizenjos, Marris, and Mangels in the “House of Baluchis” to have pointed out this error.

For an average Pakistani, Balochistan is the place from where Sui gas comes to their kitchens, or where the Gawadar port is being built, or where the nuclear bomb was tested. Beyond that there is just an image of an empty space. The day we realise that there are actual people living in Balochistan with real problems, hopes and aspirations, will we begin to understand Balochistan and do something about it.

Islamabad

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