By: Bari Baloch
Senior journalist Bari Baloch, during his visit to Kabul last year, availed an opportunity to interview Abdul Sattar Pordili exclusively for The Baloch Hal. Excerpts.
The Baloch Hal: Could you please tell us about your life and educational background?
Abdul Sattar Pordili: I was born in 1948 in Nimruz province of Afghanistan in Kangay Ulas Wali and studied till class 9th in my village school. Then I went to Kabul for further studies and did my intermediate. Later, I took admission in faculty of science in Kabul University. After completing my qualification, I served as a government servant and later became President of Trade Union Afghanistan. Besides, I remained a member of Afghan Parliament for four years in Dr. Najeebullah’s government but when the Mujahideen took over Afghanistan, I went back to Nimruz. I became a member of the central committee of Afghanistan Democratic Party in 1968 and was also incarcerated for one year in Pulcharkhi Prison Kabul in 1978.
I was also imprisoned for some time in Taliban’s regime and later some Baloch and Pashtoon notables negotiated with Taliban leaders who ultimately agreed to set me free on their bail. Later, my friends advised me to leave Afghanistan because I still had threats from Taliban. Upon this, I went to Zahidan in Western Balochistan (in Iran) where I stayed until the Taliban regime was toppled and I returned to Afghanistan.
After the collapse of Taliban regime, I came back to Kabul and started working with Regional Study Centre Afghanistan and now I am the head of Mahmood Tarzi think tank.
BH: Tell us something about your family.
ASP: I have eleven children, including seven daughters and four boys. My three children are with me while others are married and busy in living their own life with their children.
BH: Do you have an idea about the number of Balochs living in Afghanistan and where they are most populated?
ASP: There is no exact figure of Baloch population in Afghanistan. There should have been census to find the actual number of Balochs. However more or less two million Balochs are living in various parts of Afghanistan, including Nimruz province, Helmand, Farrah and some other areas. Balochs are spread over 24 provinces of Afghanistan and they are also residing in Kabul, Badakhshan, Takhar Balkh and Herat.
BH: Which main Baloch tribes are residing in Afghanistan?
ASP: There are many Baloch tribes living in Afghanistan, for instance, the Muhammad Hassani tribe is the largest Brahvi tribe while Mengals are also populated in Kandahar. However, Rakshani is the largest population in Kandahar. There are also sub- clans of Rakshani, including Badini, Rind, Jamaldini and Mandahi. Other tribes like Gorgage, Reki and Sanjarani are also residing in Afghanistan.
BH: Are there currently any Balochs serving as ministers and advisors in President Hamid Karzai’s government?
ASP: Right now, there is no Baloch in Karzai’s government except one who is the governor of Helmand province while two Balochs, who are basically Pashtoons, have been given slots in the name of Balochs, among them one is a senator and the second is an advisor of Mr. Karzai. The one who is an advisor comes from a Rakshani mother but his father is Pashtoon. However, he is still famously known as a Rakshani while Malvi Mohi-ud-Din Baloch is basically Pashtoon.
BH: What do you think about the representation of Balochs in Afghan government?
ASP: Right now, there is no representation of Balochs in Afghan government but in past Balochs had enjoyed a good representation particularly in tenure of Dr. Najeebullah. Balochs had a great hope in promotion of their culture, tradition and language as in Nimruz which is called central of upper Balochistan used to telecast six hour- long Balochi news and programmes. But currently in Karazai’s government, Balochs are given only one hour. Previously, when Dr. Najeebullah was in power, we used to publish daily Balochi newspaper Suob but now it is not being published.
Likewise, in upper Balochistan, the children had been taught in their own mother tongue. Now, other ethnic groups have their strong hold on Karazai’s government and, as a result,the government is trying to suppress the Balochs. Recently, the Karzai government tried to create a division between Balochs and Brahvis while it also separated Balochs in national study. There was one Baloch commander in the Afghan police, Jabbar Pordili, and he was performing well but now it has been six months that he is jobless. Karim Brahvi, former parliamentarian and politician, is also now jobless and staying at home.
BH: If Balochs were also among Taliban, when they were ruling Afghanistan?
ASP: A tiny number of Balochs were with Taliban but Taliban had their own policy towards Balochs because they were getting instruction from Islamabad. For instance Taliban strived hard that Ghori should be made the capital of Nimruz instead of Zaranj. There is an area which is now called Khash where Balochs also had Wells and used to irrigate lands were distributed among Pashtoons by Taliban. Even Pashtoons were brought from other areas, including Helmand, Kandahar, Pakhtia to Nimruz. Balochs were even not given 2 per cent of land so that Balochs could be converted into minority.
BH: Taliban used to call themselves Champion of Justice, did they subject Balochs to cruelty?
ASP: When Taliban occupied Afghanistan most of the educated and knowledgeable Baloch personalities became compelled to leave Afghanistan and moved towards Western Balochistan. When I was set free by Taliban, I was called by one Taliban officer in his office. I asked what is my mistake and why you people arrested me. Maulvi Abdul Bari the head of intelligence told me that they did not want to arrest me but this direction had come from Islamabad. I asked logic behind this, he said that I hatch conspiracies and kill Taliban.
BH: What is the literacy rate of Balochs in Afghanistan whether girls also go to schools or not?
ASP: The female literacy rate is low as the number of school going girls is not satisfactory due to law and order. However, girls and boys study in schools in Zaranj district of Nimruz and its surrounding areas. Now they are being taught inBalochi language so that they could easily understand and develop.
BH: What is the number of Baloch professors, doctors, Engineers and other professionals in Afghanistan?
ASP: We have only one professor who is currently serving in Nangarhar University in Agriculture department. The number of Balochs in universities of Afghanistan is not up to the mark since the literacy rate of Baloch population is quite low thus they can’t get good marks to reach higher institutions and universities.
BH: How many newspapers and magazines in Balochi language are being published from Afghanistan?
ASP: Now there are two daily newspapers which are being published from Afghanistan in Balochi language, including that of “Bedari” and “Watan Dar”. The Bedari is private while Watan Dar is published by Information and Culture Ministry Afghanistan. Similarly, it is also publishing one monthly magazine named “Sar Tarki” in three languages, Dari, Pashto and Balochi. However, except these papers there are no other special Balochi papers.
BH: How many newspapers and magazines in Balochi language used to publish from Afghanistan in Past?
ASP: Before Mr. Karazai’s government five papers were being published but the number of papers and magazines was much better in the government of Dr. Najeebullah. There was a an Academy in Afghanistan which had published quite olden materials of Balochi language and six Baloch people were also working there but now there is no Baloch in that Academy. Now all outsiders are working there. In past there was one magazine used to publish in the name of Socialism which was translated into Balochi language and some Balochi ancient literatures were also published in it.
BH: Are you satisfied with the situation of Baloch people and language in Afghanistan in such circumstances?
ASP: Afghan government is not seriously working to promote Balochi language, however, there are some passionate and enlightened people who are thinking to work for the promotion of Balochi language. They are striving hard so that a special Balochi Academy could be established in Afghanistan besides promotingBalochi culture. There is one Baloch friend who is keen to establish a Balochistudio so that they could make CDs, DVDs and boost Balochi music.
BH: Is Balochi music progressing in Afghanistan?
ASP: Balochi music is lagging far behind in Afghanistan because government is not paying heeds towards Balochi language. Similarly, Balochs also ignored working on music from Mujahideen regime to Taliban. However, now youngsters are hard working to promote Balochi music.
BH: Why Balochs in Afghanistan use Pashto script instead of Balochi?
ASP: There are two reasons behind this. First issue is political. We don’t write in other script because we don’t want to be blamed that we are against Afghanistan. However, we are also using sometime Urdu script but Baloch people in Afghanistan do not easily understand it. Recently, we organized a symposium onBalochi language in Nimruz province. We demanded government for help because we wanted to hold a big gathering of Balochi linguists, intellectuals and literary persons so that they could participate and discuss as how to promoteBalochi language and literature. We wanted to bring such reforms after meeting with different linguists and intellectuals which is acceptable to all. Still we are hopeful that a huge gathering would be held in Afghanistan in this connection and this should be held at the earliest.
BH: Who are the renowned poets and writers of Balochi language in Afghanistan?
ASP: Abdul Rehman Pawal was the great Baloch poet and writer Wali Muhammad Rakshani was also a big name in this connection who has passed away two years ago. Similarly, Khuda Bakhsh Rakhshani was a great Sufi and famous poet. His poetry has also been translated in other languages but so far not has been published. We have another Baloch poet Waja Ghulam Muhammad Lalzad who is presently in Canada. There are some other young poets, including Waja Saleemi, Waja Anwar Zaranji Khan Muhammad Samaji and Noor Muhammad Omani who write poetry in Balochi and also sing.
BH: How many books written by you have been published?
ASP: My seven books have been published in Afghanistan. Four books are about trade union and the rest three books are on Balochi. My write ups are mostly comprising Baloch, Balochi and Balochistan. I have written on politics and culture and my two articles have been published in Afghanistan’s Academy of Language and Literature which are about Baloch script.
BH: Why there is lack of communication between the Balochs of Afghanistan and Pakistan?
ASP: I wish the communication between both parts of Balochs should increase as much as it could. I have expressed my opinion and thoughts in this connection in my write ups which I have given to you.
BH: Balochs of Eastern Balochistan complain that they are being subjected to excesses and injustice by the rulers, how much Balochs in Afghanistan are aware about the state of their brothers?
ASP: Two talks-shows of Balochs hailing from Eastern Balochistan and Afghanistan have carried out by a news channel “Tolo News” in Afghanistan. Balochs of both sides explained the situation of Balochs in both sides. They were of the view that Balochs did not separate themselves rather they were separated by imperial forces and they feel their pain. Last time in month of July we organized a seminar on 18,000 missing persons of Eastern Balochistan and we feel their pain because we are not separate from them. But imperialist forces separated us by drawing Durand Line and Gold Smith Line.
BH: Could you please tell us about conference that you have organized in Nimruz about Balochi language and culture?
ASP: Yes we organized a conference in Nimruz but the way we wanted to organize it we couldn’t. As you know Afghan government is not much powerful and it shares border with Pakistan and Iran and both countries have their influence on Afghanistan. I was the organizer and the conference we held was small in scale. As we announced the date of conference in Nimruz and planned that guest would be taken through a charted plane from Kabul to Zaranj within 30 minutes I received four calls from different high places because on WesternBalochistan Abdul Malik Reki was arrested and there was immense pressure on Balochs from Iranian government. The members of Iran asked not to hold conference and it should not come into media. Thus, the conference was not given maximum coverage.
BH: Why mostly Balochs prefer to live in villages instead of cities?
ASP: It is a conspiracy to refrain Baloch population from cities. You might remember when there was government of National Awami Party (NAP) in EasternBalochistan, the government incarcerated Mir Ghous Bakhsh Bezinjo, Sardar Attaullah Mengal, Mir Gul Khan Nasir and others. Later, when Balochs voiced for their rights in Zulfiqar Bhutto’s tenure Iran provided cobra helicopters to Pakistan where thousands of Balochs were killed. Wherever Balochs were vocal, they were brutally suppressed. The city of Zahidan in Western Balochistan which is the centre but now majority is of Zabulis and Persians. For their ulterior designs, the Duz Hap and Zahidan were merged and a word “Sistan” was incorporated with the name of Balochistan. Now first Sistan and than Balochistan is pronounced. In Eastern Balochistan the Balochs even could not talk in their mother language. In Sistan- Balochistan only 12600 people are educated and only 6 per cent are Balochs while other groups are Gajjar and Persians. The same situation is in Eastern Balochistan where under the pretext of mega projects people from Punjab and other outsiders are being settled in Balochistan. Thus the number of refugees has increased than that of Balochs.
BH: Are Balochs getting their due rights in Afghanistan as compared to other ethnic groups like Pahtoon, Uzbiks, Hazaras and Tajiks?
ASP: Yes they were. But now they are not getting their due share in the government. Officially declared population of Kandahar is comprising 33 per cent of Balochs. Recently, published report say Balochs are even not given 2 per cent of jobs in main official positions. The president of Afghanistan himself nominates three persons for senate all nationalists are given presentation by taking one member from each nationality. But a Pashtoon woman Saeeda Barkzai was nominated to represent Balochs while everybody knows she is Pashtoon and just she attired with Balochi traditional dress to give an impression that she is aBaloch. However, now we have a good chance. Earlier, Balochs had no say anywhere but now internationally they are being recognized that Balochs are suppressed and injustice is being done with them. The last meeting of US congress has somehow raised the issue of Balochs.
BH: Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) has spared some time for Balochilanguage is other channels also giving time to Balochi language?
ASP: Other than RTA no other channel is giving time to Balochi language. RTA is telecasting one hours Balochi programme in Nimuz. There are also Radio programmes but recently Tolu TV has started Balochi programme. Balochs are also desirous that their language should also be given time in channels.
BH: Would you like to convey any message for the Balochs living different parts of the world?
ASP: My message to Baloch nation is that they should contrive unity and should come out from tribal system. There should be no Bugti, Marri, Raisani and Rakshani rather all should call themselves as Baloch and if it is so, I believe in a very short time, Balochs would be united from Hub to Bandar Abass.
Published in The Baloch Hal on March 26, 2013