Twenty years old and brimming with the passion of becoming a writer, I was eager to meet anyone who had something to do with literature. So I met a guy. In 2002.
A literary friend of mine took me to this guy’s small apartment in Lyari where he lived with a large family. He had translated an Urdu book, Insan bara kaise bana, The Evolution of the Mankind, into Balochi.
But before our literary discussion started, my friend and that guy switched off the fan and started preparing a charas cigarette. Before lighting the cigarette, they closed the only window of the tiny room so that the smell wouldn’t travel to the noses of the rest of the family members.
After smoking a couple of cigarettes, the guy took out a huge manuscript of his translated work and started reading from it. He hadn’t finished the first para and I started laughing hysterically. The problem was I couldn’t stop myself and my intestines were about to jump out of my mouth. What was wrong with me? I thought.
Balochi, in the written form, is relatively a new language. It doesn’t support the anthropological terminology of the book the guy had translated. So he invented his own Balochi words. Funny words. But I shouldn’t had been laughing at his face. After all, I liked to consider myself a well-mannered young man.
I soon realized that I had been inhaling the charas smoke billowing around the room and it was making me giggle and laugh however I tried not to.
That guy never published his manuscript after that incident. But we became sort of friends.
Twelve years later, in 2014, I was working on a special report about Baloch missing persons for Reuters with a British journalist. The report contained the profiles of three missing persons. One was that guy — Haji Abdul Razzak Sarbazi.
By then he was working with a local Urdu daily as a proofreader. One night he went to work and didn’t come back home. He had been taken away by the security agencies. Apart from being a proofreader, he was a member of the Baloch National Movement, whose workers are still being chased by the military.
On August 21, when we had already filed the special report to our editors, we heard Razzak’s body had been found in the sewerage wastes in Karachi’s Surjani Town.
My British colleague called me to confirm the rumour as if it was true we had to modify the story before it got published. I called Razzak’s sister.
“Yes, my relatives are at the hospital and they say it’s him,” she told me, crying. “I’m on my way to hospital to see the body myself,” she added and dropped the line.
I thought it’s confirmed he’s dead. So I told my British colleague to modify the story.
A couple hours later, she rang me. A single ring. I called her. “It’s not my brother,” she was still crying, but in a different way.
“Are you sure,” I asked. I didn’t want to send my bosses in London another unconfirmed report.
“Yes,” she said.
“How,” I knew it was not the time to ask such a question, but my reputation as a responsible journalist was at stake.
“This body’s skull is big. I mean my brother’s skull is big too but a little smaller than this dead man’s,” she said confidently.
I knew this was not solid evidence to prove the identity of the dead, as a man’s face tends to swell after death. And the body was old, found days after it had been dumped in Surjani Town.
“So why your relatives thought it was your brother’s body?” I had to ask, because there was no way I was going to send an unconfirmed report to my editors again.
She was cheerful after believing it was not his brother’s body, so she didn’t seem to be minding my grilling questions.
“Because there was a note in his shirt’s pocket which read Haji Abdul Razzak. So they got confused. There is another Haji Abdul Razzak Marri, who is also missing. The body might be his.”
How many Haji Abdul Razzaks are missing? I thought.
The face had been mutilated beyond recognition. So there was no other way to confirm the body’s identity except for believing what Razzak’s family members were saying.
I apologized to my British colleague that my previous information had been wrong and that the family is saying this body is not of their Haji Abdul Razzak. He politely responded that we let the story go as it is.
When I thought I’m done with this dilemma of the body’s identity, I received a message from Razzak’s sister, asking me to call her.
Is she playing some sort of game with me? What would my bosses in London would think of my journalistic skills?
“Hadn’t you said the body’s skull is bigger than your brother’s? I asked in frustration.
“Yes, but his wife checked the pieces of clothes still left on his body. They are the same he was wearing the day he was picked up.”
I waited for a few hours so that they claim the body from the hospital. I was not going to send unconfirmed reports.
They claimed the body. They buried it with proper rites. And we modified our story.
But I still think that Razzak’s sister and family must have their moments of suspicion that the body they buried was really that of Haji Abdul Razzak Sarbazi or Haji Abdul Razzak Marri.
The military people are kind enough to leave a note on the dumped bodies bearing the name of the victim, making it easy for the relatives to identify their loved ones and stop searching for them. This kindness worked for many years. But now that more than one person of the same name are missing, our kind soldiers should also leave a photo of the victim along with the note bearing the name.
Courtesy: Balochistan Times