Couple of weeks ago it was discovered through social media that a textbook taught in Punjab contains hate material against Baloch people. Sociology of Pakistan a textbook taught at intermediate level in Punjab and written by Abdul Hamid Taga and Abdul Aziz Taga was the source of the controversy. Amongst other definitions of the word Baloch, this book also stated that Baloch are “Uncivilized people engaged in murder and looting.”
Pictures of the selected pages of the book were shared on social media and they went viral. People began to condemn the book and its author. Soon the student organizations and activists took up the issue and a television program was also conducted on this matter. Politicians of Balochistan also came to know about this issue and a joint session of Senate provided them with the golden opportunity to highlight this issue.
Senator Mir Kabeer Muhammad Shahi of National Party (NP) raised this issue in the Senate and read out different lines from the book, which tantamount to hate mongering against Baloch. This was followed by fiery speeches by several other senators who condemned the book unequivocally and demanded action against the publishers. Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani announced that the issue would be brought to the notice of Chief Minister Punjab.
After a couple of days, Chief Minister Punjab also took notice of the matter and ordered an inquiry. Publishers of the book also realized the blunder that they had committed and did not waste any time in issuing an apology in newspapers. This was no doubt a success of social media activism and proved that no one can get away with a blunder like that in the current age. It also restarted the debate on the need to purge textbooks in Pakistan from all sorts of historical distortions and hate mongering content.
However, the missing link in this entire saga is the misplaced outrage on this issue by both politicians and activists of Balochistan as compared to other genuine issues. The issue of distortion of meaning of Baloch was a significant issue and those who highlighted it did a good job; however, there are other issues of Balochistan which are much more important than this one and they do not get any attention due to misplaced priorities.
HEC resources distribution case of Balochistan is one of such examples. It was revealed in the annual reports of HEC that Balochistan is getting much less than its constitutionally-mandated share of 6 percent. This issue was raised in more than one articles and civil society of Balochistan also conducted a detailed press conference on this issue. As a result, chairman HEC had to come to Quetta and misguide provincial government officials that his organization is helping higher education in Balochistan more than its share.
The issue of HEC resources distribution was brought to the attention of a lot of politicians of Balochistan including those who brought up the hate mongering against Baloch issue in the Senate. However, none of them took interest in HEC issue the way they did on the hate material.
The reasons for this misplaced outrage are simple: the HEC issue is a real and genuine issue which is affecting the students of Balochistan. Its affects will be felt in the long term when people will be deprived of quality higher education. On the other hand, the issue of meaning of Baloch meaning in the book does not have practical implications, but it has huge political implications.
Politicians of Balochistan were more interested in highlighting the book issue because it was a source of political point scoring for them. They wanted to give a message to common Baloch people that we are the ones protecting your identity. That’s the main motivation that this issue was raised in Senate so quickly, which resulted in its resolution. However, the real issues of the Baloch people such as HEC resource distribution case, fake domicile case, drought, lack of development etc, never get the same level of attention. Common Baloch people need to realize this deception which they are facing at the hands of their so-called political representatives.
Now, it does not mean that issues such as the hate mongering content in book should be ignored. These issues should also be highlighted and given importance, but as per their need. One needs to understand which issues affect the common public and their life and which ones are for the political consumption of the elite. Differentiating between them is the need of the hour for the impoverished Baloch people who can’t afford to be cannon fodder for political elite of the province anymore.
In this context, it’s anticipated that politicians and activists of Balochistan will also focus on issues of public importance on an urgent basis. The case of HEC resource distribution is the test case in this context. Chairman HEC is hell bent on denying Balochistan of its due share and only a handful people are fighting the case of Balochistan with arguments and facts. Will the same politicians and activists who created uproar on book controversy also highlight the HEC case with same fervor? Only time will tell.