The process of destroying learning in a province that badly needs it continues. Saba Dashtiari, just 55 years old, becomes the latest victim of terrorist bullets. A senior professor of Urdu at the Balochistan University, he was targeted by gunmen while out on an evening walk. Dashtiari joins nearly two dozen other educators, many of them settlers in the province, to be killed in cold blood. At least 22 have died between January 2008 and October 2010 in similar attacks. There is some lack of clarity as to who is behind them. But it is clear that they are having a disastrous impact on education in Balochistan. Many professors have already sought transfers out of the province. Others will no doubt follow after the latest act of murder. The main sufferers are the youth of Balochistan who have been deprived of some of their best teachers through a campaign that stands out for its extraordinary senselessness and brutality.
Given that the professor was a veritable walking encyclopaedia on Baloch literature, culture and history, it is likely that he was eliminated by forces that see Baloch nationalism as a threat to the unity of the federation. Progress in Balochistan can come only if its people are able to acquire and realise the potential they need to move ahead in life, but unfortunately the centre’s treatment of the province and its people prevents that from happening. As things stand at the moment, literacy levels in Balochistan are among the lowest anywhere in the country. The fact that more and more teachers are now too scared to continue educating young people in Balochistan pushes the province further back in terms of development and growth. Many of those who have died may have come from other provinces. But they stood out for their dedication to teaching and their committed efforts to bring the best standards of higher learning to our least modern province. It is a tragedy that guns prevent them from continuing and that more still are being gunned down on the streets regularly. In the overall scheme of things, the death of yet another professor in Balochistan means that the sense of alienation of the province’s residents will only grow further.