A complete shutter-down strike was observed in most parts of Balochistan on Thursday to protest against the killing of prominent Baloch intellectual Prof Ghulam Husain Saba Dashtiari.
The strike call was given by Baloch National Front and was observed in Khuzdar, Kech, Pasni, Gwadar, Nushki, Panjgur, Hoshab, Tump, Mand and adjoining areas, suspending all trade and business activities. All major markets, banks and even chemists in these areas remained closed for the day. The University of Balochistan was also shut to mourn the killing.
Prof Ghulam Hussain, commonly known as Saba Dashtiari, was gunned down in broad daylight near the Saryab police station in Quetta.
Dashtiari was known for his affinity with Baloch nationalist groups and his anti-establishment views.
The professor was stopped by an armed man on the Saryab Road, where he was shot in the head three times at point-blank range. His body was later sent to Lyari in Karachi for burial. The Ansarul Islam, a little-known militant organisation, claimed responsibility for the murder. Its spokesperson, who identified himself as Saifullah, said that the group would target anyone it deemed anti-jihad.
The man that was killed
Dashtiari became an active member of the Baloch nationalist movement in 2007 because of the dramatic increase in numbers of ‘missing’ persons and army operation. He attended gatherings of the Baloch Republican Party, the Baloch Students Organisation and Baloch National Front. He was often a keynote speaker at demonstrations and seminars arranged by these groups.
He blamed the military and the intelligence agencies for torturing and killing Baloch activists and even refused a presidential award from former president Pervez Musharraf in protest against the violation of human rights in Balochistan.
The professor’s commitment to the Baloch cause transcended politics. He was equally critical of the Iranian government for suppressing the Baloch community in that country.
Dashtiari is the author of more than 24 books on Baloch literature, history, poetry and translations. He also established the Syed Zahoor Shah Hashmi Reference Library, Pakistan’s largest library on Baloch literature, in Malir, Karachi.
Prof Saba Dashtiari was born in Karachi in 1953 and moved to Balochistan in 1988. His area of focus as an academic was Baloch poetry and the Balochi language.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 3rd, 2011.