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Ten Points to Promote Balochi Language

10 Feb

By: Malik Siraj Akbar

Those who passionately champion the cause of preserving, practicing and promoting indigenous languages are still seen by the “more patriotic” section of the population as the ‘enemies’ and ‘traitors” of the land. The biggest service we could do on this day is to change this negative and hateful perception. Those who are advocating the cause of mother tongues are the real friends of cultural diversity and we must listen to them seriously. Balochistan is the home to four rich languages viz Balochi, Bhravi, Pashtu and Hazargi. All these languages largely face identical problems. They lack official patronage for their promotion and complain about lack of breathing space to practice and promote these languages because of the government’s color-blind attitude towards cultural diversity. For the Balochs, this day requires special attention. There is a need to revisit the national strategy to preserve, promote and practice Balochi language. Over the past few years, Pashtunkhawa Milli Awami Party has been celebrating this day on a very large scale by taking out rallies in the provincial capital, Quetta, and holding seminars to create awareness among the people about the significance of mother tongues. On their part, the Baloch political parties and academies have, unfortunately, not marked this day with the same level of consciousness and seriousness. The role of the dormant Balochi Academy is deplorable. It has shrunk into a body which awaits the death of a prominent Balochi writer or poet so that it organizes a memorial reference. In the midst of changing circumstances, the Balochi Academy has a very important role to play with the collaboration of the Balochi Department at the University of Balochistan. Some of the biggest problems the Balochi language faces in the contemporary times are as follows. First, the issue of consensus Balochi script is still pending. Among all available resources, Syed Zahoor Shah’s Syed Ganj, the most versatile dictionary of Balochi language, should be applied as the standard reference book on the Balochi script. Second, no government or private institute is currently offering Balochi learning courses. A lot of foreigners, including those Baloch kids who were born in the Middle East and Europe without getting a chance to learn Balochi , find it hard to enroll in an institute to master Balochi language. Ironically, the University of Balochistan offers Balochi at Masters level but there is no school offering Balochi at primary level.The Balochi Academy and the Balochi Department at the UoB should collaborate to develop a Balochi language course of international standards. Third, there is an urgent need for an online source of Baochi language books. Again, the Balochi Academy has to work on a project to ensure the availability of all Balochi books, journals, magazines and compilations in PDF format to a global audience. Soft copies of Balochi publications will also enable those writers and poets to market their work who do not have the finances to market their work internationally. Interestingly, the only Baloch writers, intellectuals and poets whose works is available in the market are the bureaucrats and professors who can afford to self-publish their works. Writers and editors like Atta Shad, Jan Mohammad Dashti, Munir Ahmed Badini, Dr. Shah Mohammad Marri, Hakeem Baloch, Dr. Naimatullah Gichki, Yar Jan Badini, Abdul Wahid Bandeeg, Professor Saba Dashtyari and Dr. Ali Dost Baloch have all richly contributed to the Balochi literature at the cost of their own pockets. There is a need for a long-term arrangement to publish these and other writers’ works without economically burdening the authors. For this purpose, the Balochi Academy has to organize a fund and a chalk out a publishing strategy. Fourth, the discriminatory role of the Directorate of Public Relations (DPR) toward Balochi language newspaper and magazines is abominable. Even though two of the recent Directors of the Public Relations, whose job, among others, is to distribute official advertisements, were Balochs, they tried their level best to strangulate the Balochi Zind and Monthly Balochi by curtailing their advertisements. These are the two only Balochi language magazines with a wide readership and uninterrupted publication. According to the law, at least 20 % of the official advertisements should be distributed among the newspapers and magazines published in mother tongues. This law is not being properly applied and the sole beneficiaries are the owners of dummy newspapers and magazines mostly owned by the employers of the Directorate of Public Relations. Fifth, the duration of Balochi programs at Radio Pakistan and Pakistan Television Bolan should be increased. All non-Balochs who have been appointed, ironically, as producers and assistant producers in Balochi programs should be replaced by qualified Balochi youth who have a better knowledge and understanding of the language, culture and history. Sixth, the Balochistan Assembly should pass a law to undo a previous announcement by Chief Minister Aslam Raisani to introduce Arabic language at schools in Balochistan. Instead of inducting Arabic, the government should introduce mother tongues at the schools where the language is spoken by the majority of the people. Seventh, all “national newspapers”, which make millions of rupees from Balochistan from legal and illegal means of advertisements, should be urged to start at least one weekly page in the local languages in order to play their role in the promotion of local languages. Eighth, the growing sense of insecurity of the Balochi poets, singers, actors and producers should be addressed by the literary and political bodies. Some Blaochi singers were killed and others were arrested or implicated in different cases for their ‘rebellious work’. The political parties should own these cultural figures and give them a sense of protection so that they continue their cultural work. Ninth, the Balochi, Bravi and Pashtu academies should enhance coordination. They should work jointly on matters of common interest rather than distancing themselves from each other or suspiciously viewing each other as ‘rivals’. The way forward for all these academies is the same. Tenth, Baloch philanthropists and diaspora should do whatever it takes to financially assist fledgling and economically dwindling organizations like Vash TV, Sabzbath Balochistan and the Balochi Academy. There is no government support to these organizations and they may collapse if they are not sufficiently funded to sustain their crucial work. There is surely a lot of work to do but we should at least start cogitating about the future of Balochi language today when people all over the world are contemplating about the future of their mother tongues. always taken mother tongues as a cultural asset and capitalized on this as an element of cultural enrichment. Unfortunately, in our country this day is still considered to be “bad boys’ day” when some intellectuals and politicians cry over dying languages in this part of the world. Those who passionately champion the cause of preserving, practicing and promoting indigenous languages are still seen by the “more patriotic” section of the population as the ‘enemies’ and ‘traitors” of the land. The biggest service we could do on this day is to change this negative and hateful perception. Those who are advocating the cause of mother tongues are the real friends of cultural diversity and we must listen to them seriously. Balochistan is the home to four rich languages viz Balochi, Bhravi, Pashtu and Hazargi. All these languages largely face identical problems. They lack official patronage for their promotion and complain about lack of breathing space to practice and promote these languages because of the government’s color-blind attitude towards cultural diversity. For the Balochs, this day requires special attention. There is a need to revisit the national strategy to preserve, promote and practice Balochi language. Over the past few years, Pashtunkhawa Milli Awami Party has been celebrating this day on a very large scale by taking out rallies in the provincial capital, Quetta, and holding seminars to create awareness among the people about the significance of mother tongues. On their part, the Baloch political parties and academies have, unfortunately, not marked this day with the same level of consciousness and seriousness. The role of the dormant Balochi Academy is deplorable. It has shrunk into a body which awaits the death of a prominent Balochi writer or poet so that it organizes a memorial reference. In the midst of changing circumstances, the Balochi Academy has a very important role to play with the collaboration of the Balochi Department at the University of Balochistan. Some of the biggest problems the Balochi language faces in the contemporary times are as follows. First, the issue of consensus Balochi script is still pending. Among all available resources, Syed Zahoor Shah’s Syed Ganj, the most versatile dictionary of Balochi language, should be applied as the standard reference book on the Balochi script. Second, no government or private institute is currently offering Balochi learning courses. A lot of foreigners, including those Baloch kids who were born in the Middle East and Europe without getting a chance to learn Balochi , find it hard to enroll in an institute to master Balochi language. Ironically, the University of Balochistan offers Balochi at Masters level but there is no school offering Balochi at primary level.The Balochi Academy and the Balochi Department at the UoB should collaborate to develop a Balochi language course of international standards. Third, there is an urgent need for an online source of Baochi language books. Again, the Balochi Academy has to work on a project to ensure the availability of all Balochi books, journals, magazines and compilations in PDF format to a global audience. Soft copies of Balochi publications will also enable those writers and poets to market their work who do not have the finances to market their work internationally. Interestingly, the only Baloch writers, intellectuals and poets whose works is available in the market are the bureaucrats and professors who can afford to self-publish their works. Writers and editors like Atta Shad, Jan Mohammad Dashti, Munir Ahmed Badini, Dr. Shah Mohammad Marri, Hakeem Baloch, Dr. Naimatullah Gichki, Yar Jan Badini, Abdul Wahid Bandeeg, Professor Saba Dashtyari and Dr. Ali Dost Baloch have all richly contributed to the Balochi literature at the cost of their own pockets. There is a need for a long-term arrangement to publish these and other writers’ works without economically burdening the authors. For this purpose, the Balochi Academy has to organize a fund and a chalk out a publishing strategy. Fourth, the discriminatory role of the Directorate of Public Relations (DPR) toward Balochi language newspaper and magazines is abominable. Even though two of the recent Directors of the Public Relations, whose job, among others, is to distribute official advertisements, were Balochs, they tried their level best to strangulate the Balochi Zind and Monthly Balochi by curtailing their advertisements. These are the two only Balochi language magazines with a wide readership and uninterrupted publication. According to the law, at least 20 % of the official advertisements should be distributed among the newspapers and magazines published in mother tongues. This law is not being properly applied and the sole beneficiaries are the owners of dummy newspapers and magazines mostly owned by the employers of the Directorate of Public Relations. Fifth, the duration of Balochi programs at Radio Pakistan and Pakistan Television Bolan should be increased. All non-Balochs who have been appointed, ironically, as producers and assistant producers in Balochi programs should be replaced by qualified Balochi youth who have a better knowledge and understanding of the language, culture and history. Sixth, the Balochistan Assembly should pass a law to undo a previous announcement by Chief Minister Aslam Raisani to introduce Arabic language at schools in Balochistan. Instead of inducting Arabic, the government should introduce mother tongues at the schools where the language is spoken by the majority of the people. Seventh, all “national newspapers”, which make millions of rupees from Balochistan from legal and illegal means of advertisements, should be urged to start at least one weekly page in the local languages in order to play their role in the promotion of local languages. Eighth, the growing sense of insecurity of the Balochi poets, singers, actors and producers should be addressed by the literary and political bodies. Some Blaochi singers were killed and others were arrested or implicated in different cases for their ‘rebellious work’. The political parties should own these cultural figures and give them a sense of protection so that they continue their cultural work. Ninth, the Balochi, Bravi and Pashtu academies should enhance coordination. They should work jointly on matters of common interest rather than distancing themselves from each other or suspiciously viewing each other as ‘rivals’. The way forward for all these academies is the same. Tenth, Baloch philanthropists and diaspora should do whatever it takes to financially assist fledgling and economically dwindling organizations like Vash TV, Sabzbath Balochistan and the Balochi Academy. There is no government support to these organizations and they may collapse if they are not sufficiently funded to sustain their crucial work. There is surely a lot of work to do but we should at least start cogitating about the future of Balochi language today when people all over the world are contemplating about the future of their mother tongues.

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