Quetta: As elsewhere in the country, the relics of Balochistan’s “progressive” or leftist politics and culture may have ceded space to globalization and the commercial and capitalist ethos it brings, albeit grudgingly.

Café and chai khanas – tea shops – that were once patronized by local politicians, activists, intellectuals and common people, resounding with political debate and left-leaning views on social issues, have turned into tiny temples to capitalism: banks, malls and shops. Revolution, as advocated by the left remains very much the stuff of literature however, available in bookshops in the form of translated texts.

“The culture of reading revolutionary literature has developed in Balochistan in response to widespread deprivation, tribalism, unfair distribution of resources, violation of fundamental rights and conflict,” Hameed Khan, who teaches Pashto language at the Degree College, Quetta, told News Lens Pakistan.

Khan said people gravitated towards literature of revolution and reformation because they aspired to emancipation of society from the stranglehold of capitalists and political elite who, they believed, were the cause of the problems they faced. “In parts of the provinces of Punjab and Sindh where people live in better conditions and face fewer problems, they don’t read revolutionary literature.”

Social scientists say that people of any society that suffers from severe setbacks have deeper political consciousness and awareness of their state than those that live in developed societies facing fewer problems, says Khan.

“At this point in time, political consciousness among the people of Baluchistan is more widespread than any other part of the country,” said Khan.

Khan said that political powers that had monopoly over sources of information and resources in the province did not tolerate open debate on issues because political awareness among readers of revolutionary literature brought more than just social and political consciousness, it helps them comprehend how local politics and world affairs contribute to their problems.

“The political leadership achieved power through conventional politics of biradari and buying support; they don’t have time or patience for politics that delivers. They worry that if they allow social and political debate; it would question and threaten their power and status.”

Revolutionary books are not available in libraries of schools, colleges and universities but only in bookshops because, says Khan, books come to libraries with the permission of political parties in power. Books that would create problems for them or question their role, whether local, national or international, do not make it to libraries in education institutions.

Far from being content with reading revolutionary literature, students of various universities in Balochistan are increasingly selecting revolutionary topics for their M. Phil and PhD research. On the other hand, socialists and leftists write books that reinterpret progressive literature and values for application in a modern world, says Khan. “Such luminaries and thinkers have their own dedicated magazines for which they write articles to educate people and reform the society.”

Wali Nasar, secretary at the youth bureau of International Marxist Tendency, Balochistan, says only those classes of people who have been exploited by the political and industrialist elite read revolutionary books and such literature plays a vital role in eliminating exploitation of the oppressed because revolutionary ideologies provide “scientific solutions of problems to the people.”

In a province like Balochistan, says Nasar, where nationalist politics is very much par for the course, the trend of reading revolutionary books is high among activists if nationalist political parties, progressive workers of student and socialist organisations. “The workers of these organisations arrange study circles in colleges, universities and their organisation’s offices to discuss literature and find solutions to problems of the oppressed people.”

A worker belonging to one of the nationalist political parties in Balochistan said overall, revolutionary literature had not benefited the nation in any way. “Nations change the thrust of their literature according to their requirements and circumstances for the development of society,” said the political worker who wished to stay anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to media.

He said the reason for failure of revolutionary literature to deliver in Pakistan was that societies where revolutions had happened had adopted such literature to their own situations, culture, traditions and conditions. “We have done nothing of the sort,” he said. “Ideologies look great on paper but when it comes to their application in reality, it is nearly impossible because one has to contend with a lot of factors that may not be conducive to revolutionary change.”

According to Zaeem Bukhari, a bookshop owner and a publisher based in Quetta, when the Saur Revolution came in Afghanistan, it led to a culture of reading revolutionary books. The trend died down eventually with the death of revolution in Afghanistan. Then, with conflict and insurgencies breaking out in Baluchistan, the culture was revived, only to die again. “The trend of reading translated revolutionary books depends on the political and social atmosphere. When it is quiet, the trend slows down but when there is turmoil, it is on the rise.”

“In Balochistan, the trend of reading revolutionary books is far greater than Punjab but we have no good translators,” he said.

Dr Shah Muhammad Marri, a local scholar, has translated Mao’s Red Book in Balochi and other writers have translated Vladimir Lenin’s books. Scholars and writers often translate books in regional languages, not from the original text but from their Urdu translation done in Punjab, said Bukhari.

Yousuf Khan at Gosha e Adab, a leading bookshop in Quetta, said the sale of translated books was more than regular books because of the large readership that revolutionary literature enjoyed.

“We sell nearly six to seven hundred [translated] books a month,” said Yousaf Khan. “A majority of readers that buy these books are students and activists of nationalist political parties.”

One of the reasons why students prefer translated books is that they come from Urdu medium schools, with very few students fluent in English, says Atta-ur- Rehman, an M. Phil student and avid reader of translated books.

“The biggest advantage of translation books is that different ethnic groups can access knowledge in their own languages,” says Rehman. “Linguistic experts advocate learning in mother tongue because pupils can assimilate maximum knowledge that way. Those who study in other language can only acquire a small percentage of that knowledge.”

However, Aslam Tareen, a writer and sociologist, says revolutionary literature creates conflict with local psychology and culture. “We live in a religious society whereas revolutionary literature promotes secularism. Its propagation is dangerous because it leads people towards chaos and destruction.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here