Wednesday 4 July 2012

The Punjabis who fought for Balochistan

Ahmed Rashid, former guerrilla fighter in Balochistan

An interesting item on the Baloch Hal website - which is banned in Pakistan - on the respected author Ahmed Rashid, to coincide with the publication of his new book Pakistan on the Brink.
Writer Malik Siraj Akbar notes that Rashid - under the pseudonym Shabaz - was the subject of a chapter in Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions among the Converted Peoples, V S Naipaul's book about Islam in non-Arab lands.
According to Naipaul's account, set out in the chapter 'Guerrilla', Shabaz (ie Ahmed Rashid) was one of a group of five young Punjabi teenagers from wealthy backgrounds who went to London to college, but inspired by leftist ideas of revolution, abandoned their studies in 1971 to become guerrilla fighters in Balochistan. They adopted Balochi names, learned the local language and joined the Baloch fighters in their armed insurrection against the Pakistani army.
The young men, known as the London Group, weren't just tourists. They stayed for some years fighting in the Marri mountains and at least one of their number, Dilip Dass, was murdered by Pakistan's security forces.
Three years ago, Malik Siraj Akbar conducted an amazing interview with one of the survivors of the group, Asad Rehman, son of a former chief justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court. The interview, which can be found here, and which explains in some detail the role of Ahmed Rashid as a guerrilla in Balochistan, is remarkable for shining a light onto a little known period in Balochistan's - and Pakistan's - modern history.
Of the surviving members of the London Group:
Asad Rahman lives in Lahore and is currently director of programmes at the Sungi Foundation, a humanitarian and development NGO;
Rashid Rahman, his brother, is editor of the Lahore-based Daily Times;
Ahmed Rashid became an internationally acclaimed journalist with the publication of his books Taliban and Descent into Chaos;
Najam Sethi brought out Pakistan's first independent English weekly, The Friday Times, as well as founding the Daily Times, which he edited for eight years. He was awarded the Gold Pen of Freedom Award by the World Association of Newspapers in 2009;
Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur lives in Hyderabad and writes about Balochistan and other subjects for many Pakistani publications;
The body of Dilip Dass was never found.

1 comment:

El Snarkistani said...

Interesting post, and a part of the AfPak story most are unaware of. Not terribly fond of Rashid's analysis of the region, but fascinating personal story.