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Remembering Saba Dashtiari

June 19, 2013

PROF Saba Dashtiari, whose second death anniversary was observed on the first of this month, was a fiction writer, poet, critic, research scholar and, above all, an intellectual with liberal credentials.

He has to his credit more than a dozen books, including literature, philosophy and religion.

Apart from his fiction works, Balochi Zoban Ay Aaqibt (compiled work on Balochi linguistics), Gul Kar O Chakan Kar (analysis of various poetic genres) and Angaren Wahag (literary criticism) can be placed among his contributions in the field of Balochi literature. He also compiled a voluminous bibliography of Balochi literature, published during the past five decades.

Although he generally contributed to all forms of Balochi literature, fiction was his mainstay. So far three collections of his short stories are published. What distinguished him in the realm of Balochi fiction is the subject he picked for his short stories.

Coming from a middle class family of Lyari, he portrays the unending socioeconomic plight of the lower middle class Baloch community of Karachi, a subject hitherto not touched upon by any other Baloch fiction writer.

Saba has an intense feeling for the endless pain and misery of women. In a number of his short stories, he touchingly narrates the sufferings of dejected and marginalised Baloch women.

Stories such as Dood (the custom), Sunt (the barren woman), Hon o Hosham (blood and thirst) and Zird Ay Trambol (a boil on the heart) reflect how pitiful the life of Baloch women is.

As a poet, he wields equal command over both ghazal and free verse. However, he didn’t follow the cliché of traditional Balochi romantic poetry. Mainly gaining inspiration from stalwarts like Mir Gul Khan Naseer and Syed Zahoor Shah Hashmi, he distinctly highlights the sufferings of his people.

His free verse is somewhat an extension of Gul Khan Naseer's voice: For several years, I am preoccupied by a dream, When comes the day A legend of my clan would break the shackles That have long enchained my dejected people (my dream).

Saba was also inclined towards Japanese haiku. His collection of haikus, Gungdamen Sarzameen (The Silent Territory), is up to now the only book of its kind in Balochi literature.

He is the only liberal Baloch poet who overtly condemns religious fanaticism and intolerance prevailing in our society. A number of his haikus reflect his intense love for humanity and hatred for extremism.

In 2003, he was awarded Tamgha-i-Imtiaz for the services he rendered in the field of Balochi literature. However, he returned the award to the government in the wake of Nawab Akbar Bugti’s assassination, protesting against the brutal murder of the veteran Baloch leader.

He was killed by unidentified men on June 1, 2011, in Quetta. Undoubtedly, his death caused the biggest loss ever to Balochi literature.