Friday, June 15, 2012

Lyari's Pride: Professor Dashtyari

Lyari has documented its history in blood and cordite. Its name has become synonymous with drugs and gang wars, especially in the past few years.  People have been known to dismiss Lyari as a lost cause and will be hard-pressed to find reasons to defend  this dark neighborhood in the heart of Karachi. In all the senseless, chaotic violence, the contributions of Lyari’s children to the history and the story of Pakistan is often overlooked.

Lyari is one of the oldest and hence, by default, the most historic settlements of Karachi. It has given us football players and boxers, activists and scholars. Amongst its sons was one Ghulam Hussain Saba Dashtyari.

Born to middle class parents in Lyari in 1953, his love for education spurred him to strive for more than the meager resources of Lyari could offer him. He received Masters degrees in Philosophy and Islamic studies. Fluent in Urdu, English, Persian and Arabic, he had a great love for the Balochi language. He believed that to preserve one's native language was the  responsibility of every individual and had more far-reaching effects than merely being a vehicle for conversation. He claimed that ‘’Balochi language is an Ocean; the more you dig the more pearl you are able to discover. It is immensely rich in vocabulary and grammar.’’

He proved his love by establishing a library of Balochi literature in Malir. He started it with donations and then funded it with his own salary. Currently the Syed Zahoor Shah Hashmi Library is the host to 150,000 books. He also established a Balochi Language Academy in Karachi.

By profession he was the Professor of Islamic studies at Balochistan University. His work was a constant fixture in leading journals and magazines. He authored many books on Balochi literature, history and poetry. Among his many accomplishments was a compilation of a bibliography of all baloch literature published in the past fifty years.

His life ended suddenly and violently on June 1st 2011, when he was gunned down in Quetta. He was a man who stood on his principles of democracy and nationalism. His love of the written word was profound.  His discussions were always liberally sprinkled with quotes and references. He was a great advocate of education especially for women. A brave and charismatic personality and a writer to the end, his last work, proof reading the complete works of the baloch poet Mir Gul Khan Nasir, were published a few weeks before his assassination.

As a son of Lyari and a proud Baloch, Professor Dashtyari proved that we are more than the sum of our circumstances. He was a role model for many, especially in his birthplace of Lyari. With proper representation and honest distribution of resources Pakistan can have athletes, scholars and writers whose contribution can shape the lives of so many. People are so much more than just a vote-bank for corrupt politicians, they can be the resource that can guarantee us an enlightened and progressive future.

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