December 07, 2019

A Baloch Library

A Baloch library

Zubeida MustafaDecember 06, 2019

Zubeida Mustafa

UNTIL recently a college textbook in Punjab described the Baloch as “uncivilised people who engaged in murder and looting”. This criminal aberration came to light three years ago when a senator from Balochistan discovered it and raised a hue and cry about it in the upper house of parliament.

I am not sure if this figment of a sick and prejudiced imagination has since been rectified. It is surprising that the author failed to appreciate the significant scholarship a small community of seven million with a low literacy rate has managed to produce.

No wonder, Baloch activists complain of their cultural identity and language being demonised and their intellectuals being killed. This has historically been the way of invading barbarians who feared knowledge and attempted to destroy it.

For me, a visit to the Sayad Hashmi Reference Library in Malir, Karachi, was an inspiring experience. Named after an erudite scholar, Sayad Zahoor Shah Hashmi (1926-1978), who devoted his life to the Balochi language, the kutubjah is a treasure house of knowledge on “Balochistan, Baloch and Balochi”. In fact, the flyer that the president of the library, Dr Ramzan Bamri, gave me described it as a ‘Journey of Balochology’.


With such significant scholarship, how do we explain the low literacy rate?

I had never heard this word before but when I visited the library and saw the treasure it stocks I realised that the language merits a term like this to describe the scholarship it is endowed with. I learned from Dr Bamri that the library has a collection of 25,000 books in Balochi and in other languages about Balochistan. All journals published in the Balochi language all over the country since 1951 are archived here. At one time, these numbered 30 but today only one survives.

The library is itself a labour of love — love of the Balochi language — founded in 2003 by the renowned poet, Saba Dashtiyari. He donated his entire collection and half his monthly salary he received as a professor in the Balochistan University, to the Sayad Hashmi Reference Library till 2011 when he was assassinated.

I also discovered to my great pleasure that there are quite a few Baloch libraries around. Close by is the Imam Bakhsh Baloch Memorial Library, which I also visited, in Siddiq Village where Akbar Wali, library in-charge, has organised an arts and theatre group and also a football team. Such institutions invariably become the focal point of intellectual and cultural engagements. Wali also organises classes for children of the neighbourhood.

There are three libraries for Baloch youth in Lyari. “Once upon a time there used to be 27,” I was told. The activists are determined to restore Lyari’s book culture that was destroyed by the violence induced by the gang wars that engulfed the locality. Their commitment to the cause of learning is remarkable. Nearly 50 books in Balochi are published every year from Balochistan and other places where the Baloch are concentrated.

The real challenge is the distribution of these books as the Balochi speakers are very scattered, even in the province itself. Two universities — Balochistan and Turbat — have full-fledged departments of Balochi language and literature. There are numerous institutions involved in research and intellectual activities, the Baqi Baloch Academy (Quetta) being the biggest. The two-day Balochi Literature Festival held in Lyari in September testified to the public interest in intellectual discourse. The organisers mobilised nearly 168 Balochi language writers and authors to participate as panellists.

With such a rich heritage of scholarship, how does one explain the low literacy rate (41 pc) and the inadequate school enrolment ratio in Balochistan? The fact is that limited opportunities for education and rampant poverty act as barriers to growth. The Annual Status of Education Report’s scorecard does not give a high rating to the standard of education in Balochistan. Above all, children are not taught in their mother tongue and are losing their motivation to learn.

Take the case of Lyari. With a population of nearly a million, it has 120 government schools and 300 private schools. Competing with them are 120 madressahs many of which provide free meals to their students. Who will win? Credit goes to those who still manage to reach school and remain motivated and focused.

Prof Wahid Bakhsh Buzdar who teaches Balochi at the Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad is a well-read man, his knowledge and understanding of issues are profound. He is not too happy with the standard of education in Balochistan. The situation has not been helped by the “politicisation and commercialisation of education”. Then there is the “hegemony of the religious establishment that is out to destroy critical thinking”.

This leaves one wondering about the state of unrest in Balochistan that the government is trying to counter by resorting to force. Wouldn’t educational reformers with vision and dedication and an effective poverty alleviation programme do a better job than soldiers in uniform?

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2019

December 03, 2019

Are you working with a Chinese defense university?

Are you working with a Chinese defense university?

Photo credit: SupChina illustration by Derek Zheng


The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has a new resource that tracks what is called “military-civil fusion” in Chinese universities. The trend of technically civilian universities in China becoming more involved in research used for military or security purposes has sped up in recent years, just as alarm have been raised about issues like China’s racially discriminatory surveillance networks, and concern about China-originating cyberattacks has not abated.

Researcher Alex Joske describes the extent of the problem this way:

At least 15 civilian universities have been implicated in cyberattacks, illegal exports or espionage.

China’s defence industry conglomerates are supervising agencies of nine universities and have sent thousands of their employees to train abroad.

This raises questions for governments, universities and companies that collaborate with partners in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). There’s a growing risk that collaboration with PRC universities can be leveraged by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) or security agencies for surveillance, human rights abuses or military purposes…

While military–civil fusion doesn’t mean that barriers between the military and other parts of PRC society have vanished, it’s breaking down those barriers in many universities. At least 68 universities are officially described as parts of the defence system or are supervised by China’s defence industry agency, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND, 国家国防科技工业局 guójiā guófáng kējì gōngyè jú).

ASPI also updated a public database that maps the global expansion of key Chinese technology companies, including many involved in surveillance.

In related news, many major American companies — including Seagate Technology, Western Digital, Intel, and Hewlett Packard — have been deeply involved in helping to build the Chinese surveillance state, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

December 02, 2019

US - China Strategic Competition: Quest for global Technological Leadership



The underlying driver of the ongoing US–China trade war is a race for global technological dominance. President Trump has raised a number of issues regarding trade with China – including the US’s trade deficit with China and the naming of China as a currency manipulator. But at the heart of the ongoing tariff escalation are China’s policies and practices regarding forced technology transfer, intellectual property theft and non-market distortions.As China’s international influence has expanded it has always been unlikely that Beijing would continue to accept existing global standards and institutions established and widely practised by developed countries based on ‘the Washington Consensus’.China’s desire to be an alternative champion of technology standard-setting remains unfulfilled. Its ample innovation talent is a solid foundation in its quest for global technology supremacy but tightening controls over personal freedoms could undermine it and deter potential global partners.It is unclear if Chinese government interventions will achieve the technological self-sufficiency Beijing has long desired. China’s approach to macroeconomic management diverges significantly from that of the US and other real market economies, particularly in its policy towards nurturing innovation.Chinese actors are engaged in the globalization of technological innovation through exports and imports of high-tech goods and services; cross-border investments in technology companies and research and development (R&D) activities; cross-border R&D collaboration; and international techno-scientific research collaboration.While the Chinese state pushes domestic companies and research institutes to engage in the globalization of technological innovation, its interventions in the high-tech sector have caused great unease in the West.The current US response to its competition with China for technological supremacy, which leans towards decoupling, is unlikely to prove successful. The US has better chances of success if it focuses on America’s own competitiveness, works on common approaches to technology policy with like-minded partners around the globe and strengthens the international trading system.A technically sound screening mechanism of foreign investment can prevent normal cross-border collaboration in technological innovation from being misused by geopolitical rival superpowers

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November 28, 2019

How Catalonia Remains a Thorn in Spanish Politics

By Charles Penty | Bloomberg 

November 26, 2019 at 4:08 p.m. GMT+5:30

It’s been two years since Catalonia’s then-government tried to stage a breakaway from Spain and riot police clamped down on an illegal independence referendum. In October, the Spanish Supreme Court handed down stiff jail sentences to some of the leaders of that effort. The result was a wave of outrage that pulsed through Catalan cities during a week of rioting. As acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tries to piece together a new government after elections in November, the Catalan question remains at the heart of Spain’s fractured politics, sharpening animosities and polarizing public opinion.

1. What happened at the Catalan trial?

Key figures in the Catalan independence movement were convicted for their part in the events of 2017 when the regional government made an illegal attempt to declare independence. The televised proceedings transfixed Spain as a dozen separatist leaders, including former regional Vice-President Oriol Junqueras, faced a panel of Supreme Court judges. On Oct. 14, the court sentenced Junqueras to 13 years in jail for sedition and misuse of public funds and imposed terms of between nine and 12 years for eight other leaders. While global news media focused on the Oct. 1 referendum as the flashpoint, the court sentence pointed first to a Catalan Parliament law that declared the region free of Spanish jurisdiction, governance and taxation. The legislation, published 23 days before the vote, declared sovereign ownership over airspace, subsoil and coastline without mentioning any responsibility for Catalonia’s portion of Spain’s $1.2 trillion of government debt.


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2. What was the reaction to the verdict in Catalonia?

Socialist leader Sanchez urged Catalan nationalists not to turn violent, but the verdicts sparked immediate protests across Catalonia as well as a large counter-demonstration in Barcelona by supporters of a unified Spain. The Catalan government said the verdicts were a historic error and called on the international community to help resolve the “conflict” with Spain. Even FC Barcelona, the city’s soccer club, called for dialogue so that the leaders can be released. Meanwhile, its league match with Real Madrid, known as “El Clasico,” was postponed amid concern about political unrest.

3. What’s been the impact on national politics?


The biggest winner was Vox, which had called for a hard-line crackdown on the separatists. The Spanish nationalist party more than doubled its result in November’s election to become the third-biggest force in parliament. The big loser was Ciudadanos, a formerly centrist party that had shifted to the right over Catalonia and found itself outflanked on that issue by Vox -- pragmatic voters withdrew their support in droves. One winner was Podemos, an anti-austerity group that lost seats in the November vote but immediately sealed a political pact with Sanchez as he tried to cement a left-wing coalition in the face of the far-right surge.

4. How will it affect forming a new government?

Sanchez relied on the votes of separatists to overthrow his predecessor Mariano Rajoy of the People’s Party in a confidence vote in 2018. The math of the political deadlock means he needs them again to be able to form a government, even though he has repeatedly said he’d prefer to work with parties that actually support Spain’s constitution. That leaves Esquerra Republicana, the party led by Junqueras, holding the key to unlock Sanchez’s chances of staying on as prime minister -- even though its leader remains behind bars.


5. How do Catalan local politics affect this situation?

While the jail terms handed down for Junqueras and others certainly enraged separatist voters, Esquerra takes a more gradual approach to separatism than the other main pro-independence party, Junts per Catalunya. Esquerra’s 13 national parliamentary deputies may opt to support Sanchez in the knowledge that they’ll get better treatment from his Socialists than a People’s Party reliant on the support of Vox. Even so, pledging support for a Spanish premier who didn’t intervene when its leader was jailed could come at a cost for Esquerra. Any development that brings the policies of rival separatist groups into focus -- a regional election for example -- would put pressure on the party. It could also deal a blow to Sanchez, who needs Esquerra’s acquiescence and remains a hostage to the region’s volatile politics.

6. How is the independence movement faring?


It’s been beset by infighting for the past two years. The regional government is run by Joaquim Torra of Junts per Catalunya, a die-hard separatist. He took charge in 2018 after the former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont fled Spain and pro-independence parties won a slim majority in a regional election at the end of 2017. Notwithstanding the jail sentences, there seems little appetite within the broader movement to pursue independence immediately. In a sign of some willingness to ease tensions, Spain’s King Felipe VI braved protests to attend a prize-giving ceremony in Barcelona at which his 14-year-old daughter, Princess Leonor, made a speech in perfect Catalan.

7. What’s the way out of this mess?

The Catalan dispute has plagued Spain off and on for more than three centuries, so it’s naive to bet on easy solutions. The separatists want an independent state that would have an economy as large as Finland’s or Portugal’s. Spain is determined to hold onto a region it sees as integral to national unity and that contributes a fifth of its output. Sanchez has said he wants to explore ways to expand Catalonia’s powers without allowing an official referendum on secession. He sees dialogue as the way forward, while refusing to countenance any breakup of Spanish territory. For now, the forces of Catalan independence retain their slight advantage in the regional parliament. However, the Catalan government’s own polls show there is no majority in favor of a split, and support for independence has been trending downward in 2019.

--With assistance from Todd White.

To contact the reporter on this story: Charles Penty in Madrid at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at, Andy Reinhardt, Grant Clark

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.