By: YM Baloch
Several Baloch traders were killed in Shamsar, situated a few kilometres from my ancestral village, on the Iran-Pakistan border, on 22 February 2021. Nobody knows the exact number of the killed, but I know the village.
Not many years ago, lights started to appear in our village´s west, then I was young and afraid of going out in the dark. Electricity had arrived in Shamsar. People said, Shamsar was lucky to be in Iran.
Then, I heard of electricity for the first time. Our village Diz still does not have electricity.
“Sham” means “Gap or in between, two things” and “Sar” means “on”. If translated literally it would mean “on a Gap”. In English, it would most probably mean “no man´s land”. On its east is the Parom area and on its west is Bamposht. In fact, the village which consists of hundreds of houses today was at that time no more than 6 houses and was situated on such a raised barren ground that it held no water to grow anything. Half of the water flowed down the eastern slant forming a course of many kilometres into a large dry lake known as Paromi Kup and the other half formed the headwaters of Neheng river, which travels downwards. Many other rivulets drain into it until it merges with Kechkoor. It ends into the sea in Gwadar district.
More than hundred years ago, a British officer stood at a point in Shamsar, accompanied by one of Khan Kalat´s representatives known in Parom as “Fakeero” and another representative of the Gajar (Persian) ruler. He ordered his Indian Sepoys to put a heavy rock on the ground and then announced.
“Every inch of land from this rock east will belong to the Khan Kalat and the land laying west of the rock belongs to Persia.”
The three consented among themselves. The Neheng river, which started from Shamsar, formed the borders of Persia and Kalat State until it entered the Kalat territory near Aspikan.
Other than the Britisher´s rock, Shamsar village had no importance. Neither the Khan nor the Persian King cared in which country Shamsar laid. This unimportance regarding Shamsar continued until Mohammed Haroki (Mohammed the donkey man), from Shamsar, revealed a story.
It was perhaps end of the year 1987 that Mohammed Haroki, said
“do not allow your villagers to Shamsar, even if your goats stray towards there.”
“The Gajars are sending young men to a war in Iraq”.
Then he lamented, “Kalam Fakeeroka bejant dem seyahara “ (God curse Fakeero, the black faced) “my son has died in the war”. He wept.
Then he wept and cried and smacked his head with his hands. Shamsar had at last gained importance but only for recruiting conscripts in the Iranian army.
I was curious and I asked my grandfather. “Who is this Fakeerok that Mohammed cursed?”
His answer, “You are too young to know these things.”
But I asked him again. When he saw I was not giving up without a proper answer, he said, “Whenever anything bad happens in Shamsar these shamsari people curse Fakeero.”
That answer was more acceptable. I thought he might be their devil.
But later I learned, Fakeerok was the derogatory name used to refer to Fakeer Mohammed Bizanjo who was the Khan´s representative to negotiate with the Persians over the territorial disputes in Makran. People believed he had given the Baloch land to Persians for personal benefits, received from the British and Persians. They think Baloch land´s unity should have never been negotiated with the Persians and British.
Mohammed Haroki kept repeating his story everywhere. It was like a bad revelation every time he retold it. The people did not like him as before. He was seen as a bad news bringer, as if he had cut Shamsar out of Parom and given it to Persia or as if he was the one who had passed the Iranian law of forced conscription.
By then Persia had changed to Iran and Kalat was annexed into Pakistan, a new country. Pakistan and Iran fine-tuned their borderlines and enforced them with armed border guards and Frontier Corps. It suddenly turned Mohammed Haroki and many others like him who for years had brought goods from village to village and from cities to cities, into smugglers.
But he was a good man, at least to us. He was the first person to introduce us to popcorns, candies, cakes, and cheese flavoured puffs. He brought the products from Iran which at that time were hard to be found in Pakistan. He bought these from Shamsar, crossed the unmarked border, walked from village to village, and sold them. He bought wool from Parom which were brought from Multan and loaded it on his donkey on his return trip to Shamsar. The wool was spun and weaved into Balochi carpets in Shamsar and the adjoining villages. With news of armed men guarding the border, a fear of losing these small delights aroused both in the children and the carpet weavers.
The fear was further stirred by villagers repeating the conscription story to one another to such an extent that it soon found a place in the bedtime stories.
One night when my mother got tired of telling stories and I did not fall asleep, she told me.
“Sleep or the Gajars would come to take you to war”.
“Where to mama?”
“will you also come?”
“No. Women do not go to war”.
At that time, I was my mother´s only son.
“If the Gajjars take me to war, and I die, you will have no son?”
“What would you do, when you have no son?”
“I will bring another son”.
“What will you name him?”
“No. Name him on my name,” I said and hugged her.
The room was lit by a kerosene lamp. I saw a pear-shaped tear first sparkling in the inner corner of her eye and then growing bigger to flow down her cheek.
“I would never let you be sent to war.” She said.
Then she told me the story of Prophet Mohammed´s grandson whose family members were killed by Yazid in a war. Some of those surviving members swore that they will never ever participate in wars and conflicts again after they had seen war´s horribilities. One branch of that family migrated to Parom and settled here. They were the “Sahib” family. Members of this family were called Sahibzaada and they followed the nonviolent Sufi sect in Islam. They never indulged in violence and conflicts. My mother said we should be like them. Do not indulge in violence.
After listening to the “Sahibs’” assuring story of peace I eased into sleep. But the latent fear of being sent to war was forever rooted in my heart. However, it never occurred to me, what happens if the war itself comes to me or to the Sahibs? In fact, it came.
Our village Diz Parom lies a few kilometres from Shamsar. Diz Parom translated into English will be Fort of Parom. When I lived there, it was a clump of small mud adobes and Kudoks (houses made from Mazari Palm) with only a single brick structure. It was a Mosque and the Mulla lived there. The Fort had been a three-story Mud building in its glory times. It was in ruins but still towered proudly over the village. Our favourite pastime was to dig holes in the Fort´s ruins. Almost every child in the village had done this, a phenomenon caused by the constant rumours that someone had found Gold in the ruins a few years ago. When we had guests from other villages we did not allow their children to dig the ruins; fiercely defending it as our own tribal right. Our own Ruins. Our own digging.
It was election time in 1988, many pick-up cars filled with many men arrived at our house one evening. We slaughtered goats and sheep. Roasted some. Made curry with others. And still made sajji with others. Our main fat guest was surrounded by many lean men in our house as if he was the importance of everything. When he spoke the others listened, even Khuda Ghulam Nabi who was always dominating others in our village listen to him silently. Actually, he had brought the guests to us.
The men talked. They continued talking until I went to another room to sleep. The next morning my grandfather had posters in his hand. We were playing in the mud, he called us and handed those posters to us.
“Take this. Play with these”
The picture of the fat man was on the posters. At that time pictures were a big deal. Only people with a high status had pictures or perhaps, whoever had pictures on a poster had a high status. I was overwhelmed and I felt proud that the man in the pictures had visited us, I asked grandpa,
“isn’t he the guy who was here yesterday?”
“why they came here?”
“He wants me to tell the villagers to vote for him. But I will not”
“Why not grandpa?”
“because he is the grandchild of Fakeerok. The man who told the firangis to create a border in Parom. I won´t vote Fakeerok´s child”
“What is his name grandpa?”
“Gaus Baksh Bezanjo”
The Iranian regime killed several people in Shamsar but I knew only one, Sahibzada Anes. Most of the others were traders like Mohammed Haroki but with vehicles. As the border was closed Thousands of Toyota Hilux, Toyota stout and Zamyad trucks gathered on the border. They waited for days to be allowed to cross. The shops in the village of Shamsar could not feed or provide water for such a huge number of people. Many traders started going hungry. Finally, they stormed the border fence to cross it. The Iranian soldiers opened fire. Several were killed on the spot, dozens injured.
Sahibzada Anes s/o Ghulam Rasool was among the dead ones. He had been a resident on the eastern side of the border but owned hereditary land on both sides. When Shamsar received electricity, he simply built a new house across the border and moved. He was from the “Sahib” family and as a Sahib would act, was distributing bread among the starving traders when the soldiers opened fire. The Sufi Sahib family of Parom is highly respected and it is believed that when they curse then the curse will surely be fulfilled.
“Hattaday- Kalam Fakeeroka bejant dem seyahara” is the common curse in Shamsar. One wonders, did the Sahibzada curse the same words before dying or do the Shamsaris not dig ruins?
The writer hails from Parom, Panjgur, and frequently writes on different prevalent social and political issues in Balochistan.