Saturday, 13 March 2010

Syed Zahoor Shah Hashmi

Balochi literature is very rich in oral tradition but comparatively poor in the printed form. It was only in the early twentieth century that Baluchi began to be transcribed in books. Under such trying conditions, it wasn’t easy for anyone to devote his entire life to the promotion of Baluchi literature. Syed Zahoor Shah Hashmi was a man with the commitment to do that.

Syed Hashmi just not modernized Baluchi poetry by giving it a new contemporary direction, but he also freed Baluchi poetic diction from the influence ofPersian and Urdu. He set a mile stone by writing the first Baluch novel in the language. He also developed the standard Baluch script, standardized Baluchi grammar, syntax and authored the first comprehensive Baluchi dictionary, with thousands of entries spread on 833 folio size pages, supplemented with a guide on pronunciation and punctuation etc.

Syed Hashmi born in 1939 A.D. in the coastal town of Gwadar, which was then, lay in the territorial jurisdiction of the sultanate of Oman. He received elementary education at home from his father, Syed Mohammad Shah, who was a learned man in the oriental tradition. He was enrolled in a local school, where he taught Arabic language as a compulsory subject, besides Persian and English. When he was in juvenile, he acquired a fondness for Persian poetry, particularly that of Hafiz Shirazi, Shaikh Saadi and Allama Iqbal, which led his writing Persian as well as Urdu poetry.

He forms a social welfare organization for the development of Gwadar with the help of other inmates of Gwadar. Soon, he was very popular in Gwadar for his truly commitments to their people. The wali of Gwadar took notice this and realized that he might be dangerous for him by creating this type of awareness in the people of Gwadar. In a very short span of time, Syed Hashmi, not just established a library in the town, but he also changed this library into a centre of political activities. With the order of Wali of Gwadar, he was arrested and sentenced into imprisoned. This act wormed the atmosphere of Gwadar and Wali of Gwadur soon realized that this might be changed into a worst scenario for him and his Government position in the Gwadar. With this immense fear, the Wali of Gwadar not just free him but also sent him into exile.

Syed Hashmi came to Pakistan and joined the Radio Pakistan Karachi as in charge of Baluchi Service. During his services of Baluchi transmission, he learned, that the Baluchi language is very poor in form of prose and modern literature. He also feels the shortage of any standard Baluchi script and grammar. With the aims of providing a standard script to Baluchi language and promotion of good Baluchi literature, he started writing not just Baluchi poetry but modern prose as well. He also started research about classic Baluchi poetry. He also took efforts for the merger of two Baluchi organizations Halqa-i-Adab and Baluchi Bazm-i-Adab to form a one organization Zuban-i-Sarchamag. In 1954, he compiled a basic Qaida of Baluchi language. This Qaida was much wormed welcomed and approved by Sarchamag and veteran Baluchi writer and researcher i.e. Gul Khan Nasir and Mohammad Hussain Anqa. He and his linguist colleague Abdul Samad Amiri visited different area of Baluchistan for the search of different dialects of Baluchi language. In this journey, they gathered valuable knowledge about the classical as well as contemporary language and literature. Syed also visited Iran to study the Baluchi literature of that area.

Due to harsh disputes between the members of Sarchamag, he left the Karachi and spent many years of his life in Bahrain.

During his last years of life, he devoted his days and nights for the development of Baluchi language. Tuberculosis caught him and his health was deteriorating day by day, but he speeds up his works. During his ailments, he compiled a book about Baluchi grammar named Baluchi Siyahag-i-rast nibisag.

After discharge from hospital, he came once again in United India, but this time his destination was Bombay, where he published his books. These books were Baluchi Siyahag-i-rast nibisag, Sistaagen dastonk, Angar-o-trungle, Trapkanen trimp, Baluchi bungeji, Mirgind and Baluchi translation of Quranic para, Ain Meem.

In 1963, a European orientalist Dr. John Strasser came to Pakistan to study the Baluchi language. He visited the different Baluchi-speaking areas of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan, and held meeting with the Baluchi writers. Strasser also met Hashmi and was greatly inspired by hid insight into Baluchi language and literature. Later, Strasser went to Pune (India) and invited Hashmi to join him there. There the latter had meetings with the prominent linguist Dr. N.S. Shukla and learnt a lot about the language of Indo-Iranian origin from him, which deepened his knowledge of Baluchi language.

In 1970, he got married. In Karachi, Hashmi published Nazuk, the first novel in Baluchi language, and finalized Sayad Gung (Baluchi dictionary), Baluchi Zuban-o-Adab ki Tarikh and other books. Sayad Gung is the most precious labor of his life, which took 26 years of extensive research, challenging journeys across the Baluchi-speaking world and countless discussion with the scholars, and the common folk to complete.

Syed Hashmi died April 1978 A.D. in Karachi. He is no more now, but his countless efforts for the promotion of Baluchi language will remain in our minds.


  1. Syed Z.S.Hashmi was born on 21 April 1926 not in 1939.
    He died on 3rd March not in April...
    Reference: Chakkas Balad; Balochi Labzank e Tareekh