My name is Mastung and I am innocent…

Published: January 29, 2014
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I am home to apple trees and grape farms. I am home to Hindus, Muslims, Pashtuns and Afghans. I am Mastung. PHOTO: OMAIR RAUF

Perhaps you have heard about me in the news…

My name is Mastung.

I am situated at the bottom of the Lak Pass tunnel and one must pass through a mountain hole in order to get to me. And hence, my residents named me Mastung because in the Brahvi language, ‘Mash’ means ‘mountain’ and ‘Tung’ means ‘hole’. 

Once you cross the Lak Pass tunnel, I welcome you with apple farms. A cool breeze awash with apple fragrance refreshes your soul as you enter. These apples are sold in markets across the country.

What?  You say you have not heard of me?

If you stop your car at a nearby tube well and taste its sweet water, you will feel refreshed like you have never felt in your life. As you look around, you will notice people smiling at you and waving. And very soon these people will approach you, their arms laden with apples.

Apples from Mastung are sold all over the country/ Photo: AFP/File

These are men who do not know you and they do not want anything from you. They are only there because they want to express their inherent hospitability.

And yet, you say you have not heard of me?

As you move on, you will be greeted by blossoming almond trees, indicating the beginning of the spring season. The earthy smell of wood burning permeates your senses as you move deeper into the farms. Pashtun fruit dealers are loading their trucks with fruits to be sold at the market. Although Afghan in ethnicity, I have always treated them as my own. My people treat them as brothers and have always protected them and their property.

And yet, you say you have not heard of me?

If you visit in the summer, you will see people from interior Sindh in my streets. They visit me every summer and take shelter from the scorching heat of Sindh in my cool climate.

Mastung offers respite from the scorching heat to people from the rest of the country. Photo: Omair Rauf

Although they are Sindhi in ethnicity, I have always treated them as my own. My people treat them as brothers and have always protected them and their property. Their women and children are as safe in Mastung as my own residents. This is why they continue to visit and I hope this will continue in the future as well.

Then why haven’t you heard my name from them?

A few kilometres away lies the Mastung jungle. This jungle once stretched all the way up to the mountains but drought has reduced it to a small area covered with wild bushes.

I believe that one day the Mastung jungle will once again stretch to its original boundaries. Photo: Omair Rauf

But my children and I still believe that one day it will stretch to its earlier boundaries. Once you cross the jungle, you will see a gate without any walls. This gate marks the premises of the saffron research farm which was once found but was never made operational due to lack of funds. Had it functioned, my children would have cultivated saffron as well.

And then, perhaps, you would have heard my name…

After this gate, is the road leading into the city. On entering the city, you will see the shrine of Baba Sheikh Taqi whom the local Alizai proudly call their forefather.

Shrine of Baba Sheikh Taqi. Photo: Omair Rauf

And yet, you say you have not heard of me?

As you pass the shrine, the road will lead you to the Mastung bazaar. Although this market is quite congested and crowded, you will find people of all ethnicities and religions. And they all live happily like brothers. Hindus dominate the trade and are allowed to practice their faith freely. They may not be my brothers in faith but I have always treated them as my own. My people treat them as brothers and have always protected them and their property. I belong to them as much as I belong to my Muslim children.

Then why haven’t you heard my name from them?

Once you cross the bazaar and step onto the Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD) highway, you will see the Cadet College. This college has been home to many of Balochistan’s youth who have studied here and made their careers.

Cadet College, Mastung. Photo: Omair Rauf

My people and I have always welcomed whoever wants to acquire education from this institution and will continue to do so.

And yet, you say you have not heard of me?

As you cross the college, grape farms will become visible to you and you will notice young men selling grapes by the road side. If you stop by and ask for some grapes, they will eagerly hand over some grapes for you to taste. They will not ask for money. All they want is recognition and appreciation of their hospitality.

Then why haven’t you heard my name from them?

If you step out around the time of sunrise, you will see farmers sitting by the tube wells, chatting and waiting for electricity with beautiful hues of dawn in the background. They will be burning branches to make some tea and warm their hands.

Mastung is peaceful and beautiful and it is home to a hospitable people. Photo: Omair Rauf

Their pockets may be empty but their hearts are content.

At the end of the district is the town of Khad Kucha and its apple farms. You will see more people waiting to say farewell to you and to thank you for visiting their town.

My name is Mastung.

You must have heard my name in the news…

You must have seen the blood…

You must have seen the bodies…

But if you have a heart, you must know by now that it is not me, nor my people who bring such agony to the innocent.

Omair Rauf

Omair Rauf

The author is a student of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan and belongs to the Mastung District in Balochistan. He is currrently based in Karachi and tweets @ORBaloch

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.