The news of Sajid Hussain’s disappearance in Sweden is awfully shocking. He is someone who uses his pen to highlight the issue of Balochistan’s missing persons, who are abducted and killed by Pakistan’s powerful military. The very reason he was forced to become a refugee was to avoid the evident risk of being added to that dreadful list of the Baloch missing persons. This makes it a cruel twist of fate that he has vanished in Sweden, the country where he sought protection.
Men like Sajid are rare, especially in Balochistan where the literacy rate is terribly low, and few in the intelligentsia succeed in keeping their integrity intact in the face of the state’s intimidation. He is undoubtedly one of those great intellectuals with substantial knowledge of Baloch society, culture, literature and politics. But what makes him stand out is that he’s terribly honest and fair in his writings.
Reading him has always been uplifting. A glimpse of the extensive body of his work will give you the impression that he is not someone who would shy away from challenging topics. It’s no easy task given the restrictions on the freedom of speech in the region where he began his career as a journalist in 2007.
Writing in Balochistan gets you killed and writing on Balochistan gets you killed too. Even columnists from The New York Times and The Guardian have called Balochistan a black hole for media and journalists. Sajid was a child of that black hole and despite its lethal pull, he kept writing about the state’s atrocities, religious extremism and drug trafficking.
I first met Sajid by chance in 2017 through a mutual friend. Unlike me, he was more of a prudent person. He was reserved at first, but when we got going, we ended up talking about cosmos, time, Stephen Hawking, existentialism and artificial intelligence. Of course, we talked about Balochistan as well, and became friends. He encouraged me to write, telling me how important it is for a person as an individual as well as a member of a community. I got the feeling that he is someone who wants to live through stories, sentences and words.
Political activism was also a noteworthy part of his life in his student days. In 2002, Sajid joined the Baloch Student Organization Azad. His uncle Ghulam Mohmmad, martyred in 2009, is considered one of the founding figures of modern Baloch nationalism.
When Sajid began his career as a journalist, he stayed away from political activism. But through his writing , he continued depicting the trials of Baloch and Balochistan. Given his political activism and work as a journalist, there is no doubt that he is one of the most authentic experts on the subject. In Sweden, he worked with linguists Carina Jahani and Taj Baloch on an online Balochi-English dictionary and the first ever standardized book of Balochi grammar.
The last time when we spoke, a few months ago, he told me he had got admission in the Uppasala university’s Balochi department. His plan was to complete the masters degree and then maybe go on to do a PhD. So it is specially sad that on the very first day that he shifted to his hostel room, he went missing. It is hard to fathom that Sajid could disappear like this in a country like Sweden. All of us, his readers, friends, colleagues, and family members, expect a responsible, transparent and serious response from the Swedish government. We are not at all ready to lose a rare gem like him.