“There is only one namazi in this whole village,” our friend pointed out when we reached a village of over 2,500 people near Awaran town.
One can see madrassas next to mosques in every village but it seems like people are less inclined towards religion.
Apart from the conflict between Baloch separatists and the government, there is also a cold war between the religious and liberal mindset – Ma Chuke Balochani versus Ma Chuke Musalmani (I am the descendant of a Baloch/Muslim).
Religious teachers are called ‘Pakistani mullahs’ by many, therefore, their teachings resonate little among Awaran’s people.
“People want to keep a distance from these mullahs,” a local, Abdul Wahid, commented. He did, however, acknowledge that the influence of the religious community in the district is increasing gradually.
According to locals, religious leaders of other areas tried to establish a bigger seminary in Awaran town in the 1990s, but as many people did not turn up and enrolment was low, the madrassa shut down. The reason people are not ardent madrassa-goers is because there is a big population of Zikris, they said.
There is only one big seminary across the district – Anwar-ul-Uloom – in Mashkey. About 50 per cent of Mashkey’s populace is Zikri. On a district level, they make up a quarter of the entire population.
Many in Awaran fear that religion might supersede their Baloch heritage in priority. Due to Awaran’s recent history of being the centre of separatist militants, a few also feel that too much focus on religion might come in the way of keeping the Baloch identity supreme, and keeping their grievances alive.