A promising life cut short
His name was Mohammad Ibrahim; however, he was known popularly by his nickname, Arman. I met him for the first time during a Public Service Commission exam given in 2012 for the recruitment of Pashto lecturers that both of us passed.
Born in 1980 in the Alakzai Luni family of Sunjawi (Ziarat) Balochistan, Arman Luni saw many ups and downs in his life. For many years, he was the lone breed earner of the family.
Instead of enrolling their children at schools, low-income families often send them to work in coal mines. Arman Luni was an exception. Some would say he was lucky to have had the opportunity to continue his education besides earning a livelihood.
After clearing the matriculation examination from a school in his native region in 1998, he started working as a tailor in Sanjwai. Young Luni managed to earn his bachelor’s degree and then started working as a private school teacher in 2008. A severe economic crunch compelled him to take on the hazardous job of mining in the Chamalang Mountains. Wranga Luni, his daring sister and social activist, remembers her dear brother miraculously surviving a terrifying mine collapse.
Arman Luni faced the daunting challenges of life with sheer perseverance. In 2011, he completed his master’s in Pashto literature from the University of Balochistan and was appointed a Pashto lecturer in late 2012 at the Degree College, Quetta.
A true nationalist, Arman had joined the Pashtun Khwa Milli Awami party led by Mehmood Achakzai during his student life. He devoted much of his time to literary pursuits. Along with his close comrades Fazal Ashnaa, Muhib Sheraz, Asmat Zahir and Masroor Musakhel, Arman established a liberal Pashto literary organisation called Pashto Mutarqqi Likwal (Pashto Progressive Writers) in Quetta.
He was quick to join the nationalist Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), which sprung up in the aftermath of the brutal murder of Naqeeb Ullah Mehsud, a Karachi-based aspiring model from South Waziristan in a fake police encounter on January 13, 2018.
The movement, led by irate youths, soon found affiliates in Balochistan, the KPK and other parts of the country. It sought exemplary punishment for those responsible for Mehsud’s killing and called for an end to extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearance, especially in the tribal areas.
Luni was a firm believer in the power of education. He made sure that his sister Wranga Luni received an education. Arman brought her to politics. For this he faced harsh criticism from fundamentalist segments.
Arman travelled with fellow activists across the country to organise sit-ins and protest rallies from the PTM platform.
Luni was a firm believer in the power of education. He made sure that his sister Wranga Luni received an education. Arman introduced her to politics. For this he faced harsh criticism from the fundamentalist segments. He participated and spoke plainly at the last event of his life in February 2019, when Pashtoon activists held a sit-in in the Loralai district against growing terrorist attacks.
On February 2, the organisers called off the sit-in and dispersed peacefully. Arman and some close comrades went to the Loralai Club to have tea. He was told there that the police might arrest him. According to eyewitnesses, he surrendered to the police without resistance. A police team headed by an ASP attacked him nonetheless. He suffered a severe wound and collapsed. The police did not allow him to be taken to a hospital promptly. When he was finally taken to a hospital, he succumbed to his wounds.
His body was then taken to Quetta for a post-mortem examination. His aged mother and sister, Wranga Luni, accompanied the body. A video of his anguished mother later went viral on social media.
In his February 7, 2019, column in daily Jang, columnist Saleem Safi wrote, “Ibrahim Arman Luni, who grew up in a lonely desert, was as a fragrant flower. He was born in an area where there were no facilities for education. However, he fulfilled his parents’ wishes by getting an education and then a government job. He was trying to take the gun away from the youngsters and put pens in their hands. In a traditional Pashtun society, he was probably the only brother who brought his sister to the stage.”
Safi wrote, “if the state had dealt with an iron hand with the killers of Naqeebullah Mehsud, then Arman Luni and his comrades would have returned to their routines rather than hold protest rallies. Unfortunately, the state is repeating the blunders in dealing with these agitated youths that it made with the Taliban “.
Besides being a steadfast activist, Arman Luni was a revolutionary Pashto poet. His contributions to Pashto literature and efforts at uplifting the youth are invaluable.
The writer teaches literature at Zhob Degree College and is a columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]