Kalash, Feb 21. After a three-year struggle, the government of Pakistan has finally accepted Kalasha as a separate religion in the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) and addressed the concerns first raised in Chitral.
The issue for the Kalasha was first identified in 2012. Kalash youth raised awareness of the problem and a number of efforts followed. Founder & CEO of Kalash People’s Development Network and Editor-in-Chief of The Kalasha Times, Luke Rehmat immediately took up the issue seriously. Several times, he met in Islamabad to address the concerns of the Kalasha, trying his best to gain support from the authorities. However, due to some technical problems in the Pakistani constitution as per 1973, this was delayed and the way forward was not an easy one for the minority group.
Very soon, an online campaign was started on http://www.thekalashatimes.com, and an offline campaign collected all evidence from local sources. The efforts on the ground, in the form of a signature campaign within the community and briefing sessions with community elders, concluded with the determination to take up the issue at every platform.
In Feb 2013, all requested data was compiled and submitted to the Ministry of Interior, NADRA Headquarters in Islamabad, and the district commissioner office in Chitral.
The issue was taken up on local and national media following visits at both levels. The efforts remained active during these periods of time. During the general election of 2013, the Kalasha announced boycotts of the upcoming vote in Pakistan due to a number of reasons—the leading being the identity issue.
The political parties in Chitral, especially PTI, called a conference to end the boycott with all parties agreeing to solve the issue once they came into power. But it remained as it was. No one spared the time to resolve the issue once they had been elected.
A number of Kalasha youth activists contributed to the cause in their capacity including Wazir Zada, Sayed Gul, Shamin, Gul Nazar, Subhan uddin, Zarin Khan, Akram Hussian, Unath Baig, Yasir, Sikandar Ghulam, Bakhtawar Shah, Sher Khan, Taj Khan, Talim Khan, Said Ahmad, Sohail Khan, Nasir Uddin, JR Din, Zardari Khan, Feroz Shah, Amir Mehmood, and many others. In 2015, we were finally accepted as a separate religion and identity in Pakistan. It was good news for everyone, and the Kalasha people now seem very happy with their recognition.
The community was facing many problems as the religion check-box was not an option for Kalasha on many documents. On the birth certificate, they were forced to tick Buddhist as there was no other option for Kalasha.
We appreciate the assistance provided by the following people and departments: the Ministry of Interior, NADRA HQ and NRC Chitral, Deputy Commissioner of Chitral Mr. Rehmat Ullah Wazir and his team member Mr. Zahir Shah along with media people such as Zahir uddin, Mukham uddin, GH Farooqi Sana Jamal Manzor Ali, Farhan Dogar, Hashma Nawaz, and DW Baig. Thank you also to all those who have signed the online petition from around the world as well as those who have morally contributed to the genuine cause and encouraged our small ethnic group to obtain their basic right of identity.