Rights defenders worried over threats to existence of Kalash

By Ikram Junaudi and photos courtesy: Ishpata News

ISLAMABAD: Representatives of the Kalash community, human rights activists and elected public representatives on Thursday highlighted threats to the existence of the pagan tribe living in three small valleys in the southwest of Chitral.
They also stressed the need for the state to take remedial measures to protect the Kalash from being annihilated by conversion and cultural invasions.
They were speaking at a seminar titled “Consultation on challenges for the Kalash community: the way forward” organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).
Speaking on the occasion, Gul Nazar from the Kalash valley said they are facing serious threats to change its religion.
“Our land is being occupied and names of local places being changed. However, the media is portraying only our dances rather than highlighting our problems.”
Ms Gul demanded that the Kalash area should be included in the World Heritage List in order to protect it.
“Development work should be carried out in the area and basic facilities such as healthcare and education should be provided to the Kalash community. Doctors come to the Kalash valleys during the summer season and go back as soon as the tourism season ends. The syllabus of education should be in the local language,” she said.
“Kalash people are not aware of their rights. On the other hand, people from other areas are occupying their land. Dozens of Kalash people have been forced to change their religion. We have been trying to protect our graveyards as people even steal the bones of our deceased,” she alleged.
Ms Gul, who also looks after a Kalash museum, said the museum had information about the Kalash people but around three dozen officials of the elite force are now deputed there due to which tourists were facing problems.
“When we approached the police officer of the area to address the issue, he said we cannot teach him archaeology and he could not teach us about security measures. So we had no option but to close the museum,” she said.
Luke Rehmat, another representative of the community, said the Kalasha religion was divided into pure and impure.
“Men cannot go to places where children are born and those who go to the delivery places cannot enter the respective village but tourists violate all these restrictions due to which the community suffers mentally as there are a number of stories (superstitions) associated with it,” he said.
“Our religious ways are being blocked and names of our places are being replaced with Muslim names such as Qaziabad and Ahmedabad,” he said.
Ali Ahmad Jan, the director of a civil society organisation, Sustainable Solution, said outsiders should not have the right to purchase land in the Kalash valleys like people of Pakistan cannot purchase land in Kashmir.
“Some religious groups have been working in the Kalash valleys and forcing people to convert to Islam. Once a Kalash person accepts Islam, they are not allowed to wear the traditional Kalash dress and even are suggested not speaking the local language. There are also some religious scholars who say every Muslim should convince six non-Muslims to accept Islam. As a result, forced conversions are on the rise in the Kalash valleys,” he said.
HRCP member Nasreen Azhar, who chaired the event, said the Kalash community land was being occupied by outsiders and a large number of constructions were underway in the area.
“People from other areas also go there to build restaurants. There is a need to look into all these issues,” she said.

Senator Farhatullah Babar said the Kalash community should move their case with the parliamentary committee for the marginalised people. He said every person had the right to live and practice their religion in Pakistan.


Member National Assembly (MNA) Shahzada Iftikharuddin from Chitral, where the Kalash valleys are located, said there were severe security challenges in the area and the state had to fulfill its responsibility.-Published in Dawn on May 26, 2017

A relic that was dancing in ancient era

♦ Ishpata Discovery Special Edition

Kalashadesh: Sutri (golden relic) has been discovered in Kalasha valley Mumuret, according to the owner of the antique it was transferred to the family from forefathers.

The Sutri is owned by a Kalasha Bazikhe family at Sarikjaw village in Mumuret, Ishpata News team approached the family to know about it and its history.
Talking with Ishpata News Mr. Nasir Bazik shared an interesting history of the relic;

‘’My grandfather was telling me about the Sutri, it was dancing, when a flat stone gives light in the shed and a golden flat plate was drumming and it was the Sutri dancing around like snake and making sounds’’ Mr. Nasir said that ‘’the Sutri was full of small bells that were making sounds, these small bells are used in head dresses of women and on belt of boys and girls during Gosnik (Cawmos, the winter solstice) ceremony of Kalasha community. Gosnik is very special ceremony for children under the age of eight years and a child becomes member of Kalasha community, and customary laws then obligations on him/her such as funeral rituals and restrictions on the basis of pure and impure’’

When approached Kasom Baig hundred years old man living in Kalasha valley Mumuret, he narrated the history of Sutri in this way “Fifteen generations ago there was a man called Shalak S’ai, and the Mehtar (Prince) of Chitral requested him to join his solders to fight in Afghanistan, the king was in view that when a Kalasha solder starts work, they use to be successful, the prince gave him protection kits along sword and asked him to lead the army, the man Shalak S’ai reached the destination and entered the palace, and a man attacked on him, but when he hit his head, the sword became damaged, and Shalak S’ai finished him on the spot’’

After defeated the palace and king there, they solders took different precious things found inside the palace, but the man Shalak S’ai took two things one was shield and the other thing was Sutri, he brought these two things to the valleys and kept in shed. After eleventh generation in his family, one of his family member called Hakim was alleged for murdering a man across the border, the Hakim was poor man and he was didn’t aware of any such activities, he decided to approached the prince of Chitral with his plea and told the prince of Chitral that ‘’ I am a poor man and I didn’t murdered anyone across the border’’
The Prince then gave him a letter and asked him to go across the border to meet the people at Wetdesh Mahadew Han (The temple which is famous in folk tales of Kalasha people’s).

After few week the man travelled through the mountain of Kalashadesh to reach the destination and meet the people there to discuss his innocent and clear position about the allegations.
When he discussed his miseries with the people over there, the notables of Wetdesh gave him a flat stone and urged him to keep it safe, and you will be wealthy and your miseries will be end.
He returned to home in Kalashadesh and kept the stone in shed, he shocked! When saw the stone was glittering at night. There were three precious things in the family Hakim one was Sutri, precious stone and the other was golden plate.The family was surprised and experienced something very extraordinary, when there was death somewhere in the valleys, before it happens the Sutri was dancing and making sounds, the golden plate was drumming and precious stone was glittering.

This unusual happening was disturbed the family and they were in fear and finally one day the son of Hakim called Pharamus went down the shed and hits the Sutri with axes and damaged some parts of it. Then the strange happening disappeared onward.

Mr. Nasir is interested to start an online bid for the relic and sometime soon the relic bid could be kick start on www.kalashproducts.com
Stay alert!

Celebrated Kalasha activist Maureen Lines passes away

 

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PESHAWAR: Celebrated British social worker and environmentalist Maureen P. Lines, known for her work on the Kalasha people, passed away in Peshawar on Saturday. She was 79.

Born in 1937 in England, Ms Lines first visited Pakistan in 1980. She lived among the Kalasha, learning their language and ways. Her love for them braved all odds and she was a recipient of the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz (Pakistan’s civil medal award) for extraordinary services rendered in the preservation and promotion of Kalasha culture.

She studied international affairs at the New York University (NYU) and journalism at the New School for Social Research (NSSR) in New York.

She was earlier trained as an ambulatory emergency technician in the US and worked as a ‘barefoot doctor’ going door-to-door providing medicine to the Kalasha people.

Ms Lines was the founder of the Kalasha Environmental Protection Society and the Hindukush Conservation Association. She was also a columnist for Dawn, and The Friday Times, and author of several books, including Beyond the North-West Frontier, A Guide to the Kalasha People, and The Kalasha of the Hindu Kush. Her last publication is a pictorial coffee-table book that captures rare glimpses of everyday life of the Kalasha who are fighting for their cultural survival amid growing commercialisation and modernity as the dwellers of the last mountain enclave of pagan tribal people in one of the remotest parts of Pakistan.

Ms Lines was an extraordinary and inspirational figure who had devoted her life to the service of others. She had recently adopted some Kalasha orphan children who she had desired to educate at schools in Peshawar. After her passing, many of her ongoing projects and beneficiaries of her welfare schemes face an uncertain future.

She was laid to rest at the Peshawar Christian Cemetery and Father Joseph conducted the funeral service in which several of her friends and admirers participated.

Ejaz Rahim, one of her friends, said she was a great human being who knew how to fight for the underprivileged. “She gave all her energy and resources to those she cared for. I count her among the heroes of this land. I last saw her some months ago when I visited her to inquire about her health. Her body was indeed failing but her spirit was as bright as ever. The news of her passing has saddened me, although I believe she has gone to a well-deserved rest,” he said.

Sirajul Mulk from the royal family of Chitral was all praise for Ms Lines. He recalled that she had given up the UK for Pakistan and had gone through an endless struggle to get herself a Pakistani passport. “She then took it upon herself to save the environment of our country from getting spoiled by the hands of our own people,” Mr Mulk said. He said her prolonged ill health had not prevented her from slowing down the struggle that she had waged for a better Pakistan. “Her demise will be a loss for Peshawar and particularly for Chitral and more so for the Kalasha valleys. What a great fighter she was. Rest in peace, dear Maureen. God in heaven will certainly reward you for what you have done on earth,” Mr Mulk said.

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2017

Does PTI led government is delivering ? Another middle and girls primary school approved for Kalasha valley Rukmu.

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Kalasha Desh: the remote valleys of Kalasha remained isolated since last many years. There was only one high school for three Kalasha valleys when Pakistan Terek-e-Insaf came into power in Khyber Pakhtunkhaw. Unfortunately Union Council Ayun never get chance to elect any representative in national or provincial assembly, as a results their demands went to deaf ears. The 2013 elections and decision of KP people are somehow fruitful. Now 2018 is approaching and political parties have started election campaign and taking credits on their shoulders either he is district Mayor or MPA.  While talking to Ispata News Mr. Wazir Zada highlighted some of PTI’s substantial steps and projects did for the valleys. Wazir is not MPA but people says that he did more than elected representative for union council Ayun.

Progress of PTI

1. two high schools for boys (One in Rukmu valley and one in Biriu valley completed).

2. Girls high school Mumuret has been completed.

3. Middle school in Rukmu and girls primary school in Rukmu approved.

4. Minority scholarship program (39 students from Kalasha community have been got scholarships).

5. Two community based schools have been given grant for uniforms cost around five hundred thousands.

6. Purchased land for Kalasha graveyard in Rukmu and Biriu valley at a cost of 10.2 million rupees.

7. Higher secondary school for Mumuret valley has been approved.

8. Kalasha teachers have been appointed on minorities quota.

Wazir acknowledged the services of late Sardar Suran Sing minister for minorities.

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High school Rukmu building has been constructed last year and classes will be starting in March 2017

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Shaheed Osama Ahmad Deputy commissioner Chitral had been handed over documents and of purchased land for the graveyards. DC Chitral was unfortunately died in PIA plane crashed.

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In short time PTI has been established more schools than ever.

Islamabad Declaration signed for sustainable economic growth in Chitral

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) in collaboration with the federal, provincial and district governments of Chitral hosted a roundtable on sustainable development in Chitral here on Wednesday.

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MNA Shahzada Iftikharuddin presents a souvenir to Italian Ambassador Stefano Pontecorvoin Islamabad on Wednesday.

The participants of the ‘Devising our own destiny: a model for collaborative partnership for inclusive and sustainable growth in Chitral’ included representatives from all three tiers of the government, the donor community, foreign missions, civil society organizations and the communities from Chitral.
Chitral today is at a crossroad and has the opportunity to develop a growth trajectory which is relevant and inclusive of its people and their potential. The joint stakeholder roundtable was the first step to invite the perspective of the key stakeholders in forging the growth strategy and ensuring that the people of Chitral are an important player devising their own future.

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Wazir Zada manager AVDP is presenting a package Kalasha newly published books to CEO PPAF during the conference

Mr. Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform, said in his key note address, “Chitral as a border district has strategic importance for us and its unique culture, history and social diversity makes it pivotally important for us that Chitral be preserved and promoted. It is wonderful to see such a diverse group of stakeholders come together to commit to the sustainable development of Chitral. We must link Chitral to the tremendous trade and economic opportunities that will arise from the opening of the Lowari Tunnel and the CPEC projects.”

He added, “Chitral is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters with the frequency of such disasters increasing every few years. The organizations gathered here are critically important in helping mitigate the effects of climate change and build disaster resilient communities and structures. It will take the full support, technical assistance and resources of all the stakeholders present here to ensure that Chitral is protected from the effects of climate change and natural disasters. The preservation and promotion of the unique cultural heritage of the region and sustainable planned economic growth that does not damage the fragile social balance of Chitral is also a concern.”

Qazi Azmat Isa, the CEO of PPAF, said remarked, “PPAF has invested in the social capital in Chitral for 15 years and now we are convening all the stakeholders to create a unique model of sustainable and inclusive development which will make Chitral a model district in KP. We are grateful to all the participants who have taken time out of their busy schedules to be here and particularly the people from Chitral who braved the inclement weather and blocked roads to be part of this roundtable.”

Chitral has been cut off from the mainstream because of the location throughout the year and the climate in winters. We are at a juncture in time when the Lowari Tunnel and the CPEC routes will make travel to and from Chitral much easier and therefore much more frequent. We can all come together to leverage this change in circumstances while ensuring that the development in Chitral is ecologically and culturally sustainable.

He said the key to this was going to be a transparent governance structure for the utilization of funds which will be through the Chitral Development Forum designed to coordinate, steer, guide and monitor the process of the development of the district.

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Mr. Haji Maghfirat Shah, District Nazim Chitral, gave a development overview of Chitral.
Mr. Shahzada Iftikharuddin, MNA Chitral, presented the challenges facing the district while Mr. Inayat Ullah Khan, Sr. Minister for Elections and Rural Development KP, shared the opportunities in Chitral.
H.E. Stefano Pontecorvo, Italian Ambassador to Pakistan, spoke about the Italian commitment to Pakistan and development in Chitral. He said he believes that Pakistan will be one of the most leading countries in the next 10 years.

Thomas Drew, British High Commissioner to Pakistan, spoke about his many visits to Chitral which he saw as a haven of peace, diversity and natural beauty. He fully supported the stakeholder commitment to sustainable development in Chitral.

A Chitral declaration to pledge their commitment to the strong, inclusive, sustainable innovative and resilient economic growth of the district was signed by Haji Maghfirat Shah and Qazi Azmat Isa.
Ms. Fozia Bibi, MPA Chitral, presented the declaration to the participants. PPAF will subsequently hold a follow-up conference in Chitral with the communities.

 

A group of Chitrali students and members of the Kalash community presented their traditional folk songs. Gulnaz, the runner-up in master chef Pakistan, created traditional cuisine for the participants to taste. Stalls displaying traditional jewellery, woodwork, textile art, dry fruits and shu weaving were also present.

PIA plane crashes near Abbottabad, all passengers feared dead

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistan International Airlines plane carrying 47 people crashed Wednesday on a domestic flight from Chitral to Islamabad, aviation authorities said.

All the passengers on board the passenger jet are feared dead. Military said 21 bodies were retrieved from the debris of the plane and being Shifted to Ayub Medical Complex,where a special cell has been set up. An aviation official said it was too early to say anything about the cause of the crash, but it probably occurred due to engine failure.

The Islamabad bound flight PK-661 took off at 3:30 pm from Chitral and went missing near Abbottabad before the pilots lost control over the aircraft and contact with control tower around 4:22 pm . A thick cloud of smoke was also seen billowing from the area where the aircraft came down.

Former famous Pakistani singer Junaid Jamshed and wife Nahya, were also among the passengers on the ill fated plane. According to family members, he was in Chitral on a preaching tour. 31 men, nine women and two children were on board the flight, including at least three foreigners, according to local media reports.  

Civil and military rescue teams were dispatched to the scene of the crash. Five members of the crew were identified as Saleh Janjua, Aly Akram, Ahmed Janjua, Sadaf Farooq and Asma Adil. 

“We regret to inform that PIA’s ATR-42 aircraft operating as PK-661, carrying around 40 passengers  lost its contact with control tower on its way from Chitral to Islamabad a short while ago,” PIA spokesman Danyal Gilani said.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan have directed the concerned federal departments to immediately initiate rescue efforts and help provincial government, said a statement.

Pakistan´s last major air disaster was in 2015 when a Pakistani military helicopter crashed in a remote northern valley, killing eight people including the Norwegian, Philippine and Indonesian envoys and the wives of Malaysian and Indonesian envoys.

The deadliest crash was in 2010, when an Airbus 321 operated by private airline Airblue and flying from Karachi crashed into hills outside Islamabad while about to land, killing all 152 on board.

Below are the pictures of crew members