Upshot of embezzlement: Kalash women robbed of essential health facilities

 

By Qaiser Butt

Published: April 15, 2015

Menstruating women are required to go into seclusion in a separately built facility called a Bashalani. PHOTO: REUTERS

Menstruating women are required to go into seclusion in a separately built facility called a Bashalani. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD:

The consequences of corruption in the use of government funds appears to have no limits to the kinds of people it affects in Pakistan, including an unusually specific group of people: Kalash women who observe their culture’s tradition of going to a segregated place during their menstrual periods.

The Kalash are a tiny ethnic minority of less than 5,000 people in Chitral district, with their own religion, culture and language that dates back several thousand years. According to Kalash tradition, menstruating women are required to go into seclusion in a separately built facility called a Bashalani, and can rejoin their families after their period is over.

In 2008, the federal government, along with the government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, allocated money from their respective development budgets to build 10 Bashalanis in the Kalash regions of Chitral. However, it appears that the person awarded the contract to build the Bashalanis, a Chitrali woman herself, only ever managed to build two and cannot account for what she did with the rest of the money.

“It is a joint constitutional obligation of provincial government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the federal government to take meaningful steps to preserve the Kalash culture as it is an international heritage,” said Shahzada Iftikhar, the representative of Chitral in the National Assembly and a member of the Pervez Musharraf-led All Pakistan Muslim League (APML).

The project to build the Bashalanis was initially approved by the Women’s Development Ministry in Islamabad in 2008. The government allocated Rs19.6 million for the project, which had originally been approved by the Departmental Development Committee in July 2006, during the Musharraf regime. The contract was awarded under the condition that construction be completed within two years.

Ten Bashalanis were supposed to have been constructed in three valleys of Chitral where the Kalash primarily live: Bumberet, Rumber, and Birir. A woman from Chitral, Lakshan Bibi, was awarded the contract but federal auditors say that she may never have had the qualifications or resources necessary to undertake the project.

Lakshan was paid Rs5.2 million in advance for the project, and built only two Bashalanis before disappearing from Chitral in 2011. Federal auditors say they cannot account for another Rs9.7 million in the records submitted by Lakshan before she fled. According to an aide of the Chitral Deputy Commissioner, criminal charges have been filed against her, but the police have yet to find her.

In the absence of the needed Bashalanis, women from the three valleys often have to be taken to Bashalanis that are much further away from their homes every month. For many families, that additional transportation expense can be a difficult one to bear, said Noushahideen, a spokesperson for the Kalash community.

According to Noushahideen, there are only four Bashalanis currently available, including the two constructed by Lakshan. The other two were constructed by a community committee that was constituted by the Chitral Deputy Commissioner. One more Bashalani in Birir valley is incomplete, left there by Lakshan before she fled.

Federal auditors claim that it was not possible for Lakshan to have engaged in what appears to be an act of embezzlement of public funds without assistance from officials within the government.

Shahzada Iftikhar said intends to take up the issue of this alleged embezzlement in the National Assembly as an issue of religious freedom. “The Kalasha people and their women should not be disgraced as they are also citizens of Pakistan and entitled to all the rights guaranteed to them by the constitution,” said Iftikhar.

Yet it is unclear just how much longer the Kalash women will continue to use Bashalanis. While the community has strived to keep up its centuries old traditions, even the mountains of Chitral are not immune to modernity. The prospect of using modern sanity napkins for women, the most expensive of which costs Rs130 for a pack of 10, may be significantly cheaper and more convenient than building and going to Bashalanis every month.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2015.

Breaking News, Mother of Tika Khan and Sikandar Kalasha passed away

Mother of Tika Khan file photo. Shukria TKKalash 15, Breaking News, Mother of Tika Khan and Sikandar Kalasha passed away, shocking news just erupted today. She was went to collect some fire woods at Anish. She was in her paternal home according to her family sources. Today she and mother Sher Hakim went to collect fire woods near by forest. On return they were just closed to the village but suddenly she got problem and sit down to take some rest and become unconscious according to sources. Yasir Ali and brothers were collecting stones nearby village and they called for help. They took her to home where she died at 5 PM on 15 Match 2015. Ishpata News would like to condole with family and prays to Dezau for giving her better place at Behe’s.

Hundreds of live-stocks death in Kalasha valleys

Goat Died

Kalash 12 March 2015, Kalasha valleys remained remotest area of Pakistan and people here are earning from livestock and dairy products, but since last month the livestock especially goats have got kind of loss motion (Diarrheal), lungs and liver,  three in one diseases.

Sources from Kalasha valley Rukmu told Ishpata News that 30 goats have been died because of the diseases so far in a small village at Chetguru. Shepherds who are looking after the livestock are very worried, their day night hard work has been badly affected. They are complaining that livestock department has not even bother to take any steps to decrease their disparities. Goats are an integral part of Kalasha culture, if the epidemic did not stopped the Kalasha people will be facing serious problems in sustaining the expensive culture in near future.

Same news are coming from Acu’hagha valley, Rukmu valley, Biriu and Mumuret valley where 100s of goats have been victim of the dangerous diseases and died.

GoatGoats

Sher Shaheen few days back got injuries on his foot while feeding the goats and axe chopped his leg and he couldn’t walk on snow at Acu’hagha valley some fellow shepherded saw him helpless and took him to Mumuret valley on their back for treatment, bleeding on his foot caused him very weak. When Ishpata News correspondent asked him about the dangerous diseases he become sad and tears in his eyes said that “ We are looking after goats as shepherd but we couldn’t do anything to save lives of the goats and our animals are dies in front us but we are helpless’’

People have appealed government of KP to announced an emergency to cope the situation before it’s too late.

Breaking News: Government of Pakistan finally accepts Kalasha as separate identity

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.

Birth Certificate Conformation of acceptance as Kalasha on NADRA form District Commissioner Letter to NRC Luke Letter to NADRA Chairman Ministry of Minorities 2008 Nadra form Offline campagin Online Campaign (1) Online Campaign (2) Online Campaign (3)

Open letter to government of Pakistan

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My name is Luke Rehmat I am patriotic Pakistani since my birth. I never came from any place I am member of Indigenous peoples of Kalash community. The only aboriginal community declared by UN-ECOSOC convention. I feel insecure every day. I doesn’t fear that someone will kill me, because I believe I have been created for a specific purpose in the world, I believe whatever would be cause of my death that would be written for me when I was created. I know that no one have authority to kill and create human like me except my Creator (Dezau). I do not fear about the consequences because I have strong determination and there is no hidden agenda in my Life except working for the survival of my culture and wellbeing of humanity.

I am really confused who I am in front of the world, my state has been forced me to die being a religion, being a culture, being a tradition and being an indigenous community. All official documents have been indicated difference for me that created confusion and disparity inside me and the 4000 small community of Kalash. In some papers it’s mentioned as others, while on birth certificate we forced to show Budhist, I have been informed higher-ups serval times since last two years but no one seems interested to solve my problem.

I feel insecure because my existence being an indigenous community never accepted by Government of Pakistan. The fear becomes reality when I and my Kalash delegations looted in Lahore by uniform people on 30 Jan 2015 upon our arrival in Lahore. That was not incident it was pre-planned by state.

There were other ways to stop the delegation to go for the conference as we were staying in Islamabad for more than 10 days. We are not terrorist we did nothing wrong, all process were coordination with line departments wether in Islamabad or abroad.

But I am confused that where are my basic rights? I am confused of state miss handling small things and forcing me to break the silence. I confused because I always fought for better Pakistan and in return I have been attacked up arrival and my delegates were looted. I confused because I have been victim of injustice.

I unable to understand the logic behind attacked on Kalasha delegation, my heart has been broken in front of the inhuman behaviour, it’s not new in a place where I am stranger it wouldn’t have happened but It has created so many question and fears for survival. I confused all fails when it comes to state own terrorism. We were stopped on gun points, I had urged all delegates to cooperate with police we didn’t showed any resistance otherwise they could have been shoot us.

At the end I would like to thank all those who condemned this barbarism and remembered us in their prayers.

What was my fault I was leading delegation to represent Pakistan at an International Conference and gathering of elders that isn’t my basic rights?

I am leaving here some question for government of my country:

1. Why passport is issuing to Kalash peoples? If they don’t have any right to visit with it…

2. Why we are forcefully stopped on gun point although we haven’t done anything wrong in long history and world knows us a peaceful community…

3. Who will be responsible of financial and mental tortures we have been victim.

4. Where we can take our pleas/grievance

5. Why we don’t have political space since birth of the country? While other minorities have been elected in assemblies where legislators make certain laws for their protection..

6. Billons could be spending on national parks; shrines could be inscribed on world heritage sites but no funds for Kalasha as UN world heritage side but why?

7. I fear a clear discrimination in all sectors and I would like to request concerns to take the case seriously with guns and kills that couldn’t seems right way to solve issues, otherwise terrorist have been success in their mission. So think differently and solve our issues and eliminate our fears and confusions!!