Kalash fight for their identity with Unesco bid

CHITRAL: Pakistan’s smallest religious minority, the Kalash speak their own language and celebrate their gods through music, dance ─ and alcohol, which they brew themselves in Chitral’s plunging verdant valleys.

Here, the sexes mingle easily, marriage can be sealed with a dance, and women are free to move on to new loves ─ it is a far cry from life in much of the rest of the country, where many adhere to a strict religious and cultural code.

Kalash students attend a class at a school in the Brun village of Bumboret valley. — AFP

Kalash students attend a class at a school in the Brun village of Bumboret valley. — AFP

Yet the Kalash fear their unique culture will not endure: Increasingly their youth are converting to Islam, prompting activists to campaign to preserve the traditions of this ancient, diminishing tribe.

Their fight to get the Kalash on to Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List began in 2008, but eight years on remains mired in sluggish bureaucracy.

With their fair skin and light eyes, academics have speculated the Kalash might be descended from the ancient Middle East or even from soldiers of Alexander the Great’s army, which conquered the area in the fourth century BC.

Kalash Peoples Development Newtwork (KPDN) activist Luke Rehmat stands at the door of a Kalash building of worship in Brun village in the Bumboret valley. — AFP

Kalash Peoples Development Newtwork (KPDN) activist Luke Rehmat stands at the door of a Kalash building of worship in Brun village in the Bumboret valley. — AFP

Centuries ago they ruled Chitral but now they number just 3,000, according to the Kalash Peoples Development Network (KPDN). Today, the Kalash say their traditions are under threat.

At school, children take a compulsory class on Islam but not about their own traditions, which are becoming more and more difficult to follow as the Kalash move away from their agrarian lifestyle and towards trade, studying or working in the cities.

Some face anger from Muslim neighbours in the region, who believe God is enraged by the tribe’s un-Islamic practises and has unleashed natural disasters ─ floods and earthquakes ─ on the area as punishment.

Under such pressure, more and more end up converting to Islam.

Kalash Peoples Development Network (KPDN) activist Luke Rehmat speaks during an interview with AFP in Brun village in the Bumboret valley. — AFP

Kalash Peoples Development Network (KPDN) activist Luke Rehmat speaks during an interview with AFP in Brun village in the Bumboret valley. — AFP

“The Kalash are a living civilisation and need to be protected legally through the government of Pakistan,” says KPDN activist Luke Rehmat.

He accuses government officials of not taking the Unesco bid seriously, adding: “So far there is no positive work on this.”

The menstrual house

The unique Kalash festivals and rituals mean the tribe do fit the criteria for the list, says Jawad Aziz, a cultural officer at Unesco in Islamabad.

In this photograph taken on October 31, 2015, a Kalash woman walks with a child past a Kalash house of worship in the Brun village of Bumboret valley. — AFP

In this photograph taken on October 31, 2015, a Kalash woman walks with a child past a Kalash house of worship in the Brun village of Bumboret valley. — AFP

Among the more colourful of the Kalash traditions is the “bashali”: the house in every village where women are required to stay during their menstrual cycle.

Kalash women are considered “impure” during their periods, during which they are not supposed to touch others.

Instead they retreat to the bashali, off limits to men, where they spend their days in peace reading books and sewing as family members leave food for them on the doorstep.

Kalash Peoples Development Newtwork (KPDN) activist Luke Rehmat stands near an altar during an interview with AFP in Brun village in the Bumboret valley. — AFP

Kalash Peoples Development Newtwork (KPDN) activist Luke Rehmat stands near an altar during an interview with AFP in Brun village in the Bumboret valley. — AFP

The Kalash also do not mourn their dead, instead celebrating what Rehmat described as “the completion of the journey” that begins with birth with three days of dancing, music and feasting.

Marriage can be agreed by a dance, before the couple run off to his parents’ house ─ only welcome back in the Kalash community when they visit the parents of the bride.

But the woman has the right to leave her husband and marry another ─ should her new lover be willing to pay the price she sets.

Aziz said consultations between his organisation, the government and the Kalash were held in 2012 ─ but there has been no official communication since then.

Kalash students leave a school in the Brun village of Bumboret valley. ─ AFP

Kalash students leave a school in the Brun village of Bumboret valley. ─ AFP

“The government of Pakistan has not submitted any dossier so far either for preservation of the Kalash cultural heritage or to safeguard any endangered part,” he said.

Government officials warn the process takes time.

“The procedure to be included in the Unesco list is quite a lengthy one and in other countries they have separate organisations (to help carry out the process),” said Sajid Munir, a spokesman for the National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage, which hosted the original consultations in 2012.

He said the institution, known locally as Lok Virsa, has been working to preserve Kalash culture since the 1980s, and still plans to get the tribe on to the Unesco list.

No guarantee

Local authorities in Chitral said they were also fighting to preserve Kalash identity.

The valleys have long attracted tourists for their natural beauty and their brush with legend as the home of the tribe.

Kalash students return from school in Brun village of the Bumboret valley. — AFP

Kalash students return from school in Brun village of the Bumboret valley. — AFP

“When I was appointed here, my superiors stressed that I should concentrate particularly on the Kalash community and make efforts for the preservation of their culture,” Osama Ahmad Warraich, the district administration official of Chitral told AFP.

“The locals said they needed sanitary pads in the bashalis and now we are providing that. We have plans to renovate their places of worships and festivities.”

Rehmat dismisses the government efforts, however. “Every time, they say that Kalash people are living near our hearts,” he said.

“If we are living very close to them then why are all these things happening?” he asked, referring to the tribe’s struggle to preserve its cultural heritage.

At any rate, said Unesco’s Aziz, being included on the list “gives no guarantee of protection”.

Impact of climate change is visible! Isn’t it?

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School going kids are struggling to restore their crops for summer 2016. The photo shows how big was the flood. Photo by:

Luke Rehmat for Ishpata News

Last year snatched away land resources from poor people, and they left behind helpless. The worst climatic hit areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was district Chitral and Kalasha valleys, where hundreds of families lost their shelter of living, (land, garden, houses, hotels, shops, crops)

The valleys tracks were washed by flood and people were disconnected from the rest the country and remained in isolation for months.

When finally the roads have been temporary restored, but recent torrential rains again put question mark on government concerns.

Millions of rupees have been spent on roads and other important projects, but there one can see only damages and people are compel to live in miseries.

Tourism industry in the valleys vanished in few hours, it was seen as a biggest natural disaster in the history of the valleys.

In north western part Pakistan people are struggling for survival while there are people enjoying tax heaven! In Pakistan.

The history of earth is billions of years old, while human planet is just few millions years old imagine what kind of disasters happened in past. Why the kings [President, prime-minister, generals or other concerns] are living like a blind and deaf. With their criminal thinking would they able to benefit humanity? How could they defend their beloved country with tax heavens?

Why head of states needs to invest on addressing climate change, and needs to take emergency measures into the matter? Chitral is mountainous region only three precent is land cultivatable the rest are rocks and stones,

If temporary roads have been shifted to the left over land then where would be the people construct their homes, and shelters, crops fruit trees?

Last year ended but 2016 added more worries, early stage flooding in recent torrential rains kills 47 people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including 14 people in Chitral, among 9 of them were buried under avalanched only 4 people have recovered so far and 5 people are still under avalanched at Susom area of Karimabad . Link bridges have been swept away in flood, there wasn’t such torrential rain in past, climate change has traumatised situations in the world over and particularly Chitral is on red zone.

People of Chitral living on mercy of government…if government didn’t took some solid steps before it’s too late, there would be worst consequence people would face in this summer.

Where are the education budget spending, Disappointing situation for KP government…

Kalasha Primary School swept away in 2010 by flash flood

View of fully damaged Kalash primary school at village Balanguru in Rukmu valley. Kids are forced to study on such conditions.

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Where are the education champions? where are the funds allocated for education sector went since 2010?

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These are kids learning at school, and they have seen their school in such a pathetic condition. What would be their view about govt? We are waiting for our new school, when it would be built? We deserve equal right being a Pakistani…

Finance dept report finds education funds underutilised

PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP

PESHAWAR: Not much has been spent on education projects including construction and improvement works, and teacher training. This was reflected in documents of the finance department which stated only 30% of the development budget has been used by the elementary and secondary education department since the 2015-16 budget was announced.

As per the documents, available with The Express Tribune, Rs15.98 billion was allocated for 799 new schemes in 2015-16, but only Rs4.88 billion, or 30%, has been used. This is in spite of an education emergency in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

A large amount of the budget was set aside for providing missing facilities for schools and repair work. But a report of K-P Independent Monitoring Unit published in March showed 30% schools across the province have no potable water while 16% do not have a toilet for students or teachers.  The report further revealed students in 40% of the schools have no power supply for fans and lights, while 16% have no boundary walls.

‘Inconsistency’

Centre for Governance and Public Accountability Programme Manager Malik Masood Khan said every year there is a huge difference between the reports by finance and elementary and secondary education departments on the estimated and utilised budget figures. Malik Masood said the education department should improve their capacity as they are not properly utilising the budget. He added on the insistence of MPAs the finance department released funds for the construction and up-gradation of schools, but the money was not put to use properly.

Using the LG set-up

Malik Masood suggested the development budget be released through local government (LG) members who will utilise the money on the grass-roots level. He added local bodies are not in a position to undertake development work as the funds have not been handed to them.

The K-P government claimed development work would be responsibility of local bodies, the CGPA programme manager said. Now that LG representatives have been elected, the government is not giving them the funds, causing development work to screech to a halt, Malik Masood maintained.

Right pace, right time

However, Elementary and Secondary Education Additional Secretary Qaiser Alam said they were on the right track and were using development money in the right place and at the right pace. He rejected that only 30% of the budget has been used in eight months, saying they have utilised more in achieving their target.

About missing facilities, he said, a majority of the schools have been given all things required. Even the necessary furniture and lavatory facilities have been provided.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th,  2016.

Foreign tourists no longer require NoC to visit Malakand Division

TCKP statement hails decision, says it will benefit tourism industry in province. PHOTO: fb.com/TCKP

TCKP statement hails decision, says it will benefit tourism industry in province. PHOTO: fb.com/TCKP

PESHAWAR: Foreign tourists will no longer require a no-objection certificate (NoC) when they travel to Malakand Division.

This was stated in a letter issued by K-P Home and Tribal Affairs department on March 29 and made public on Wednesday. The letter has been addressed to the secretary for sports, culture, tourism, youth affairs, archaeology and museum department and IGP Nasir Durrani.

Soft image: Call for innovative ideas to promote tourism

According to a copy of the letter available with The Express Tribune, the recipients were told “Malakand Division was no longer a restricted area and was declared open for foreign tourists”.

Immediate release

The home and tribal affairs department has demanded the contents of the letter be immediately released to the quarters concerned, particularly foreigners visiting
the region.

“The Pakistan Association of Tour Operators [should also be] facilitated in planning tours.”

Copies of the letter have also been forwarded to Corps Headquarters Peshawar, the intelligence bureau joint director general, personal staff officer to the chief minister, personal staff officer to K-P chief secretary, additional IGP of special branch, among others.

Relics of bygone era: Revival of Swat Museum draws back tourists

Boost to tourism

According to a statement issued by Tourism Corporation Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (TCKP) on Wednesday, the NoC was “a major obstacle in the way of foreign tourists” who wanted to travel to Malakand Division.

“As travel restrictions have been lifted and the NoC no longer poses a hurdle, foreign tourists can visit Swat, Chitral and other areas with ease,” the statement read. “This will benefit the tourism industry in the province.”

Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st,  2016.

9 people hit by heavy avalanche at Susom, one died

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Karimabad areas located at a distance of 65 kilometres away from the main town of district Chitral.  According to sources 6 students were went to take part in SSc exams held under Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education Peshawar. After had their exams they were going back to their homes. And unfortunately met with incident. Till filling this report 2 death bodies have been recovered one name Mubashir and other Rahmat Bahi they were students of class 9th. 3 other people also become victim of avalanche at same location.

Chitral Scouts, Chitral Police​ Deputy Commissioner Chitral​ Focus and local people continue their rescue operations but due harsh climatic pattern and blockages of main Garam Chasma road at Shogor rescue operation have been badly affected.

Winter Clothes Distribution in Kalashadesh (Kalash valleys)

Elsa weared coat given to her at distribution

A community support organization called KPDN, stands for Kalash People’s Development Network has been distributed winter clothes in Kalasha valleys.

KPDN team visiting Kraka at Mumuret while it was snowingKPDN volunteer cross a bridge at Rukmu valley

The organization is working since 2005 in Kalasha valleys and played very positive role in different areas such as education, health, culture preservation, traditional sports development, youth development, tourism, women empowerment, media initiatives and disaster response.

Distribution at Anish Mumuret

KPDN under its initiative Natural Disasters Management Programme, NDMP played vital role during 2010, 13 and 2015 natural disasters that have been parlayed Kalash valleys in particular and Chitral in general. The organization mobilized communities living in the valleys and work day and night to help the people in their difficult times.

Distribution at Balanguru in Rukmu

The valleys remained disconnected from Chitral town and of KPDN and media partner Ishpata News took responsibility to help the people indeed, KPDN did first assessment in the valleys and shared assessment report with stakeholders. The assessment was jointly done by NDMP and village council Mumuret (Bumboret), while Ishpata News handled reporting for national and international media.

Founder ad CEO Luke Rehmat

While talking to this subscriber founder and CEO of KPDN Luke Rehmat said that ‘’we have been mobilized and utilized our meagre resources to help flood affectees and become their voice in hard times, that was very tough time for the mountain’s residence’’

KPDN Team visit Apser Biriu

He further shared that ‘’ organizing community at grassroots level is indeed very difficult job for the organization working with limited resources, but no matter people knows their needs and willing to support their fellows in such situations’’

Mr. Rehmat thanked Culture of Resistance, CoR, for providing winter clothes for 800 (eight hundred) kids in Kalasha valleys, and helped rehabilitation work in the valleys.

While sharing community response and appreciation Mr. Fazal Azim senior KPDN activist said that ‘’community were very happy that we reached more families in the valleys, organization mostly ignore needy families and we have received very good feedback from the community, since last many days we remained on field for the purpose of distribution of winter clothes to kids in three valleys, our village to village campaign remained very unique and effective to communicate with the residents to know their views’’.

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KPDN’s volunteers both male and female remained very active throughout the difficult times and remained with their people to encourage and support them while they were feeling along.

Chairperson KPDN Gulnazar giving coats to kids at Rukmu

Chairperson of the KPDN Ms. Gul Nazar talking with community in Biriu valley said that ‘’we are working on ground to help our fellows and we hope to work for the betterment of valleys and different communities in future as well’’.

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She said that ‘’ we together would be able to achieve development and preservation goals, with support of AKHUAT clothes bank, we have been distributed five hundred family clothes and two hundred sweaters and now distributed eight hundred warm coats to the kids with the help of Iara Lee head of Culture of Resistance, as we saw they kids were more required to have winter clothes compared to adults’’

Zahir KPDN volunteer along kids during distribution at Anish