Around 4100 endangered Kalasha peoples are celebrating their annual autumn festival, it is pertain to mentioned here that Kalasha peoples are the only indigenous community in Pakistan living in North West of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa District Chitral.
Recent flash floods have been paralysed life in District Chitral North West of Pakistan where remote valleys are home to Kalasha peoples on the Hindukush Mountain Ranges.
Since last week their unique Ratnut festival is being celebrating in three narrow valleys of Kalasha known to be Mumuret (Bumboret), Rukmu (Rumboor) and Biriu (Birir). On 23 the final celebration of Ratnut and Ucaw (autumn festival will be concluding in two valleys of Mumuret and Rukmu).
Kalasha valleys are disconnected from main town Chitral and people are facing tough time due to worst communication system and flood has been washed away roads, bridges, houses, land, crops, trees, school, maternity homes, mosques, hotels and fruit trees including the famous walnut trees in recent flood disasters and disconnected with main town since 16 July 2015.
Continues flooding have been added more worries to the mountain community in their daily life and still facing hard times in their history.
The Kalasha Ucaw festival is playing vital role in their life but now it plays additional role to convey a message of peace and harmony to the world, and telling outside world that people should be happy and accept message of Dezau (The Creator) in all such circumstances where humans are helpless and no tactics to cope such situation.
Although many people are whispering and blaming each other for reasoning flood disasters in the valleys. There is need to play positive role in such situation instead of play dirty blaming game.
It’s not time to make reasons and causes of flood, it’s time to come forward and help the remote region to restore normal life again Kalasha valleys of Chitral.
The valleys are located at a distance of 43 kilometres from Chitral town where people have no access to basic health facilities and there were some cases in Rukmu valley where two patients had died while taking to Chitral town through mountain treks.
Natural Disasters Management Programme, NDMP an initiative of KPDN is running online fund raising campaign to restore normal life again in Kalasha valleys, consider donating to the cause for immediate work in the valleys
Imran Kabir Bazik describes Ucaw as ‘This festival is celebrated in the month called “ucaw mastruk.” The rat’nat’ festival is celebrated for many weeks and then comes ucaw festival. First the elders in all villages announce the festival. The next day after the declaration day is the preparation day. In these two days the “rat’nat’” festival is celebrated. After the preparation day is gone the festival “ucaw” starts. It starts with the ceremonies performed on the high places or the altars. Offerings are offered and food is eaten on the alters by the men only. Women eat at home. After all this the festival starts, and it goes on till late night or till the next morning in Mumuret.
Kalash 30 June: official notification for reserved seats out today and Jamat-e-Islami left other parties behind while giving two seats on reserved basis to Kalasha peoples of Pakistan. According to official announcement Mr. Imran Kabir made his way to District Council while Nazar Gai has given seat for Tehsil Council on behalf of JI Chitral.
Mr. Imran Kabir former activist of Pakistan Terek-e-Insaf joined JI before the local body’s election 2015, and Nazar Gai who seen with All Pakistan Muslim League during 2013 general election, also joined JI and elected to Teshil Council on JI ticket.
While after so many promises PTI finally made space within Kalasha peoples by giving reserved ticket to Adv.Na Baig Kalash. His seat as a District Councillor have been also confirmed by official notification today.
Kalasha peoples of Pakistan thanked both political parties for giving representative status at District and Teshil Council to Kalasha peoples, whose voice have been un-heard in policy -making forums and left with so many serious issues in past.
Adv. Na Baig with Dr. Arif Alvi (MNA PTI) Nazar Gai Kalash
Kalash 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.
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.
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.
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.
Kalash 28 September, world tourism day started with recitation of holy Qur’an. On behalf of organizers a senior journalist and ex. Chairman Ayun and Valleys Development Programme Mr. Mukham uddin welcome participants and brief the participant on potentials of Tourism in regards to Kalash valleys. He highlighted issues and also suggests forming a committee that would work for promotion of tourism in Kalash valleys. Talking to participant Mr. Zarin Khan In charge Tourism Cooperation Khyberpakhtunkhwa briefed participants about importance of tourism. He said that tourism could be good source of income if utilized its potentials for Tourism.
Khan added that ‘’ in Europe there is youth hostels or bed and breakfast facilities where tourist especially youth are getting encouragement having such facilities youth could pay minor and also cook themselves’’.
Kalash valleys are hub for tourism but unfortunately the valleys are deprived from basic facilities. Mr. Sohail secretary Mumuret hotels association highlighted road issues that are a pathetic in the valleys. He asked district concerns to promote healthy activities to promote tourism in the valleys.
Hazart Karim who did master in Islamic education and later he returned to the valleys and started working on tourism promotion activities. He said I have a topic to highlight local foods and guides he said I had been worked for 15 years and worked with different tourism promoting agencies now me working as a teacher. He also said that whenever tourism enters in a region he comes to a guide and then he visits other places.
Guide sought to be educated about the specific area so he could give accurate information to the tourist. You could guess that guide needs to be well-educated. So we could promote soft image of the country.
He added that ‘’ I have done one and half year’s tourism hospitality training at Pakistan institute of tourism and hospitality’’. Tourist needs special care so they could return with good image. He requested district government to ban on land selling to outsiders if proper action didn’t take then valleys could face a problem.
Wazir Zada manager AVDP appreciated efforts of local police force concerning maintaining law and order situation in valleys. He appreciated efforts of SHO and his team efforts taken in this regards.
Zahid Alam introduced as young Social worker talked about the past peaceful nature of the valley he highlighted war on terror created issues and security concerns. He said there is a lot of potential in the valleys.
During local government in past organized Jashne Mumuret for tourism now there should be such activities.
Kalasha religious identity in national data based remained focal point to discuss by some speakers while the forum was to celebrate world tourism day. Wazir highlighted winter sports festival and said that Luke Rehmat founder and CEO of Kalash People’s Development Network have been organizing indigenous winter sports festival in collaboration with district government and local NGOs and he express that he would like to continue the initiative in coming 2015.
Akram Hussian encouraged the participants and disclosed that more than 5000 thousands tourist have been entered in the valleys he said that it’s encouraging for tourism. ‘’There are more than 3000 non registered tourist they considered to be government officials and staff’s friends, 108 foreign tourist the remaining are domestic tourist are seems to be increasing’’ Tourist figure given by Akram were those who visited the Kalasha Dur museum and there is tourist those visited during weekends and museum unable to count them so far.
Akram added that there should be tourist information center so tourist could have right information regarding the valleys.
Shahi Gul a local handicraft promoter said that roads are very dangerous in the valleys so how could how a tourist comes. She said that education should be promoted in the valleys so tourism could be managed properly.
For non school going girls there should be handicraft working center so girls could be benefited from it.
Chief Guest Amin Ul Haq district commissioner Chitral said that unfortunately I am very sudden that no one highlighted tourism focused things of Chitral and Kalash valleys.
Tourism and recreational activities are very important factor of a society. There is a lot of positive potential for tourism due to its unique geography.
Hotelier sought to bring change in their behavior with tourist. Keep hotel clean so tourist would be feel better. Keep eyes on employees to provide better services to the tourist.
Amin said why tourism declined now while it was better 12 years ago. I admit law and order situation is worsened but it seems lack of interest with tourism could be other reason.
He said that law and order situation is getting better and tourism could be promoted and you people could play your positive responsibilities.
He asked the participants that meet minority MNA and asked him to raise the issue in Parliament to solve identity issues of Kalasha community. Use your vote for right people in order to solve your problem.
Alarming case for Kalasha people as there are only 25% Kalasha population in Mumuret valley while Muslim community are around 75 % the status shard by district commissioner Chitral.
Pak army representative appreciated efforts taken by local organizations and TCKP concerns for organizing world tourism day.
He said we are fully aware of threats posed to Kalash valleys but people are so lazy unfortunately. They need to play active role for the area. People coming to the valleys to see culture and natural beauty but the valleys lack of facilities required for better tourism. There is peace in the valleys its due to support of locals in the valleys. At the end a committee formed to work for promotion of tourism.
The Kalasha Times Report…
Kalash 1st August: Unpredictable and inclement weather patterns causing devastating calamities have been plaguing the Kalasha valleys Mumuret, Rukmu, Biriu, Acuhagha and its main town Ayun. So far many people have lost their Houses, cultivated lands, Fruit trees, live stocks etc through out the history. Some 25 years ago the most beautiful and biggest Kalasha populated village of Rukmu Malidesh was disappeared by flood; eventually the people have migrated and shifted to other parts of the valleys. Several such examples are there which are being narrated by the grand fathers to their young nephews.
On 28th July 2010 and 6th August 2010 Kalash Valley Mumuret and Rukmu have been suffered due to heavy floods in the valleys. The flood causes huge damages in both valleys.
This year on 31 July 2013 Kalasha valleys again severely affected by flash floods, Sources told the Kalasha Times that four valleys of Kalasha people have been suffered first time in the history. All valleys have been suffered by flash floods at a same time due to heavy rains.
An old woman named Sajama told The Kalasha Times that ‘’I was in Acuhagha valley, the valley is ruined now and I cannot stay there, therefore I am coming back to Anish village with my cattle’s’’ she added that ‘’while crossing the river of Acuhagha my shoes washed away and I travelled 22 kilo meters by bared foot’’ When asked what is the situation in the valley she replied ‘’the land, crops, goats-stable and lot of tress both fruits, and non fruit trees have been damaged, with tears on her eyes she said there is no reason to stay there and I moving to Anish now.’’
Since last few years Acuhgha valley remained under attacked by timber mafias and a large number of deforestation had caused people in trouble. To demolish the beautiful cedar tress a fake joint forest management committee was active since 2008 and caused a huge deforestation in the valley. Now a beautiful a famous summer place known for its cedar tress and natural beauty has been in troubled.
Due to media failure and communication gap caused disparity among the people living in the valleys because no one knows how much damages caused in the valleys due to flash floods. Properly it would take some days to assess the valleys and damages due to devastating flash floods.
The people in the valleys have been astonished to see the lightening on 31 July at 8: 20 PM it was extra ordinary. The elders says that they haven’t seen such thunder storming in past, they were shocked as there were no raining in many villages only targeted type of rain it was said by one of the elder Yasing. A government Kalasha primary school at Balanguru village in Rukmu valley had been completed damaged and whole building has been swept away, while another school, J’est’a Han, Safiullah jan’s guest in the same locality have partially damaged. All foot bridges have been washed away in Rukmu and Acuhagha valley and some bridges are damaged in Mumuret valley as well. Sources told The Kalasha Times that four vehicle in Rukmu and one vehicle at Darasguru in Mumuret have been partially or fully damaged. This year the damages are counting more then damages caused in 2010. Standing crops have been damaged partially or fully at a large scale. While people of these valley are depending on cultivated lands.
Detail of destruction in images:
Irrigation/HPS and Water Mills Channels
Drinking water supply system:
Standing and harvested Crops and Fruits Tress:
9. Pipe Lines:
Impact of Flash Floods
Roads are closed, no electricity at many villages, drinking water supplies disconnected, corps have been damaged, irrigation channels damaged and chance of drying remaining crops, families are homeless, communication system worst affected, schools damaged and where the students will be setting for studies and there are many other such issues need urgent support.
Note: While talking to The Kalasha Times people are appealed to government and NGOs to help them for early restoration of water channels, drinking water, schools, bridges, electricity,roads and other affected areas. Otherwise the people would be facing a big troubles. Elders of the valleys urge local to come forward on voluntarily to restore irrigation channels in order to avoid further damages..
PESHAWAR, July 25: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Tourism, Culture, Sports, Museums and Archaeology Mahmood Khan has said that the provincial government is trying its utmost to protect the rights of minorities and further promote the culture of Kalash Valley. This he said while talking to a 12-member delegation of Kalash Valley Chitral led by Wazirzada Mohtarma Saeed Gul in Peshawar on Wednesday. Secretary Information Azmat Hanif Orakzai, Director Culture, XEN C&W Chitral and other concerned officers were also present on the occasion. The delegation apprised the minister in detail of the problems being faced by the minorities of Kalash valley and demanded to give monthly salary to Qazis in Kalash. They also demanded holding of Kalash festival, provision of land for graveyard and appointing local teachers of Kalash valley in government primary schools so that the teachers could impart education to the children in local language. Mahmood Khan said that the provincial government has earmarked Rs10 million in the ADP for the development and welfare of minorities dwelling in Kalash valley out of which Rs5 million would be spent this year over the ongoing development schemes. He asked the delegation to cooperate with the government in this connection so that the schemes could be completed in time having quality construction. He announced to bring all the downtrodden districts of Malakand division at a par with the developed ones. The minister assured the delegation that all their problems would be redressed on priority. The delegation thanked the provincial minister for taking keen interest in the solution of their problems and assured its full cooperation.–The Nation –
By: Luke Rehmat
The Ka’l’s’a (Kalash or Kalasha) are a small ethnic and religious community living near the western borders of the Chitral District, close to the neighbouring Afghan province of Nuristan (Nooristan). Shrouded in mystery, there are many different claims about the history and origin of the Kalasha peoples. The majority of writers, scholars, anthropologists, and linguists, point to a pervasive myth that testifies to the Kalasha as the descendants of the armies of Alexander the Great.In the past, the Kalasha peoples ruled for many centuries over territory that stretched from Chitral to Asmar in Aghanistan.
I was born into a Kalasha family known as Aspa’I’n Nawaw. I have practice the Kalasha religion, culture and tradition since my birth, nearly 24 years ago. From my research work in my own village, I have concluded that my people have lived in these valleys for as long as we have been a distinct community. Kalasha peoples firmly believe that originally, we came from a place called Tsiam. Some people say that Tsiam is the ancient name of Thailand, a claim that most of us consider unlikely.
Within the Kalasha community there are some people in Biriu (Birir) valley, who originally came from Majam in Nuristan (Nooristan). The cultural traits of these Biriu residents, particularly their rituals, differ from the rest of the Kalasha communities. However in their, and costumes they are brethren to the people of Rukmu and Mumuret. The people of Rukmu and Mumuret are culturally very similar and there is little difference between them.
We must now turn to the key issue: what is the essence of the Kalasha way of life? What makes us distinct? One thing is clear, the Kalasha are a unique people, unlike any other on the globe in our cultural practices. As a point of comparison, history and legend tell us, for example, that Mullah Nasir Uddin was a unique man. Many nations, including Iran, have claimed him as one of their own. His exploits have become the stuff of legend, stories I learnt myself while studying at school. Those who wrote down his achievements and philosophy make one thing clear: he was a unique man. We, the Kalasha, are the same. We too, are unique.
Recent news reports point to archeological evidence that suggest that the Kalasha peoples were the ancient inhabitants of the Swat region. Likewise, the Bulgarian ambassador, during his visit to Chitral, said in an interview to an online news service that the ‘’Kalasha peoples are descendants [i.e. of the Bulgarians]’’. The Greek people are similarly confident and claim the Kalasha as their descendants, working with the Kalasha communities in the valleys since 1998. What I understand is that further scientific research needs to be done to determine the ‘’origin of Kalash’’, and these results must be shared with the community.
The Kalash people, and our way of life, clearly differ from both the surrounding cultures of Pakistan, and the rest of the world. We are a flexible people, living happily. By a definition of culture as ‘’something socially learnt and shared by members of the community’’, we, the Kalasha, have doubtless, a rich and ancient culture. Some years back the Greek volunteers in the valleys said that the ‘’Kalasha are the cultural heroes of 21st century’’. The Kalasha way of life is finely balanced, allowing both men and women to do their duties freely. The Kalasha society is not a male-dominated society like other communities in Pakistan. Our social organisation is very effective, and ensures there is no cruelty or discrimination based on issues of gender. Kalasha women feel comfortable living in a society which gives them respect and freedom. In her work, American anthropologist Wynne Maggi describes the difference between the Kalasha and other people. The difference – the title of her book – is quite simple, “our women are free”.
The Kalasha culture is appreciated globally. Our society is optimistic even in the face of significant challenges and changes facing us. We know we cannot stop these changes, but we can effectively slow down the pace of change. In the Kalasha culture, one cannot marry with a close relative, including second cousins not within the same caste. Some 50 years ago the engagement system was strong and there were fewer love marriages, however since that time there has been a decline in arranged marriages and love marriages have become more popular. This is because the lack of freedom of choice in arranged marriages doomed many of them to failure. Consequently, people started to adopt love marriages as a more effective alternative with less chance of the marriage ending in divorce. All cultures are in flux, constantly adapting and changing to new situations, and tolerance and flexibility ultimately emerge once a society learns that change does happen, and that alternative options can be adopted successfully.
The Kalash peoples believe in a single, creative God, referred to in the Kalasha language as Dezau, although we use the Persian term Khudai as well. Much literature written on the Kalasha religion has incorrectly mentioned that the Kalasha peoples believe in twelve Gods and Goddesses. Why did the authors report this to be the case? Doubtless the reason lies in a communication gap between the writer and the person interviewed. For example, different Kalasha alters and temples were incorrectly understood to be places of worship for separate and distinct Kalasha deities. While it is correct that the Kalasha people do have different names of alters such as Sajigor, Indrain and Warin etc., these alters are all ultimately a place to offer sacrifice to Dezau. Kalasha peoples do not have any routine daily prayers, like the Muslim communities have in the valleys. They do pray whenever they initiate any activities like harvesting, ploughing, construction and whenever the favour and honour of Dezau is needed. Most prayers are offered during Kalasha festivities. There is a strong belief of in purity and impurity in the Kalasha culture. In the Kalasha belief system women are considered to be especially impure during menstruation and childbirth. There is a separate building for these women and it is prohibited for men to enter the area. The area is known as Bashali.
Kalash women have a unique and colorful dress that serves as the most obvious symbol of identity for the Kalash community, as any outsiders that enter the valleys can recognize them easily. Historically, women used woolen cloths with embroidered designs. With the passage of time the raw materials become rare and expensive and they subsequently adopted cotton and silk fabrics. Kalasha male dresses had already changed some 50 years ago due to shortage and non-availability of wool. But there is an occasion during Cawmos, the winter festival, on the 19th of December every year when they use their traditional cloth for boys in a special ceremony.
For most of our history, the Kalash valleys remained cut off from the rest of the world. The centuries of isolation provided an opportunity for us to sustain this unique culture. The Kalash culture does not have any attested documented form, it is an oral tradition performed practically. Our people are more committed and steadfast than ever before to sustain our culture for the younger generation. Historically, many people lost their lives but did not change their faith. Our elders used to say some years ago that during Zhoshi, the spring festival, in the Shishi Ku valley people were forced to convert to Islam and rather than convert, some 70 girls and boys ended their lives by throwing themselves into Shishi River. Later in the 18th and 19th centuries it was very difficult for Kalasha people to carry on their culture and religion. Very few families escaped forced conversion in the valleys. But in the 1970s, when Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Butto visited the region, he introduced this culture to the nation and the world promising to protect and defend its uniqueness.
I have earlier argued that the Kalasha culture is one of the ancient and rich cultures from across the world. That which might be described as being of universal value, would be something which was extraordinary and unlike anything else in other parts of the world. The Kalasha live in three small valleys of Pakistan only, and there are no signs of Kalasha culture elsewhere in the world. Our culture has survived for thousands of years and is still alive. Our culture is then, both extraordinary, and of universal value.
By Manzoor Ali
Published: November 15, 2012
Maureen Lines. PHOTO: EXPRESS
PESHAWAR: The locals call her Bibi Dow – because it is easy to pronounce – but for the 75-year-old social worker Maureen Lines, life has been anything but for the past few years.
On the pretext of security, police personnel took Lines away from her home, in Birir village of Kalash Valley, and whisked her to a rundown Governor cottage in Chitral town. The Taliban are after her, she was told.
“I was taken in custodial arrest, and even the doors of the place where I was kept were bolted,” said a distressed Lines speaking to The Express Tribune in Peshawar, where she is now forced to live.
“I have been separated from my life; it is shocking, and a violation of human rights,” she added, talking about security restrictions placed on her by local authorities.
Who is Maureen Lines?
Granted a Pakistani citizenship in 2004, the 75-year-old social worker is known as the ‘barefoot doctor’ for scurrying through Kalash to treat the locals of their ailments. Lines has dedicated her life to improving the welfare of the Kalash community since she moved to Pakistan in 1980.
She was born in the UK and lived the world over before settling down with a local Kalash family. She subsequently set up the Kalash Environmental Protection Society (KEPS) in 1993. “In 1979, I was planning a trip across Africa and then came across a documentary on the interesting Kalash people of Chitral,” she said.
The documentary made her change her plans, and she travelled through Egypt and Sudan, flew to Bahrain and then sailed to Karachi onboard P&O ship, Dawaka. Lines then took a train to Rawalpindi and boarded a bus to Peshawar from there.
The city instantly arrested her imagination. “It had an ambience, atmosphere and without heavy traffic; the old city was just fabulous with its narrow alleys, bazaars and tea shops,” she reminisced.
Then she boarded a bus to Landi Kotal in Khyber Agency. On-board were tribal women who were mesmerised by a Caucasian amongst them. “They were fascinated with me and one of them touched my face and lifted her veil, followed by the rest,” she said.
Second time’s a charm
Lines came back again in 1981, after saving money from interior decoration and painting in England, and was given a two-month permit by then-deputy commissioner of Chitral, Shakil Durrani.
While in Birir village, she was invited to by a local woman, Taqdeera, to stay at her home. An incident during that stay, however, altered her life forever.
“I heard a cry for help, and ran to the scene to discover a young girl bleeding from her head after a tree branch struck her head,” Lines said.
She had basic first-aid training and could not treat the girl but she washed the wound, and the girl luckily recovered.
Lines then went to New York and received two years of training as an emergency medical technician and returned to Kalash Valley. “I had four puppies, a rucksack of medicines, a plastic bag and went door to door, village to village, treating sick people.”
After founding KEPS, Lines set up a British charity, the Hindukush Conservation Association, in 1995 which pays for the infrastructure, workers’ salaries and the medical programme. At present, Lines is building a high school in Birir village.
She was awarded the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz in 2007 for her work on improving the welfare of the Kalash community. She has also authored four books on northwestern Pakistan and the Kalash people.
Lines said the situation of the Kalash people has improved over the years but adds that plunging numbers of tourists following 9/11 has affected them badly.
“They have two sources of income: tourism and forestry; the former has dropped, while trees are mercilessly chopped down by the timber mafia,” she said.
She also complained bitterly about the local authorities who have been regularly forcing her to stop her work under various pretexts for some years.
“They are big shots who have a problem with me and do not want me to be there,” she said.
Lines said she believes the Kalash people are her family, and it pains her to be away from them.
“But [the authorities] laugh when I call the people my family; they treat it as a joke,” she added.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 15th, 2012.