Field Studies

Anthropology and Development: An Intensive Qualitative Survey OF Keil Within Pakistan Administered KASHMIR

June 25, 2018

By Fazal Amin Beg[*]


1.   Concepts and Contexts

Whenever a development intervention for a community in a region is required or desired, two main perspectives become imperative to be kept in mind. First, the state of the natural resources that support the survival of the community; and second, the state of humankinds living in the region: adaptability and adept of human with the nature. It means these two, the human & the nature, are interdependent in development. They can provide opportunities as well as threats for each other. It is also important to note that without the nature or natural resources—such as fresh air, land resources, water, forests, livestock or even aquaculture—survival of humankind becomes not only difficult but rather impossible. In fact, the same is true for all living things.

The vast majority of human beings on this tiny planet are uneven in terms of their fundamental needs for survival. Majority of them are dragged into the curse of poverty by multiple reasons. Now, when we talk of bringing change & development in an area of poverty or region of community, we need to take into accounts the perspectives cited above: i.e., the state of humankind and the state of natural resources around them.

Kail of the Neelum Valley in Kashmir is one of the fortunate areas that it has got beautiful sub-valleys along with diverse cultural communities of human beings. But on the other hand, it’s also one of such unfortunate rather misfortunate places that has seen not only tug-of-war but experienced real wars and atrocities that led to severe poverty among the local community. For the last couples of years, the community of Kail along with other peoples in Kashmir has been living in peace after the cease fire agreement between the two neighboring but rival countries: Pakistan & India in the Indian Sub-Continent.

An intensive technical survey vis-à-vis economic development by the CEo and the Program head of Agriculture was made in the initial phase, when HIMAT Grassroots Development Foundation (HGDF), an NGO based in Kashmir but supported by Western colleagues, initiated its development intervention in Kail. Although an appropriate baseline survey has to be conducted (and that is very much important).

This study report thus primarily deals with a Preliminary Anthropological Survey of the Community I carried out in the winter of 2007-2008 in order to explore and observe the perceptions (linked with local development) of different ethnic and linguistic groups dwelling in the area that have their pivotal roles in their societal development and shaping their and their generations’ destiny.


1.1.       Objectives and Rationales

The broader objective of this study was to investigate the existing social structures (thoughts and affiliations) that contribute in shaping the worldview of the community members in dealing with development initiatives in their villages/union council.

The purposes of this intensive survey were as under:


  1. Trace out and learn the descent groups (clans/tribes) of Kail that has also its ethnically political function (internal) and influence both positively & negatively the development initiatives;
  2. Learnt about the external political groups & their functions prevailing in Kail union council;
  3. Know about other internal interest groups such as religious affiliations of the community that exist in Kail and play their role in influencing the local development.
  4. Identify the key development issues coming out of and prioritized by the community of Kail.
  5. Come up with recommendations to deal effectively with different projects of HGDF.

The previous surveys conducted earlier were in technical context that focused on the economic sector development (natural resources) of Kail. But this report deals with the human’s behavioral perspective to know the key social layers & players that effect the development process and lead to the success or failure of the projects or programs, dependent upon appropriate strategies (inclusive approach). Therefore, this intensive survey was made in the Kail union council (the target community for development) in the Neelum district to explore the anthropological realities linked with local development.

2.2. Methodologies

During my stay in Kail, the following methodologies (approaches & data collection tools) were taken for the purpose of getting the information from the respondents:


  • Prepared an interview schedule around which the data could be gathered;
  • Had General discussions with the respondents around the interview schedule;
  • Had recording of discussions in the digital voice recorder;
  • Had in-depth interviews with four key informants; and
  • Conducted a workshop of half a day wherein 17 participants actively participated. All participants were encouraged to take part in the discussions, identifying the problems, search for the causes and explore for the solutions.

In a short period of time, it was not possible to spend more and more time in the field and many facets within an anthropological domains linked with development remained to be traced and known effectively. This was due to the area’s highly sensitive nature in strategic terms and military contexts on the border between the two neighboring but rival nation states as India and Pakistan.

2.   An Orientation with Kel and Some FINDINGS

2.1.  About Kail

Kail Meydan is a village within the Sharda tehsil of Nilum district in Pakistan’s Kashmir. It’s at a distance of 180 km (7-8 hours drive) from Muzaffarabad, the capital of Kashmir. Kail is a union council comprised of 32 villages and 8 wards represented by 8 union councilors. The population of Kail comprises of 28,000 souls (Census 2004).

Situated on a geo-strategic location and spread over an area of around 60 km length, Kail borders to the south with the Indian held Kashmir, and to the north with the Northern Areas of Pakistan (Chilas & Astor).

The history of Kail’s settlement is not too old. Kail was settled almost 150 to 200 years before. Kail has previously been the land/place of wildlife as the name itself evidences the reality. It is being narrated that the area was inhabited by Kails, family of markhors/ibexes. Therefore, the place name was left behind this wild (and edible) animal.

2.2.  Ethno-linguistic Groups in Kail and their bondages

The demography of Kail is composed on diverse clans/tribes. Kail was for the first time reportedly settled by the Mughuls-sub-clans as Matodi, Chekbari, Baraji—that are the majority clan (50%) and play their dominant roles in the states of affairs & politics in the area of its jurisdiction. The Mughuls have out-migrated from Dehli to the Kaghan valley (Nera Bela) hundreds of years before and from Kaghan some of them have come to Kail.

A part from the Mughuls, other in-migrated clans from different regions to Kail— having their effective roles in the development and politics—are Qureshi, Awan, Chodary, Sheik, Butt, Daar, Rana, Chekbari, Barhaji, Manhas, Payar, Lohn, Gujar, Waani, Sawati, Chohan, Kasaana and Rajas.

For the purpose of easy understanding, we may divide these immigrated descent groups into two regional categories. First, those who migrated from the Indian-held Kashmir; and second, those who immigrated to Kail from the Kaghan valley and other places.

The Indian-held Kashmiri migrants are Qureshis (came from Sopur Bara Mula), Sheikh, Butt, Daar, Waaney, Payr, Gujr, Chohan, Kasaana Rest of the cited tribes have come from Kaghan valley who are the Hindkoh speakers. But it is noteworthy that now all these inhabitants, whether Kashmiri immigrants or non-Kashmiri-immigrants, all speak Hindkoh language and the Kashmiri has come to the end.

The kinship bondage is very strong among these descent groups. The evidence can be observed & crosschecked from different angles. The joint and extended family system is more in practice that makes them dependant on each other. The minimum family size in a household can be 8 and maximum upto 40 members, as was reported by the respondents. Reasons may vary but one of them for having large family is the agro-pastoral activities of the community who have to carried out extensive field works in farming and livestock.

Although, inter=clan/inter-tribal marriages do take place in Kail but endogamy is preferred among the community members. In simple words, mate-selection preferences in marriages come first within their own clan/tribe. In the politics of Kail, clans/tribes have also their significant roles, as was described that for more than 20 years, a person from the Mughul clan have been winning the elections at different levels. After the election, it was also narrated that whoever wins the election, their relatives are being pushed ahead in the employment. So, all these phenomena depict the role of strong clan/tribes bondages which resultantly play their positive and negative roles in development.

2.3.  External Political Affiliations of the Community

Along with the convert & overt clan/tribe-politics (which is internal), there are two externally prominent but rival political parties in Kail. This external affiliation (out of their descent groups) is also very much strong among the community. These parties are the Pakistan Peoples Party, Azad Kashmir (PPPA) and the Muslim Conference (MC). Besides, Jamat-e Islami (JI) has also its presence, but this party reportedly gets not more than 5% votes in the election. During last election, PPPA got 37% vote (7% vote higher than the MC), but the Federal Govt. in Islamabad exercised its special power /negative role (according the respondent) through the 12 allocated seats in the parliament (National Assembly) for the refugees, and supported the Muslim Conference.


During the election’s period, the relationship between these political parties become VERY tense and this situation takes 8-9 months to get normalized and the relationships restored.

The present political representative of Kail is Mian Abdul Waheed, who is a Member of the Law Assembly (MLA), Azad Kashmir, and he belongs to the PPPA. Before Waheed, Gul-e Khandan was the political rep who belongs to the Mughul clan of Kail. He was elected for the political leadership for more than four times as the Mughuls are in majority (having around 14,000 people while other clan members can approximately be 13,000. Before the Zia’s regime, Gul-e Khandan was in the PPPA, but after the election of 1985 he joined the Muslim Conference.

It is also noteworthy that after 1993, there was no election at the local/union level and presently there is no union or district councilor who could represent the people at the grassroots level and address the issues genuinely.

2.4.       Determinants for Political Representation

Factors influencing and determining the election of a political representative, as identified were, are as under:

  1. The candidates’ ability and background (financial/behavioral), if they contest the election for the first them;
  2. The candidates performance during the last tenure, if they contest second or third time;
  3. Tribal-clan affiliations also (as can be seen in the case of Gul-e Khandan);
  4. Sometimes regional affiliation, if the candidate is from one’s area and there is no other candidate against him from the rival party;
  5. Results of voting gained in the Federal Govt that influences & determines formation of the Azad Kashmir Assembly.

With regard to political affiliation with a party, one of the active party relates that 50% of the party members are those persons who have joined the party on the basis of the manifestos/mandates before them; while 50% are those persons how have joined the party on the basis of their constraints. For stance they have come across oppressions and cruelty they have faced. Thus, they want to affiliate themselves with a party in order to safeguard themselves.

2.5.    Religious Affiliation of the Community

Besides the internal (ethno-linguistic/tribal) & external politics (party-based), another internal/covert consideration was observed in line with religious attachments. Among the native community of Kail or even Gurez, there are no non-Muslims. As Kail is also a Brigade’s headquarters of Pak Army, herein some Pakistani Christians may be found, as they have got their church there.

The community members of Kail (and Gurez) belong to the Sunni interpretations of Islam, but there is a sharp bifurcation of faith within the Sunni community here. One sub-sect is called Deobandi & the other one as Barelwi. Deobandi or Deoband sub-sect has no faith in the shrines but rather the direct link between God & his followers; while the Baralwis believe in God’s direct link as well as in the departed souls of their relatives or ancestors and in the spiritually elevated personalities and their shrines. This was amazing to note the sharp contrast among the people who have their own mosques, as two mosques exist in the Kail Maydan alone. This societal facet of Kail needs to be explored further, however. Thus, the religious/faith affiliation and the clergies have also their key role in the development of Kail.

Although, these followers of these religious sub-sects are not moderate but the negative roles played by some NGO workers can compel them to restrict the women in participating or working in the NGOs or other development ventures. But the important point to be kept in mind is the roles of NGO workers who need to take into accounts the cultural norms and values of the regions and respect their values which they give high priority. Currently, a clergy has asked young women not to work in the NGOs because of a sexual scandal somewhere in Kashmir.

Generally, the religious behavior of the people in Kail is moderate as the political parties of the region do reflect the society that Jamat-e Islami (a political party) is in minority. The womenfolk are seen in the bazaars who go shopping, and girls ((numbering 250) do go to schools and colleges.

2.6.  Highlights of Organizations/Institutions functional in Kail

The following organizations/institutions were functional in Kail UC and contributed towards the community’s development:

  1. Livestock Department
  2. Agriculture Department
  3. Educational Institutions
    1. A Government Boys Higher Secondary School
    2. A Government Girls Higher Secondary School
    3. Read Foundation Primary School (Private .)
    4. Another Primary School
  4. MALINE: an NGO working in Kail
  5. Al-Mustafa Development Network (AND), working on a project of UNICEF
  6. A Brigade of Pakistan Army
  7. Habib Bank (Limited).
  8. Police Department
  9. Local Government & Rural Development Department.
  10. Army Falcon Hospital, Kail
  11. Mosques in all villages
  12. Madrassa Schools
  13. Institution of Lumbardari (village-headmanship)
  14. Political parties: MC, PPA & JI
  15. Clan-institutions


Brainstorming session (workshop) for half a day was conducted wherein 17 participants participated. They were asked to identify the development issues of Kail, find out the causes and recommend solutions for them.

The participants actively & enthusiastically did this exercise and came toward the following conclusions:


    1. Absence of metalled Road Infrastructure due to dishonesty at different levels by the contractors and others. The contract of this road construction should be given to the international companies like Chinese, FWO, or others because the local contractors of the road could not do it.
  • Absence of telecommunication due to lack of advanced technology by the SCO. The native people should be sincere with themselves and better technological machines should be brought by the respective organizations.


    1. Prevailing unemployment in Kail due to lack of resources. In this regard, factories. cottage industries and vocational centres should be promoted.
    2. Women’s health problem: maternal mortality rate is higher than any region in Kashmir due to absence of any lady doctors or Ladies Health Visitors (LHVs). Six LHVs have been appointed from Muzafarabad for the hospital in Kail but those LHVs attend their duties in Muzaffarabad instead of Kail hospital. Girls with their academic qualifications in F. Sc (Intermediate Science) & graduates from this tehsil should be sent for LHV training as well as for the medical seats through special considerations who could come back and deal with the women’s problems. Five girls are available in this regard who are F. SCs and one B. Sc.
    3. Power/electricity problem due to machinery of low standard brought by the dishonest contractors. There should be a powerful hydro-power stations so that to address the fuel consumption also. There were the corrupt contractors who brought the machinery of low standard. Housing infrastructure
    4. Free education/awareness in education: Due to poverty in the region, the problem comes up for the parents to pay their children’s education. Therefore, there must not be fee in the schools as is in Punjab or other provinces.
    5. Clean drinking water in Kail Maydan. There is no functional/active committee for this project. There should be water tank and pipe projects as a whole. No plumber is found here in Kail. The pipe freezes during the winter again due shallow level in the ground worked by the dishonest peoples. For the maintenance of this pipelines, there is a non-local plumber who gets his salary from this region but serves in Muzzafarabad. There should be a plumber from this locale.
    6. Lack/absence of Irrigation channels. There was a water channel constructed by the forefathers of the community. The water channel got handed over to the military people in the aftermath. Thus, for the last 13 years, there is no water available to the farmers. The water channel is under the army, and there is now fear among the farmers to ask about it. It is also said that some farmers/reps got some money, and the channel was handed over to the respective organization. A sume of 1.4 million Pak rupees of budget has reportedly been approved by the government for this water channel and the community members are afraid of the corruptions again if given to the contractors. A committee should be formed by the community wherein a member should be from all baradari s (clans) and there should be a check and balance.
    7. Lack of Agricultural produces. :Due to lack of irrigation channel and lack of livestock for the manure, and because of single-crop zone, and the people have got little landholdings. Chemical fertilizers should be provided, cattle should be provided on discount basis, permission should be given to the community to cultivate the barren-land for themselves, and irrigation water channels should be constructed.
    8. Animal and crops’ breeding:. Bulls should be brought from Punab in order to cross the local cows and bring up new breeding. there should be constant and powerful electricity in order to bring up artificial cattle by insemination culture.
    9. Problem of deforestation and wood acquisition. This is because of unavailability of powerful electricity and hydro-powers should be established as the region has got abundance of water.
  • Wildlife Conservation Problem. No sincere steps have been taken in order to conserve the wildlife that are at risk. Community Conservation committees (CCCs) need to be formed in order to tackle this issue effectively.


4.   Conclusions & Recommendations


After the frequent disturbance and loss of lives of civilians (the Kail & Gurez community) because of the wars/battles of 15 years between the India & Pakistan, the Kail community is en route to the socioeconomic development and are going through a societal transition. The community members severely feel and desire for their development in line with education, health, physical infrastructures. Because of absence any gynecologist in the area, womenfolk, especially pregnant mothers die. Although, the army male doctors) are there in the hospital, but because of the cultural barriers (norms/values), the women cannot go to these doctors for the special cases. The native community seem to have been very rich in wood resources as their housing structures and the mountain depict this phenomenon. However, sooner great environmental issues would raise in the valley as within two centuries, the woods have rapidly been cut by the local community as well as bought by the non-locals.

Taking into accounts the existing phenomena (facts & issues) in Kail, the following specific recommendations are being made vis-à-vis the program’s/projects implementation.

  1. In the development committees under this NGO, members should be selected on the basis of their social structure, taking into accounts the internal adherence (clans/tribal politics & religious attachments), and the external affiliations (political parties) in order to balance the opinions and work about and relationships with HGDF.
  2. The recommendations made by the local community of Kail must be taken into accounts to a considerable level (cf. 3.1).
  3. Along with quick win projects in the field of agriculture, more emphases should be made on institutional development in the target area and the capacity building of the community and the staff members in the field.
  4. Capacity building would be required in the fields of health/hygiene education, enterprise development, career counseling of the students, trainings to the teachers and the like.
  5. The staff members of HGDF would certainly require appropriate trainings in different fields at different levels and in different region at home and abroad.
  6. Time to time workshops and seminars are imperative in order to get timely feedbacks by the community.
  7. Annual or biannual conferences would also be necessary to be organized around different thematic areas.
  8. Ecotourism potentials would need to be explored ahead and to use ecotourism as a tool for poverty reduction.
  9. Archeological sites and other facers of culture such as food specialty, handicrafts, folksongs, folk-music, traditional sports and the like would need to be promoted and linked with their economic development.
  10. NGO officials/workers need to be very much cautious and take into accounts the cultural norms and values of the native community.
  11. HGDF would be required to build partnerships with different organizations working in the target areas/Neelum Valley.
  12. The civil society organizations (CSOs) at different levels need to be encouraged morally and practically by building partnerships with them for their commom goals in development.
  13. Special partnership would require to be made with the Zakat & Bait al-Mal departments in the respective tehsil (magistracy) so that to pool the huge amount of money to the deserving poor people in the valley.
  14. The respective public sector organizations should be influenced at the policy level and there should be time to time policy, dialogue and partnership campaign.
  15. Special emphasis be made on gender development (equality & equity).



I’m so grateful to the key informants and FGD members of Kel community and all colleagues within HiMat Grassroots Development Foundation (HGDF) within Muzaffarabad and Kel office for sharing important information on the target communities and its development in local context. Without their participation in this intensive study, it would never hav become successful.

My special gratitude goes to Nawab Ali Khan, then CEO of HiMaT Grassroots Development Foundation (HGDF) based in Muzaffarabad, for providing an opportunity to know and understand the wonderful diverse communities of Kel Union Council within Nilam District of Pakistan Administered Kashmir. In the same manner, I’m also indebted to Frieder Krups, a German Founder of HGDF for his kind appreciations in this connection.


I’m particularly thankful to Didar Ali of Hunza, Coordinator of HGDF, in facilitating and coordinating the study. It was highly impressive to travel with him and spend time with him in the field for the first time. Likewise, thanks to Mr. Gar Khan (Agriculturist), Hameed and my female colleagues on the spot during this study.

Thanks to all those friends and colleagues or otherwise whose name I’ve forgotten due to my inability of remembering them.



[*] The author of this study is an anthropological researcher and Development Consultant and Evaluator. This study he conducted forHiMaT Grassroots Development Foundation (HGDF) in Nilam District of Pakistan Administered Kashmir in winter 2007-2008 after his successful field studies in north-eastern Afghanistan in Spring and Summer of 2007. Publication of this study/survey on this website of mine may provide an opportunity as a kind of reference point for the related stakeholders to see, observe and compare the changes of a decade’s long time within the human behaviors and their overall societal development at local level.

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