By Fazal Amin Beg
This is the third part of the biography of Ali Qurban of Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistn Region.Although, the Attabad disaster of January 4, 2010 remained highly exposed not only at local and national scale but rather got its international fame because the international players had their critical roles due to the strategic Hunza valley connecting China with Pakistan.Innumerable individuals and organizations had thus their important roles and function in diffretn domains and capacity.
It should therefore critically be noted that Ali Qurban discusses his share and role during the disaster situations that had seriously compressed the local communities. How did he and his team or colleagues face series of problems and challenges during their right-based advocacy and protests have been discussed in detail.Why is political leadership more important than leadership in other walks of life is also highlighted. In addition, the pros and cons of the former Hunza State has also been brought under discussion to compare in the current context.
Moreover, Ali Qurban also talks about his apolitical contributions in voluntary capacity. He converses about the local civil society organizations such as Passu Development Organization and other initiatives at local level. Similarly, he also discusses about the important forums like Wakhi Tajik Cultural Association (WTCA) and its role in preservation and promotion of Wakhi identity in a broader context.Hope this part of his biography wil be motivating for many and let’s hear him directly on the subject matters in his own words from here onward.
The Story of Attabadd and Successive Disasters
Although, the Attabad and subsequent disasters remained for more than five and a half years, it’s not possible to encompass and analyze the states of affairs, the challenges and successes in this short description. However, let me have an attempt to highlight some important aspects and features in the form of different but real stories. But, it should be noted that the stories are not necessary to take their sequential while narrating them.
When my contract with NCHD ended, I remained out of employment for a considerable amount of time. In the meanwhile, the Attabad Disaster occurred on January 4, 2010 and in result of the mountain sliding leading to Attabad village’s destruction and blockage of Hunza River brought a huge disaster of various forms within Hunza and Gilgit-Baltistan Region. Consequently, new phenomena in the whole area emerged and involvement of politics of disaster among the concerned region and world powers (visible and invisible) begin and they focused their attention on our region. Observing the critical situation in the initial phase that the three settlements including Ayinabad, Shishkat and Gulmit were in the extreme danger zone, people like me could not keep silence to be insensitive, as the issue largely was to the entire region.
At that time, there was the Government of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in Gilgit-Baltistan Region. Wazir Baig was our elected representative and the Speaker of Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA).We made delegations and met the political representatives and tried to come up for some initial arrangements around the disaster situations and to protect the settlements going to submerge in the Hunza River Lake, they took it quite normal. Wazir Baig arrogantly said it won’t happened so. He challenged and cross-questioned us by saying that who said the settlements would inundate in the lake water? It won’t happen so.
We categorically argued and told him that Ayinbad is going to vanish forever as a geographical entity. 70% of S̃his̃hikat̃ will submerge in the lake water. 40% of Gulmit will see the same consequence.What we had said, based on the experts assessement, it turned as a reality.Wazir Baig was over confident and becoming emotional on us and ridiculously claimed that they would unblock the disaster site in fifteen days despite the fact the lake water had to sustain for months and the disaster continuing for years. Unfortunately, Wazir Baig and Mehdi Shah (the then Chief Minister) were either having the day dreams or had any other issues with them and their team. Get aside the military officers and their soldiers who played their negative roles tactically. With Mutabiat Shah, we didn’t talk face to face because there was no point to discuss with him as he was not the elected member rather a technocrat blessed by the PPP leadership.
Keeping in view the desperate conditions of our community, we started holding meetings with various segments of the societies so to politically mobilize them for their just rights that were being usurped by the then Government and series of discrimination had been started.We tried to convey the facts to the people and aware them of the current and upcoming situations.After series of meetings held in different hotels, we finally formed a a political body named as Gojal Rabita Committee (i.e. Gojal Coordination Committee).I was chosen as the convener and it was decided to continue various types of mobilizations so to represent the community as a whole and pressurize the Government to put its serious efforts with regard to opening of the blockage of the Hunza River Lake.
One day, ina huge group, we went to meet the Home Secretary in his office so to request him to resolve the underlying issues of the community.It was so ironic that was not in his office and had goen for the picnic. Look at such insensitive behavior of the bureaucracy! Even the clerk was talking in such a wicked manner that he himself was the actual runner of the whole system.When we observe their misbehabior of them, it sounded not possible to deal in a decent manner with them.
We mobilized a big procession and began it from the office of the Chief Secretary. The Home Secretary, named Usman, feared of being beaten by the procession members , had hidden himself. Chanting slogans against him, we were moving ahead. Knowing about it, he has ordered the policemen to beat the procession members. When we reached at the Jamatkhana Bazaar intersection, the Inspector of Police came to me and said that was the last warning to us so to disperse our procession and demonstration. I agreed and went towards the stairs to deliver my speech and disperse it.
In the meanwhile, Ruzdor and Aziz Muhammad (boht from Gulmit) and some other active members hel me and said: “What are you going to do?” I replied them: “Well, let me have a speech and disperse the procession.” They strongly disagreed and restricted me not to have my speech. They rather suggested that the procession should fllow the Cinema Bazaaradn reached up to the Airport with slogans. I didn’t favor them and in the meanwhile they got me down from the stairs. Though, I was clear and had understood it would end here at Jamatkhana Bazaar Chowk due to the pressure by the police and their beating, I thus had to respect the viewpoints of the participants of the procession.
Sooner we were moving towards the Cinema Bazaar, the police force attacked the procession. Perhaps 10-15 policemen attacked from the rights side and in the same ratio from the left side in the narrow street of the bazaar and rains of the stick strikes were dancing in the air and on the bodyes of the demonstrators. our highly courageous and brave protesters began running away like the foxes from the spot.All of them had disappeared and I myself was alone among the police force at their mercy. However, it was the kindness of the policemen that they didn’t take tme in their grip.
It was interesting to note that at the same time, a person came out of a car, held me and seated me in the car. He was someone from Gilgit. He then asked if I needed water to drink.I thanked him and said “no.” Nonetheless, he was too much compassionate that he went to the Taj Hoetl, nearby, and fetched water for me. I cooled down . After a while, late Mirza Hussain of Nagar and Didar Ali of Nagaral, Gilgit appeared on the Hunza Chowk .Dramatically, our demonstrators appeared again on the spot.I called Muhammad Ali of Pasu to know where was he? He told me that he had hidden himself in a hole of a street like a rat. I asked if he was doing well. He said, yes, good, though he has got a strike on his arm and there is pain.
I then also went out of the car and joined the protestors gathered there. Late Mirza Hussain began his speech. After this, we left for the police station when we heard thre of the protestors had been arrested. When I noticed they were weeping in the police station and I consoled them not to weep, rather they have done a great job.They were young men and I didn’t know them.I said they would soon be released today.It happens so, you are not doing something for yourself rather for your community.They had got some injuries. We then met the Station House Officer (SHO).We then called Saif-ur Rahman and updated him on the subject matter. He kindly favor us and asked the police to release them promptly. Our youth protestors thus got released the same day.
In such manner, we did pressurize the government about the disaster as the Hunza River had got transformed from Attabad to Passu. The people of the upstream were so helpless that their communication was suspended. There was no boat service started then. On emergency, the helicopters were being operated. The government had made our people brutally dependent and according to their will and consent, the would lift the local community members from Gilgit to Upper Hunza and back. More importantly, those who were the high ups or their families coming from the down country were taken to Hunza for the purpose of seeing the disaster as a kind of picnic. Or from the Government, if someone would come from the PPP, they were entertained by helicopter sorties.
When we would request the Government representatives that the people were in great trouble so to emty the lake immediately and alternate pathway or the road should be constructed and the communication should be restored but they would fool the public. For instance, public representatives like Qamar Zaman Kahira, the then Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan, visited the disaster area and ridiculously tried to fool the public, in reality cheated the people, that in two weeks timeframe the lake water would be discharged and the communication link would be restored.When someone from the public will say that it’s not possible to restore in two weeks, such as Raza Muhammad of Gircha who himself had passed over and crossed the long blockage, he was not only insulted but rather threatened.Raza told the Minister that the road link was not possible in six years and the Minister was talking about opening it in two weeks. Kahira insulted him in the public by saying that if Raza was an engineer. When a public representative insults the public then what could be expected from the military men? It was a pity to observe their exaggerations . Consequently, our poor people not only suffered but rather were severely victimized.
With the course of time, the boat services began but with sowing the seeds of fear in the minds of the people who travelled in them. Our womenfolk had to see that day also that due to the absence of health facilities in the dispensaries and centers in upper Hunza, they had to give birth of children in the boat and/or vehicles while taking them to the hospitals in central Hunza and Gilgit.
Many patients had their last breath during their transportation from Gojal to the hospitals in Central Hunza and Gilgit. Over fourteen children died due to such road communication blockage. Uncountable patients passed away in the face of absence of health facilties in the dispensaries and health centers in Gojal. Ten accidental patients in August 2012 lost their lives due to absence of road communication again.The poor people of the area were in hard time and great trouble for couples of ears.
We were thus compelled and raised our voices from the beginning so to convey our genuine and disastrous voices to the world community leaders at various levels such as Human Rights Commissions, Amnesty international and the like through the various channels of media (print and electronic) within social and mainstream media.In addition, to request the the related governments that we were encountering such hardship so to support us in different realms. We also requested The Chinese Government regarding relief to the deprived community and aware them about the real situations.
In the later phase, reliefs began to come in the region from the down country. A lot of misappropriation was observed. The Shia Ismaili Council was also involved in the management and it had its own pros and cons. They would take the name of the Imam of the Time and try to de-politicize the people from their political activism.On daily basis, in the newspaper and electronic media , we would publish the wrongdoings and other discrimations in the face of cut-off of the upper river valley from all sorts of communications.In such manner, we attracted the mediapersons to go to the upstream and listen the community and their incredible concerns and highlight their genuine issues in the mainstream media.We would also use the series of press releases as a robust tool for highlighting the disaster effects and continuing challenges in addition to the press conferences.
As far as the relief from Pakistan is concern, whether provided by the civilians or military organizations, or the philanthropists, they were misappropriated by the government administration and their agents of the area.Somewhere the reliefs were sold, somewhere they were taken for their own use, and the like. For example, the blankets, or food or other items were brought in the area, we didn’t know where did they go? Among whom they were distributed? They thus disappeared. We are part of the Ismaili Councils and when we met them and communicatd our concerns, they would tell us not to involve in them. They are for so and so purposes and many other pretexts they presented to us. They discouraged us seriously. We thus were so much compelled as in Persian it’s famously said: “Okhir, tang omad, ba jang omad” (At last, becoming fed up of all things, moving towards the fighting). We started bringing all such kind of injustices and corruptions in the media. We initiated for the press releases and conferences, workshops and processions. We were then termed by such entities as “devils.”
We will remain so much grateful to the Chinese Government for their compassionate support that was marvelous which provided food and other reliefs with a sincerity to our community on humanitarian ground and being the immediate neighbor and friend of Hunza.Otherwise, the situations would have deteriorated so much.
My houses are underwater, my land properties are underwater. I’ve become helpless and there is no way at all to move somewhere. The area has transformed into a gigantic lake across 30 kilometers or so.Three vilalges have got submerged in the lake water. In such critical situations, should I keep silent? Or should my family members or the people of the valley keep silence? Should we say that whatever has happened, it’s good and if we die, no issue? If we die out of hunger, no issue at all? No, not at all. It’s never in any book of justice or otherwise. It’s not in the international law. Get aside of the International Laws, it’s not even within the laws of the cruel countries. Even in those countries, where there are suppressions from the military forces or the dictators, there do not prevail such types of conditions.But, unfortunately what happened in our case? Series of brutal tactics were continued.
What I wanted to say that when we told General Farooq (Chief of the Disaster Management Authority of Pakistan), he ignored our perspectives and talked with an arrogance. When we discussed the genuine issues of the area with our political representatives Wazir Baig, who was also Speaker of the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) and with Mutabiat Shah (our technocrat member of GBLA), they categorically replied that had we caste votes to them?
It’s a pity that Wazir Baig didn’t recognize if the entire people of Gojal had not caste vote to him, majority of them elected him. Mutabiat Shah didn’t realize that if he was on the technocrat seat, it was because of the people of Gojal’s huge vote that paved the way for him to be a technocrat member of GBLA. Were they the PPP of Central Hunza who had cast votes to Wazir Baig but rather they were the majority of people of Gojal. It was for this reason Mutabiyat Shah was offered a place of technocrat in GBLA. What could we expect from such political figures who said that had they voted for me.Such statements were, without any doubt, so much unreasonable, ridiculing and mocking oneself.
Such remarks were prove of the arrogance. We need to understand that wee are for few ddays and tomorrow we have to die. To the extent, we are alive, we need to live our lives like a human. It’s signifivant to keep above eth humanity and spend our lives.Otherwise, the animals like cattle, goats and sheep die around us but who asks? It’s thus important to take into accounts the humanity. Whether or not you’ve been voted by someone,it’s incumbent upon you to respect the mandate they have given to you. The Government facilitates you from all angles and isn’t it the right of the people to ask about your performance on such juncture of their lives gone in disaster?
The volunteers of the area were going to sacrifice their lives for the sake of their community. Even within the Ismaili Volunteer Corps, we could find such people they have given their lives free for their people and for their public.And they were being told iff they have voted to him. Such remarks were totally unreasonable and did not base on any logic.Well this was a separate chapter to be discussed. .
Although, we have lots of educated people, it’s another question that to what extent we have benefited from them or tried to cherish from their talents politically. Or, how we could get together and bring our acquired knowledge in use for the sake of our broader and collective interests of the community whether in the field of literature , culture, politics, economics , religion or otherwise. We are more and diverse but could we gathered together and asked ourselves that what could be the benefits of our education if we could not raise our common voices for the sake of our collective causes so to inform the media effectively. There is no denial that some of them did contribute enormously in this respect and many thanks to them, indeed.Nonetheless, those who were imersed in their vested interests, those who were in the bunches and gans of the Government and administration, stood against us and propagated a lot.
Well, let me share one of our effective approaches entailed with productive results.The pressures we exerted on the patrons of Frontier Works Organization (FWO) by highlighting their weaknesses in different domains led towards, at least, lowering 25 meters down the spillway that had mounted due to the mountain sliding on the Hunza River.We pressurized them through the media.We imparted several other approaches in line with collective and group processions, meeting diferent categories of the people, including the diplomats, and the like.Besides, the Chinese Government pressurized them to its full extent. Consequently, over 25 meters of the mounted landslide was lowered significantly and the River lake’s limit of submerging the areas up to the pologround of Gulmit settlement and its last calculated resort at Jonabod Passu saved in the face of the second phase of monstrous disaster. Though, the lower part of Gulmit inundated in the River Lake, the central and southern part of Gulmit was secured.
If we had kept silent, could someone take mercy upon us?No, the areas would have been submerged in the lake.Whether or not the related community members acknowledge our role, we are satisfied from our conscience . Who is above all on the top (God, the Almighty), is also happy from the tasks we rendered for the sake of the vulnerable community under disaster. Was there anyone who supported us in financial term? Not at all. We subsisted and managed all things from our own pockets.Somewhere, we were in the police stations, somewhere we were organizing related events in the hotels. Somewhere, we were threatened of our lives. Somewhere we were insulted enormously. But, afterall, we were determined and said no issue at all. Whatever they wanted to say or whatever they wanted to do, we said, they should carry on. We were ready for the kinds of consequences emerging out of them, which had to be born for the sake of our public in a broader context. This is what a short story pertaining to the Attabad and aftermath disaster.
One day, we arranged a session in Aliabad with the Ismaili Regional Council.Dr. Khawaja Khan was the President. It was not amazing but rather shocking to note that he would discourage us and say: “Look! The approaches you people have taken are not appropriate. Imam of the Time doesn’t like it. You people should not do so. I told him:Look, Mr. President! People are in a great trouble of disaster. They have suffered. If you people cannot take the hawkish approach, at least, take the dove approach and contribute your part and never be like us. Why have the hawkish approach we people followed is because we have suffered from the disaster. So, you people could take the soft approach and continue ahead. They never listened us.
Even at the level of Ismaili Council for Gulmit, of which Fazal Karim of Ghulkin was the President and later Nazir Ahmad Bulbul replaced him, many issues persisted during their tenures. Well, accepted they have their set mandates within social governance but they didn’t seriously listened the suffering of the people of the area. They would opt for the directives of the Imam of the Time to look for the practical issues on the ground and pacify the disaster situations of which the whole community had become victims.To what extent they could achieve teh goals is a big question mark when observed adn seen around on the ground.
What they could do at first glance. At least, they should listen the people careflly and accept there were genuine issues faced by the community and they had suffered. It then becomes an obligation upon the religious institutions to play their roles within their respective mandates and scopes whether to effectively lobby with the related governments or other international organizations.
Among and above all, a serious complaint I possessed at that time was with the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH). The delivery cases of pregnant mothers, suffering of the people in different diseases (also including psychological issues), were on their height. As in Persian its said: “Zamin sakht, osmon buland” (The Earth was hard, the sky was high) and where to go in such grave and helpless situations? On the southern part, the monstrous landsliding had blocked the Hunza River and that had transformed the river into a devouring lake; on the northern part, the Chinese and Afghan political borders created the blockade for the peoples movement and communication; on the eastern and western sides, the mighty and high rugged and snowcapped mountains and clifss have proved themselves for the people as an undefeated fortress walls against the enemies. AKUH could have opened, at least its mobile centers in Gulmit and Sost, so to serve the pitiable and poor disaster community. No, it didn’t bother to opt for such kind of options.
In contrast, I appreciate and salute the Bahria Town health agency through which , at least, the community members of the disaster valley were voluntarily served . Even, some medical staff of the Government were active and some medical reliefs were provided. Isn’t it a pity that AKUH didn’t bother to come to Hunza, where the Ministers of Pakistan are treated in the former but the Ismaili community of the valley was left at the mercy and behest of others. At least, the Aga Khan Health Centers existing in the valley could have been upgraded in emergency and the related specialists deployed in them on emergency. No, it was also not done. Such indiffrent behaviors of AKUH, honestly speaking, deeply disheartened me personally.Because, at that time I was Coordinator of the Rabita Committee. When I pondered over deeply, I was so shocked that what was going on in a real sense pertaining to such situations when the community members were in a continuous disaster for couples of years.
One day, during that unforgetable period, when I read in a newspaper that Imam of the Time had given some millions of US Dollars aid to Afghanistan on humanitarian ground, I was so shocked after a reflection I made on our disaster conditions where we would struggle, lobby and advocate for our community’s survival in the face of the calamity. Did he think of us that there was a question of honor and survival, too so our people should stand on our own feet.Well, these were few disappointments and frustrations of those days.
The religious institutions, at that time, thus discouraged us in relation with our socio-political struggles and movements against the disaster politics and discriminations carried out by the Government.They never appreciated us , at least our right-based and continuous endeavors for the community causes. They would keep telling us not to do so and it’s not the directives of our Imam of the Time. Keep your loyalty with the Government of Pakistan and said many other things.
Well, what could be said further?International politics and games were also suspected for being involved in the disaster phenomena of Hunza to sustain the Attabad lake instead of discharging the water through construction of the spillway in roder to suspend the rapid Chinese movement via the Karakoram Highway (KKH).In this manner, the Chinese interests in the regional contexts be contained and impaired for sometimes.Even such speculations were also made that through some rays insertion by the United States , the Attabad disaster was made artificially. However, different propagation were made but we didn’t trust it because we are not the experts on the subject area. But, in political field, we could believe that after the natural collapse of the mountain and blockage of the river, the international politics, particuarly of the United States would have come up to resist the global business and political influence of China in the South Asian and Middle Eastern Region.Even,there are forces that try to resist the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and paralyse the goals of China.
Whatsoever the factors and forces behind such speculations may be, we were sure of those aspects that we witnessed for being in the field. We encountered Lots of bitter experiences , hard times and distresses.Lots of threats we received from different secret agencies. They would say that if we moved further ahead, they would do so and so things with us.
Have a look, for the time being, on the aftermath of the disaster. The victims, for instance, such as those of the poor Ayinabad people, who put forward their genuine demands to compensate them for the loss of all their assets including their houses, their lands,their gardens and forests, their commercial structures and the like, as nothing spared in the face of the Attabad lake that inundated all properties, through the political motives and administrative measures, the poor father and son of Ayinabad were killed on the spot of peace demonstration.If this is not the injustice and cruelty then what could be it named?the helpless victims presented their misery with a hue and cry to the Government, they are being killed instead of being heard and helped. What was the conspiracy behind was unknown but the reality emerged on the ground that both father and son were shooted by the police on the spot and till today thre is no trace of the case to make justices with the martyred family.
Seeing such brutalities and suppressions of the Government in front of their eyes,the public became sentimental and burnt the police station of Aliabad (Central Hunza), which was so natural reaction to be anticipated.Was it something new in Pakistan? No, every where we evidence such reactions across the country from Balochistan to Khayber-Pukhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan. But, it was so much unfortunate , again, that the notorious law of ATA (Anti Terrorist Act) was filed and applied against the innocent people of the area by the Government.
Imagine, how could it be justified? While on the other provinces of Pakistan, ATA’s application is not much applied and how come it has its materialization and realization on Hunza? Through this notorious law, the over a hundred people were arrested and imprisoned who along with their family suffered and there is no justice, and could not be expected, so far from the courts of law.Some of those detainees were waved outfrom ATA but dozens of them still are imprisoned in teh name of ATA. More importantly, how could legally ATA’s application be justified on Gilgit-Baltistan despite the fact it’s not part of Pakistan and is a disputed region like Kashmir. When there is no legal status of the region connected with Pakistan, such legal actions themselves are illegal as per se.
Why such things occur in our region and our people do suffer? The main reason is absence or lack of political consciousness among them, though apparently it sounds we are more educated than others.But, due to absence of political study and awareness, we don’t know our legal rights and status. Even the national level parties involvement and activism in the whole region is illegal.
The Government’s administrative forces thus know whatever action they would take or whatever they would do, the people of the area won’t resist or raise their voices. That’s why we do raise our voices among the youth through our political activism. We tell them to study various literatures on politics at any cost, if they want to choose this field. They should know what’s legal and what’s illegal. What’s justifiable and what is not justifiable. Then their capacity would be built and they would feel a real confidence and effects: when they would talk to the various segments of the society, particuarly the governments , the bureaucracy, the adminstration, the courts of law, and the like.Consequently, a person then stands robustly for his or her and the community’s rights. Until and unless, our youth doesn’t possess such kind of knowledge in real sense and in pragmatism, there won’t be any say of our people before the government and other agencies.
During the disaster period of more than five and a half year (January 2010 to September 2015),we organized enormous processions, press conferences, press releases, and the like. For instance, when there was a procession in Hunza one day, it’d continue in Gilgit the next day. There were such occasions when the procession would continue across the country from Hunza to Karachi in different cities of Pakistan. In ratio, there were more processions than other approaches.Besides, five or six conferences were held at various places. In oder to properly update the mediapersons, series of Press conferences were held with documentary proofs.Similarly, Uncountable interviews were given to the various types of media including electronic and print such as the mainstream media and social media as well as to the researchers at national and international scales.
Consequently, we had compelled the PPP Government to a greater extent. For instance, it’s said that when Wazir Baig would get up in the morning, he would ask to bring him the newspaper on top priority so to know what kind of statements the Rabita Committee members have against them. In other words, we had put on the Government a strong type of fear.Our approaches were not confined within the local or national media, but rather up to international media.That’s why, the impact was so strong.
The Attabad and the aftermath disasters along with political activisms had thus attracted all media from the national to international scales.For example, the BBC and French television representatives had come to the valley and they played their due roles in disseminating the true pictures to the world. That’s why, our war with the injustice of the Government was mostly on media. That’s why the corrupt, arrogant and brutal Government was so much compelled and inclined. Our people, through such approaches, proved that they were not speechless or non-literate but were far ahead in conveying their messages robustly in verbal and written forms.
A pertinent point of deliberation to describe here is so much noteworthy. The political activism and approaches among the people of Hunza could be termed different from other districts, which is based on their overall cultural context. Let’s look at the Diamar district as a case. Though, apparently, they are behind in formal education, they are ahead in political awareness. Apart from their tribal affinities, they have their religious bondage together. For instance, if something happens with any person or at their collective level, and when a clergy from a mosque announces to gather around a common cause, all of them get together, in one way or the other. Whatever, they do or act quickly, even setting on fire the public properties but they stand with each other. In contrast, in our religious context, which is a binding force for our people, the religious institutions discourage and depreciate the political activism of the public. They would tell them not to say anything and pacify the moves.
Furthermore, it’s also important to note in a comparison. Our own family member, Mutabiat Shah, on behest of someone else, puts forward a resolution of ATA to be passed from GBLA so to justify the law and apply it on our people. But, interestly, Malik Maskin of Diamar, the then Speaker of GBLA, opposes it strongly by arguing that Gilgit-Baltistan was not part of the country legally and it cannot be taken for granted. When our people at leadership level take such intents, chauvinistic and ignorant approaches, what we could expect from them at collectively political scale.
Thanks, once again, to the GBLA member of Diamar for his farsighted support. While, my own brother of my own family remained against me and has become my enemy. What could I expect from someone who is totally strange to me whether a soldier or a bureaucrat, that so and so didn’t help me out or otherwise. It doesn’t make sense and I may be a stupid person to expect in this way. I cannot thus term someone as criminal who is alien to me, rather the complaint and bone of contention would remain associated with our own people.
Even at present, our political legs have not only been pulled but rather cut by our own people and have made us handicapped, if there exists a fear, or lazyness or otherwise , with regard to our political gathering for the collective causes. Just observe for a moment. For example, if someone dies, for the condolence the people gather in thousands, how come for one’s just and deserving right in terms of electricity, land compansation, administrative sub-division, or for the additional electoral constituencies, the people avoid to gather, at least, in some hundreds. Our people have even crossed the limits of shamfulness and unnecessary fear in their hearts and minds. I would like to reiterate that the causes of such phenomena are embedded in our own families, who are the agents and nurture their own vested interests at the expense of communal interests and benefits.The snakes are not out but they are hidden under our armpits but we either do not recognize them, or are scared of them. For such realities, we are so much disappointed.
Just imagine, when such selfish people are among the public or in the community gatherings, such people ironically come and deliver their hypocritic speeches and express themselves like the heroes. To illustrate a bit, for couples of weeks, there remains loadshedding in the area, but not a single person comes out to say let’s get together and raise our collective voices against the injustice.I put forward my particuar complaints to those who belong to the so-called parties. I am not part of any party. But one could see them in the form of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim league (PML), Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaf (PTI), Awami Workers Party (AWP) or any other party. At least, they should come out of their confined shells and raise their voices against the discriminations and for their just rights.They are not seen on such occasions and when the election days come, they become so active like the professional beggars and beg votes from the public.
Have these parties been formed as a tool only for gathering the votes? If so, then I damn care.At least, I don’t need their parties and curse on those, who term themselves as leaders and come among us.These are so enraging and disapppointing realities of our societies a whole in Gilgit-Baltistan Region. When the political parties are formed, they overlook or put under carpet such genuine issues and remain alien or indifferent to solve them.
There is a corrupt public sector organization named as Public Works Department (PWD). Look at their condition that they are either unaware, insensitive or insane when there are electricyty issues. How could they be awoken when we ourselves are in slummbar forr many weeks and prefer to live in the darkness. When the employees are inquired about it, they would reply the machine has been taken for the repair, there is issue with the baring,or there is issue with the turbine, or something else.Those public servants get rest at their homes and such occasions prove jubilance and hey days for them because their salries continue and there is no loadshedding on their remuneration.
For example, when I highlight the issue of basic human rights on my page of FaceBook, people start objection and show their reservations and resentment that why did I brought and discussed the issue on the social media, or why do I say so. The political realities of our societies are so much grave and devastating.That’s why I do not become part of any party.
When I look back on the years of disaster and reflect, I become so much pessimistic and upset that our people could not become a realy community to pursuade their collective causes. The reasons behind are, as I explained above, the malintention of our own people. We are imeersed in various kinds of biases from the conventional to non-conventional. We are divided in linguistic line, even within Gojal, you could evidence it in the name of Burushaski and Wakhi.It’s not only the Burushaski speakers who are biased but rather the Wakhi speakers are equally biased. Within the Wakhi, then there are the dividing lines and layers of villages within the villages. Just ponder and observe for a while, Kumaris is part of Gulmit but how come the meagrer considerations are made in this connection. For instance, some families of the Abdul clan (Buduley) of Gulmit are settled in Kumaris and without Gulmit there is no identity of it. It’s ratehr the upper part of Gulmit but look how the discriminations are being made. Then move ahead a bit and see the twin villages of Ghulkin versus Gulmit, Gulmit versus Pasu and so on. Even, Ghulkin or Sisuni (Hussaini) or Passu are not separate identities, when studied closely. The reality is so they are not found to accept each other.
Within the villages, there are the biasnesses in line with tribes or clans or families . For instance, descendantss of Magh and Mahmud of Passu are sons of grandpa Spicher. They are thus divided within their micro family identities such as Mah kũtor, Din Ali Kũtor, Sakhi Kũtor and the like. What I observe they fight on the bais of such smaller identities in the name of lineage or clan. Looking at such weaknesses, the external forces in the name of secret agencies, their agents, political forces and the bureaucracy plus administration take full benefits and lead them towards further societal divides. In such circumstances, the people become like animals and fight on cheap things and don’t get together socially or politically.
Well, I must describe here that the educated people are seen to have become more poisonous than those who are less or non-litearte. The bottomline is wihtin the Pakistani system of education possessing the biased curriculaand when back to their villages, we could expect from them for such kind of behavioral expressions. I myself am not satisfied from my education and the curricula we have been taught in the educational institutions.I don’t thhink myself fit in the line of the global standards.At the cost of billions and trillions of U.S. dollars, the Chinese and Pakistani elites and investors come to our region and exploit our rich natural resources. On the other, We ourselves are sitting under the shade of apricot trees.So, hell and damn with such types of education we have acquired. So, what is the need of getting such kind of education? I really get suffocated while thinking along these lines.
For such prevailing issues, we have to look for the effective and long term solutions. We need to take some pragmatic steps ahead for us and for our coming generations.
It’s normally said that I become critical to the religious institutions. I’m thus often condemned in this regard. Well, let me opt for it, again, no matter if I’m censured, again and again. Those serving or defending religion usually say that it is a source of binding the people. If there is no religion, there is no nation by quoting Iqbal Lahori: “Qom mazhab se hey” (A nation exists from the religion).Imam of the Time advises us to be united because you are spiritually from one sources and the like.
At present, it gives me a great pain and shock that how many decades have elapsed when we quote the directives of the Imam of the Time that so far the Burushaski and Wakhi community of the same spiritual force are not together? Their Imam is one, their Jamatkhana is one, in addition to many other commonalities. What are the reasons that they could not get together? It clearly indicates that there is something wrong inside the religion.
When a Burushaski speaker appears somewhere among the Wakhi speakers, the latter would say: “Keep silence, brothers, the tug̃h (i.e., goat, a derogatory term for Burushaski speaker) has come and we should not talk for a while after he leaves.” When a Wakhi appears among the Burushaski speakers, they would say: “Silent, Khurpat appi Guyits (derogatory term for a Wakhi has come and we would talk later.” Why are such approaches taken? Just think and explore! Resultantly, what we could evidence that when we come in politics, we are in a highly fragmented and fragile position.On such issues, we need to work hard adn put our efforts to bring them together. Our survival, whether Wakhi or Burushaski or others, won’t sustain unless all of us are together politically, not only within Hunza but rather at all Gilgit-Baltistan level. We have to accept and respect each others cultural entities, whether they are S̃hina speakers, or Kh̃owar,Balti or D̃umaaki, or others. Unless, we are unot united, our survival would sooner be at stake. We have to take practical steps in this regard.
Let me talk a bit more about the Chinese relief to our community during the disaster in Hunza. Although, China is officially termed as a Socialist Republic, it has moved towards capitalism.As it’s said many elites are there in the Congress.When we were in a great grief and shock in result of the disaster, we moved towards China to provide our community the relief as that was teh only option keeping in view the natural disaster and blockage of the Hunza River and the Karakoram Highway (KKH). As an option, we looked towards them to shelter us as it was becoming so much hard in the given political situations. Internally, I was also deliberating that it might be hard for the Chinese Government to accept us easily. If we had resisted violently, there might have come some negative reactions from different sides.Nonetheless, we thought to request the Government by reaching at the Khunzhrav border and put before the officials our request of suffering so the Chinese Government should look in the matters. For such reasons, we thought to march towards the Chinese border. It’s quite natural that when a human suffers from any hardship, she or he shares it with hher or his neighbors so to get a relief out of the greif. It takes us back historically to the demonstration of 1940 when arbob Adob Khon of Passu and his companions had moved towards China when there existed the distress and injustice hampering over our community. They were going to cross the border of Hunza State but the British Government sent its forces to bring them back sooner by directing the officers to accept their demands Adob Khon and his companions have.Because at that time, the Soviet Socialist forces were deployed at Bozai-e Gumbaz in the Pamirs and for them it would have become a pretext to advance ahead towards Hunza State.
When troubles and harship hamper and hammer on a human’s head and there is no effective solution against it, he or she then opts for the hard approaches. If someone enters in our houses or society and tries to devastate it, should we then keep silence over such matters? No, not at all. We would rise up at any cost with a courage. It would be compulsory to seek for the solutions in an appropriate and effective way. Otherwise, we need to die, if could not dare to stand against the suppressions and cruelty. We had thus the Chinese option before us if the Government of Pakistan had not honestly and wholeheartedly considered our actual demands.
The contributions of the community members of Central Hunza, particularly of Aliabad, was mixed both encouraging and discouraging.On the basis of brotherhood, there is no refusal that they rendered critical and wonderful tasks. On the other, there remained also some disheartening roles. Let me express myself frankly. Hunza being our home and like members of the family, we possessed high expectations from them. But those expectations were not met to the extent we had thought for and it could be our mistake to keep such high level of expectations.
The tragic demonstration of August 2010 that took place at Aliabad, in which the Burushaski speaking father and son of Ayinabad were killed in a firing by the police, was taken on linguistic ground.The people gathered were especially from Sarat village down (in Central Hunza). Forr instance, if someone from the Wakhi had stood up for such causes, they might not have participated in in the procession in a huge number as was evidenced there. On the other, if someone from the Burushaski speaker had initiated for such gathering, the Wakhi speakers might not have participated in it. These are our intrinsic realities.
Although, Ghazanfar ali Khan was not in the Government at that time, he didn’t play his role as opposition leader. We didn’t see him anywhere. A couples of statements would come in the media but they were to fulfil the formality and would then keep silence. It was a good time for him to play his role in opposition but he was on the periphery. I was stunned to see that people like him have not strength or spirit to effectively and productively play their roles in opposition.
The behavior of General Farooq (Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority or NDMA) was ironic. He was an alien person to the region but look at our representatives submission that they would defend that wild man who abused the people around, insulted them and showed his arm to them. Even, he has also insulted Wazir Baig himself when the latter has asked him that Pakistan should provide us this and that. The bully man has threatened him resultantly.
It was interesting story to observe once while sitting in front of the media, Dunya Tv) when Wazir Baig was going to attack me that why I was telling bad to General Farooq. I told him it was this selfish man who for the sake of his vested interests, devasted our people and area Should we remain mute for the brutalities he and you exerted on us. He and I thus came in a verbal conflict together. I categorically told him whatever he was telling us was totally wrong. He was becoming so emotional that one could not anticipate of his age for being senior citizen and a pollitical figure representing Hunza community. Such disappointing conditions prevailed during those ending period of the disaster.
Role of Baba Jan:
Baba Jan is a blunt, fearless but compassionate man.Even, he won’t care if he had give his life for the sake of injustice.Wherever we have been during the disaster, he was courageously at the forefront.He never cared for his life.The Government and bureaucracy noticed and observed that he was so much influential and powerful, they looked for an opportunity to trap him. When the Aliabad incidence occured, he and some otehr companions were charged for the incidence and accused for setting on fire of the police station. Because, he was mobilizing and leading the demonstrations and processions, that’s why he was targeted on top priority Consequently, he and other companions were imprisoned.
What did Baba Jan possess? Neither a high standard of house, nor a huge property. If he possessed something extraordinary, it was the wealth of public pain who would look for helping the poor and suppressed segments of the society politically.He is a mad for poor people’s support. He would set on fire his house and lit the city. Such people, who are careless of their own interests but careful for others, give momentums to the political movements.Peoples like Baba Jan thus advanced and became political leaders when the common people look around their intents and characters bound in their personalities.
If peoples like Zafar Iqbal and Mutabiat Shah, or the retired bureacrats Qurban Jan and Gul Baig, or someone else think they would do politics, It won’t work in their case rather would be their raw thoughts only.Aziz Ahmad’s character is seen dubious and in some ways, his actions are so much pitiable.He tries to present his cleverness, or tries to impress people through his speechs or through his talks, but people have frequently tested him and raised fingers on him in many context.
Honestly speaking, Hajat Muhammad is the only scarless person in politics, and the second Hajat Muhammad is Baba Jan.It’s another point of discussion that Hajat Muhammad is from the PPP but he is certainly a sincere and honest person. Comparatively, qurban Muhammad is not that much up to the mark but is far better than the others whom I named above. Qurban Muhammad is also like me when got chance to speak, will speak but may not be of that calibre. I could never compare myself with either Hajat Muhammad or Baba Jan. Both of them are gems and of very high calibre. Why? Because, I’ve my own situations. As I was censuring Zafar Iqbal, Mutabiat Shah and others, I am also the same, not fit for the real politics. I speak it from my heart. I’m so honest in telling about myself because I know myself very well in my standing. The actual point here is who may be the sincere, painstaking and dedicated person, they are these gentlemen, Hajat Muhammad and Baba Jan. There may be someone of their calibre who are careless of themselves but careful for other people.
In Central Hunza, among the Burushaski speaking community, I could not find anyone who could be so sincere and sympathetic regarding the suffering people and fit for the politics.Even, in the Awami Workers Party (AWP), there are the leaders like Engineer Amanullah, Sultan Madad or Saffiullah Baig and few others, but they are not up to the mark, indeed. Proclaiming oneself with the term as progressive or socialist is futile unless practically they begin the realistic steps from themselves, from their families and especially contributing on the groun for the poor in meaningful ways. They condemn or criticize the capitlists on social media and try to become champion for the rights of the poor but they themselves are the capitalists. Just look at their markets, their other businesses and living standards in the big flats of the cities and many more.
For such missions, a person has to be unaware of his or her family and house affairs. Should not be concentrated towards his wife. Such type of people move ahead and become political leaders. And the communities need to respect such people who always stand for the communal issues and causes. Who hears the pains, complaints and requests of the peoples, they are very few people around us.
Those who claim that they did so and so, they brag and boaster themselves and cannot be trusted more. Curse on such type of people getting involved in politics. They are not the genuine people who would serve the public, particularly the poor segments of the societies. As in Wakhi it’s said: “S̃hapt-e zẽman wost woz ya yish” (Wolf’s kid finally grows up as wolf). Particularly, Ghazanfar Ali Khan and family who come in contesting the election, or Wazir Baig and related people of PPP who come for begging the votes for many decades, they are rejected people. Those who have been observed for many times and then to observe them is a stupidity despite the fact they were fully observed and bitter realities had to be experienced by the public for a long time.
Political Transformation of Hunza
When we observe our political system of the past, the former State had its own value and significance in line with the political decisions and conflict resolution. It was so much unfortunate that the rulers of Hunza State were not capable enough to run the states of affairs in just manner. They had become arrogant and intoxicated in power politics. Though, Mir Ghazan Khan II (who would mostly remain intoxicated with wine), relatively waived-off the heavy taxes upon our people due to the revolt of grandpa Muhammad Adob Khon of Passu.
Mir Nazim Khan and other rulers have exploited our public by cashing their simplistic and sympathetic behavior .Hilban, cemn and Wũtokh and other taxes have been collected from them by force.It’s being narrated that when the poor people have requested the Mir or tax collectors that they had no possession or capacity to pay the taxes, they have been forced to pay. The people have been insulted in such a way that not only they themselves rather their fathers would also pay the taxes. Administratively, they were so much autocratic and dictatorial. The Hunza State itself was great but the rulers did not do justice with the public. For such kind of reasons, the rigid people of the area still strongly oppose them for the bad governance of the rulers.
However, some of our people maintain that they had brought revolution and demolished the Hunza State but I’d disagree with them that it cannot b termed so.Revolution is something diffrent as , for example we could see in the case of Iran, France, Russia or other countries.Though, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto abolished the Hunza and other states of Gilgit-Baltistan, he himself was the Mir of his area. It was easy to end up the rulers of our region but it might not have been easy to end up Bhutto at that time. Otherwise, it is imperative to cut off the roots of Bhutto first.
We could witness today that how difficult is to uproot the landlords of Sind, Punjab and other provinces. The Mirs of Hunza were dependent upon us to be made as the rulers.In the modern context, it was easy to kick them out and bring other people to rule us.But the issue was gravely embedded with public level education. Today, the most cruel and brutal rulers are the landlords of Pakistan (which also includes Bhutto himself, Zardari and so on). Their roots have to be therefore cut on topmost priority if Pakistan has to be sustained.For this purpose, public awareness and education is so much important.
Isn’t it a pity to note that our naive people proudly say that Bhutto released us by ending up the Hunza State? Amazing thoughts, indeed. But why don’t yet they open their eyes and see that to what extent Bhutto himself has released his own people in Sind who are yet in ignorance?If he claimed to be a socialist, where is the social equality within his own constituency and province? Though, Bhutto was a big Jagirdar, landlord, nonetheless, if he was so generous and just, he would have distributed his expansive land possession among the poor public of his area and then moved towards our regions by setting an example among the people. We would have then said that yes, Bhutoo was a compassionate and sympathetic leader.
Making the socialist values part of his party never counts unless there are actions and compliance upon them starting it from himself, if Bhutto was a true leader.As it has been truly said in Wakhi: “S̃hapt-e zẽman wost woz yish”, (The baby wolf finally grows as wolf). Bhutto cheated the public and brought all of us to such stage of political devastation.In the current context, the poor public are seen encountering, on daily basis, the oppressions of the Waderas, Sardars,Chaudaries, Malaks and Khans across the country.
When we look contextually in Hunza, the Mirs oppressions on the one hand but the forces of Wazirs, tranphas and Arbobs hampered upon the public What we could evidence that some of them became part of those people who were non-literate and apparently became proactive and think themselves champions to abolish the Hunza State. I categorically criticized those people of the PPP, who had gathered in Passu, that they abolished the Hunza State instead of uprooting the rulers. I added that in different parts of the world, people get together to form a state for themselves but some of our people became instruments of the outsiders to abolish the state. Late Karim Khan of Gulmit admitted it and agreed by saying: “You are right. We were not educated like you people and thoughtlessly we got mobilized to end up the Hunza State.”
I emphasized that when the Mirs and Wazirs of Hunza were wrongdoers, they needed to be eliminated. The political structure had to be changed and brought reformation in it by introducing modern ways and means if those people were in Karachi amd exposed to change and the political landscapes. Nevertheless, if it was important to eliminate the State, those people should have conditioned the merging of the Hunza State with Pakistan and demanded from Bhutto to provide so and so things to the people of Hunza, otherwise it was not acceptable.I added: “Some of you had personal disagreements with the Mirs and on the basis of them, the collective causes and interests of the public were seriously ruined by forming political groups in the name of people and chamcha parties and mobilized the people on the basis of emotion and not rationale.”
Merits of the Hunza State
We need to understand and/or accept that one of the striking merits of the Hunza State’s period was that the decisions about conflicts were carreid out by the Mir and his courtiers if something was of a serius nature.Otherwise, issues of relatively smaller nature were resolved at the grasssroots level by the head and council of elders of the village.
Whenever, any border dispute emerged, negotiation on them remained between the representatives of Hunza and China and not from somewhere else from Punjab, Khybar-Pukhtunkhwa or any other province of Pakistan. Our rulres and elders would take up the states of affairs concerning Hunza State and that is why the decisions had high level of importance adn people would own them.
Today, we have become a worst slave of Pakistan and if someone disagrees with me on this point, they are the hypocrites.Never my ancestors have taken any part in their movement, nor my ancestors have joined Jinah, Liaqat Ali Khan or others in the freedom movement of India and Pakistan. We the people of Gilgit-Baltistan Region and Kashmir are separate but disputed regions. We are illegally connected with the country. We are being administered by Pakistan and India but we are not legally part of them. We are like the abandoned baby.We cannot term ourselves to be part of the country. We don’t have any status defined so far.
I know that some people would be annoyed and would argue ridiculously that I’ve the CNIC of Pakistan. Come on! The Indians had also The CNIC during the British period. I would tell them to avoid such arguements lest I’d burn my CNIC. If I was then asked about it, I’d tell them that I’m not a Pakistani in legal term, rather am a Gilgit-Baltastani but such ignorant people make us mad.
Voluntary Activities at Passu Level
After getting my Masters degree from Karachi University, I planned to returned to the village.It was in 1983, a project of AKRSP had been given to Pasu by the then General Manager and his team. We had over five thousand kanals of barren land at Jonabad they needed to be brought under cultivation.
Before the time of our ancestors Spicher rather Sirang Muhammad, and after Mir Shoh Silum Khon, seven irrigation channels had been constructed to irrigate the Jonabad barrenland of Passu. The source of water being Bũt̃ũr yaz (corrupted as Batura glacier). The reason for the series of these channels were the upward and downward movement of the glacier. It indicates that at that time the Batura glacier has positioned itself in front of Zarkhon (a place above Jonabod), as at that time Shohbod of Abdulloh Khon has been settled. The Passu glacier has also been above Ghaypar (a place above Borit) and the Batura glaicer has also been at the level of Zarkhon perhpas before 1860. This place, Zarkhon, is an ancient settlement as the bottoms of the trees still exist.With the course of time, perhaps in the first quarter of 1900s, the glaciers like Batura and Passu started receding.
The glaciers in Shimshal such as those of Khurdhopin and Verzhrav are evidended to have been so much disastrous to the downstream settlements in 1950 and 1960. Both of the glaciers of Khurdhopin and Verzhrav have collided together. Consequently, a big glacial lake has emerged behind in the upstream (as there is reportedly a spacious tract of land).I can witness the last devastating incidence of Verzhrav outburst. When my mother would take me to the school along side the Hunza River, it was that much that it sounded it would mount to our field (which was so high before this incidence from the river bed. The GLOF would perhaps outburst in teh month of June, which is the peak of the season. Once, teh lake would get burst, it would destroy the settlements in teh downstreams such as Passu, Hussaini, Gulmit, and the like. It was perhaps in 1969 when teh last Verzhrav glaiceer had got teh outburst and my mother would take me to teh Passu school during my childhood.
Now, let me come to the point. When the project of Jonabod settlement project was approved by AKRSP for the Passu village organization,I had also took part in it in the beginning when I had come to Passu in an interval from Karachi.Our fathers and grandfathers were taking part in the project so enthusiastically that in the name of Mawla they were constructing the irrigation channel.They had such a strong faith they would say: “We don’t need the land, we don’t need anything else. For us, the directives of our Imam of the Time is above all.We would thus construct the channel at any cost.”
Our elders, without doubt, had so great and clean intent. That’s why with a high spirit they started the great venture in the form of the irrigation project.As I mentioned above, from the time of Mir Shah Silum Khan to Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan, seven irrigation channels had been constructed for this place but all of them remained unsuccessful.The main reason was the glacial movement of Batura, which would go down from its actual limit or surface. Today, the glacier has receded significantly and regressing to a place called Jarg̃has̃h. Roughly, it could be estimated to receded 3 kilometers from its last position near the KKH.The receding movement continues.
In brief, Jonabod irrigation project proved successful. From 1985 onward, the irrigation of the barren land started. The land was distributed among the inhabitants.The unsettled and barren-land of five thousand kanal was thus brought under irrigation.Each household thus begin developing their pieces of land and a huge plantation was made.
Ahmad Karim and Abdul Rasheed were the President and Secretary respectively of the Passu Village Organization (PVO).when I returned to Passu in 1988, I was chosen as the Secretary of PVO and Arbob Jalil was the President.
Before PDO, I was the founding President of Passu Students Association (PSA). When we were in Karachi, some of us from Passu gathered , discussed the idea with the students studying in the colleges and schools and finally PSA was founded in Karachi in 1987. Resultantly, other villages also followed us. It’s significant to note that by now the PSA has been functioning greatly and with a high zeal and zest. A lot of successful stories PSA has. Some of them include integration of the students to deal with their genuine issues in addition to the events organizations in the cultural realm, sports such as the cricket, which was introduced in Gojal by this organization. Even, one could see, the huge sports ground that has been made in Jonabod and that is unique in the whole of Hunza. Our youth also thinks to bring this ground at par with the national level stadium after discussion with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
When I began my career in 1988, it was not that much possible to spare for the voluntary services. Nonetheless, whenever I got time I’d contribute my part for different organizations as WTCA was one of them.
Besides, we have also a village level forum named as Passu Reform Pannel (PRP), which would initially work with the name of Passu Committee or so. We replaced teh name with PRP. This forum is broadly responsible for the village level issues and their management related to various types of conflicts, livestock, pasturelands, rituals, events, ceremonies, and the like. PRP is composed on the members from all clan groups.Formation this forum was felt due to the emerging challenges to the community in line with pasture management and the like.
With the course of time, we also felt for the need of an overall organization like a local NGO, which should be registered with the Government under Company Act so to deal with the challenges of funding and so on. Consequently, Passu Development Organization (PDO) was formed and legally registered with the Government by the end of the second half of 1990s. Zafar Iqbal was thus the founding Chairman of PDO and I as its founding General Secretary. After a long break in the middle, I was chosen its Vice Chairman and within my limited capacity, I’ve been trying my level best to contribute a bit. Ali Ahmad is the Chairman of PDO.
In addition, I also worked voluntarily with the Society, responsible for the issues related with land development and agriculture of the village. It also looks at the potentials of mines and minerals . It deals with the inter-village boundaries to carefully delineate the village borders in historical and legal terms because Passu borders with Khayber, Ghulkin, Hussaini and Shimshal valley .With Ghulkin, Passu borders with the Upper Borit, as Shobod belonged to Abdulloh Khon son of Mir Silum Khan.I don’t know whether or not Abdul Amon of Ghulkin has given Shobod to his community, as it’s disputed between them. I heard that General Salman Ali has reportedly claimed that Sholamol doesnt belong to the people of Sisuni but rather in the possession of their ancestor. We thought if so, it’s up to them, though there is also claim on that area by the people of Passu and Sisuni. But these days youth doesn’t care of the sensitivities and like to look for the legalities as was experienced by the people of Gulmit and Shishkat. So, we do work on on confict management and resolution. Such kind of voluntary engagements are thankless jobs. Nonetheless, we need to contribute within our limited capacities.
I’ve also worked with different committees such as Project Follow-up Committee that works under PDO. The ttask of this Committee is to frame the projects around the irrigation channels, link roads, or pony treks, river protective barriers, and the like. Moreover, I have also served as a Member of the Board of Governors of Passu Higher Secondary School (funded and supported by the Government of Japan. These were some of my activities within the voluntary capacity.
Well, let me revert to the Jonabod settlement, once again. It was initially divided among the community members on the facilitation of AKRSP in different categories:
1. Orchard area (where each household got eight kanals of land),
2. Housing area (where families constructed their houses),
3. Commercial area along the KKH, where the families could continue with their businesses.
The commercial area was equally divided among the families around the KKH so they should not claim that some people got land along the road and others got deprived of it. From the PTL (Passu Tourist Lodge) down, the land therefore got divided among them coming to the C̃hukg̃har area. The land distribution was ensure through teh toss system.
It is noteworthy that for the last many generations, Passu has already a separate but large tract of barren land at upper Nobod that is specifically devoted to the collective graveyard where people are burried for a long time. in the context of Jonabod, I suggested to the community that Zarkhon should not be brought in use for the purpose of collective graveyard which, is a historical and wonderful settlement of the old time. Literally, Zar means “gold” in Persian and Khon means the “ Chief.” The evidences and remnants are found up at Zarkhon, which could be of the indigenous and Kirghiz people during the time of Zarin-e Lup G̃har. Likewise, such graves are also found in Yũnz̃ and Tẽpeskin of Passu.
As the oral narratives inform us that the ancestor of Qũli clan of Passu has come from Allai of Central Asia, it’s possible that, being Kirghiz, they had their residential area above at Zarkhon. However, to what extent our ancestors were Kirghiz could be explored further as our facial expressions do not match much with the Kirghiz but the Qũba clan of Passu resemble more with Kirghiz people. It’s possible they have been above and today’s Qũba Kũtor are the descendants of those Kirghiz people of the past living at such places.
Due to the security reasons, the people of the past would opt to dwell at the high altitude places like zarkhon. At Yũnz̃, some people of the village have opened the graves and found gold, silver and the like burreid with the dead bodies. For instance, once, I went to Amonuddin son of Shahabuddin and requested him to show me the relics found out of the graves at Yũnz̃. He is a bit rigid and didn’t accept initially but one day he showed them to me. When he opened the cloth, I saw them and it reminded me of the Kalash valley of Chitral like Bamburet where the dead bodies were burrried along with their precious stuffs. I saw the ringlets, garland (perg), gold, silver, even the hairs, and the like.
What I want to say that such places are historic. I therefore warned our people in a condolence house and said not to make mistake and convert the Zarkhon into a cemetery because the place is so beautiful and historic. It’s possible we could develop Zarkhon into something else. It’s noteworthy that even the rooted spots of the trees do exist in addition to the cultivated terraces.Zarkhon is thus an excellent place. This is easily accessible from Jonabod. However, it indicates the people were not nomadic but settled or sedentary.
As I mentioned above that seven times, the irrigation channels have been constructed but they failed. From 1980s onward, the channel is so successful that the new settlement of Jonabod emerged impressibely. Presently, we explore the means and ways to construct irrigation channels for the other barren lands of Tẽpopdan and entire Khuramabod. It’s so important that these barrenlands should be brought under irrigation and the ownership of the community will be stronger.
Formation and Function of Wakhi Tajik Cultural Association
Some genuine conditionalities of politics that surrounded us in historical context, our people could be seen living in a suffocating environment during the time of the Great Game of the Imperial Powers and particularly during the period of socialist regimes in China and the USSR. Before its dissolution, Soviet Union had its own restricted rules for the ethno-linguistic communities regarding their interactions with their kinsperson living outside their political boundaries. In China, during the Mao Zi Dung’s period, there was the rigid political environment as we could evidence today in North Korea. The ethno-linguistic communities living under these socialist countries such as the Tajik/Pamiri and Turkic , were restricted regarding their interaction with their families and kinspersons across the borders. With the course of time, the situation got changed.
Construction of the KKH was a landmark project and it got its formal opening in 1978.This great highway was opened for tourists coming from China to Pakistan and going to China from Pakistan in 1985. Consequently, our people of Hunza and Gilgit-Baltistan Region began to expose to the new world in diferent contexts. On the other, the former Soviet Union was also near us but after the fall of Soviet Union, Tajikistan and other newly emerged republics came on the radar of the globe in the beginning of 1990s. Afghanistan is also a good example before us when there were the Russo-Afghan wars continuing for a decade or so after 1979.But, things got changed in positive and negative contexts, especially after withdrawal of the USSR.
When our vallyes got exposed after inauguration of KKH, we could realize where we were living. On the other, the electronic media like Radio Pakistan was started in Gilgit. S̃hina and Burushaski languages had already got voices in it. Our people also felt it so to look for the representation of Wakhi language in the Radio Pakistan, because our people also lived in Afghanistan, China and Central Asia, though they lived in Hunza, Ghizer and Chitral districts in the northern Pakistan.
When I was studying in Karachi University, late Master Haqiqat Ali of Passu developed and published his first ever Wakhi Primer in 1985 based on the Latin script as he worked literally as a research assistant with a German linguist named Georg Budruss. Prior to this publication, our Wakhi youth of the time based in Karachi through Gojal Ismaili Students Union (GISU), Karachi had published a magazine in 1979, in which some Wakhi folksongs were also published based on Arabicized script. Ahmad Jami Sakhi of Passu was the Editor of the magazine.
In the 1990s, Beate Reinhold of Germany was conducting her PhD fielwork on Wakhi language and living with our family. In the same manner, there were Dr. Hermann Kreutzmann who was living in Gulmit with brother Ghulamuddin and family. Similarly, Peter Backstrom and Carla Radloff of United States had conducted their linguistic studies in Gilgit-Baltistan, which also included Wakhi language and a thick book on the subjecg matter was published in 1992 by National Institute of Pakistan Studies. The book entitled Socio-Linguistic Survey of the Northern Pakistan and the soft copy is available on the Internet. Such thus enormous contribution with regard to providing proper information regarding the Wakhi people out of Pakistan that strengthened the conception of the formation of WTCA. What I think that we should not take all the credit ourselves but rather such international scholars and researchers had also their guidance to us.
Just look at the Roman Wakhi scripts, which the international linguists have developed. Most of us learned about availability of those scripts very late that are connected with Lorimer, George Budruss, Pakhaliina, Kamensky, Grunberg , and the like. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, our valleys started to expose and we began to know about our people. If there was no collapse of the Soviet Union, it might have taken further time for us to know about our people around.
To reiterate, I had returned to Passu after doing my Master’s degree from Karachi University in 1988. Keeping in view the new circumstances, a strong feeling had already emerged among the educated people like us to do something for the Wakhi language promotion. Brother Ghulamuddin was always available for the voluntary ventures as he had his past experiences and contributions in leading varius organizations such as Aga Khan Education Board for Hunza which he had served as the Chairman.
After doing his Masters earlier than me from Karachi University, Nayat karim of Gulmit was serving the Family Planning Asssociation Pakistan (FPAP), Gilgit office. We would often meet and discuss such related issues of the community. We need to understand that There are few people who initially meet and discuss and mobilize the people around a special cause and mission. It’s not necessary that all people gather and immediately come on the same page. Nor we need to expect from all to contribute in the same manner as we do.
It’s true that when sincere, honest and dedicated people gather, a high level of credibility comes up for the cause of any venture. For such purposes, we would go to Gulmit , have seatings and discussions on the issue of a collective forum. At that time, Gulmit Youth Organization (GYO), was a new but proactive organization in the second half of 1980s and through this forum we would push them to call varius meetings and conferences on the Wakhi language.Series of meetings and conferences had been convened on teh subjec matter and the final grand meeting was in my house in November 1991 where the prominant Wakhi figures and youth had gatehred. Reflecting on the past meetings and conferences,the consensus-based forum named as Wakhi Tajik Cultural Association (WTCA) was finally brought in existance in order to safeguard and promote the Wakhi language and culture within the new era with its own requirements and strategies. The office bearers were taken to initiate and sustain the noble causes of the first ever but representative forum of the Wakhi community.
Based on the merit of the time, Late Brother Ghulamuddin of Gulmit was chosen as the President, I myself as the Vice President, Muhammad Rahbar of Gulmit as the General Secretary, Fazal Amin Beg of Gulmit as the Joint Secretary, and Aslam of Sisuni as the Finance Secretary. Keeping in view the composition of the office bearers, some people may think that how come most of them were taken from one village. The rationales behind were highly convincing that because the villages of Gojal (from Shishkat to Chipursan) are so scattered if, for instance, the General and Joint Secretaries were taken from other villages could they be able to meet constantly to discuss the issues pertaining to the office in time? No, even it was not possible at that time as personal cars were not with them, which we witness at present. Moreover, it was a voluntary work. Those who had the capacity or could spare time, energy and knowledge for the collective cause had to be prefered and this holds true in today’s context. Third, the team of office bearers , particuarly President and General Secretary plus Joint Secretary, have to be on one page most of the time to mobilize the people and resources. We had thus a great team of office bearers and cabinet members.
If I rmember correctly, the Central Executive Committee (CEC) of WTCA composed of members from diffrent villages an valleys. They included Muhammad Tahir from Shishkat; Ghulam Baig, Amir Hayat, Muzaffaruddin and Arab Khan from Gulmit; Muhammad Ramzan from Ghulkin; Muhabat Shah from Shimshal; Farman Baig from Khaybar; Qurban Muhammad from Murkhun; Hajat Muhammad from Jamalabad; Ghulam Rasul from Sost; and Asmatullah Mushfiq and Ehsan Ali Ehsan from Chipursan.
It was so unfortunate that late Master Haqiqat Ali, a great initiator and contributor of Wakhi language and culture, suddenly passed away in 1992 after formation of this organization. It was thus in this connection, WTCA organized its first ever event with the reference program of late Haqiqat Ali on his 40th day of the death ritual.It was held in the house of late Fazal Ali. I was a compare of the Reference Program. Brother Ghulamuddin, Asmatulah Mushfiq, Zafar Iqbal, Ghulam Muhammad, Muhammad Rahbar, Ibrahim Khan Khalil, Hajat Muhammad, Qurban Muhammad, Muhammad Ramzan, Fazal Amin Beg and other speakers addressed the audience where people from Gilgit to Chipursan had gathered.
In the 1990s, when brother Ghulamuddin was the President,our cabinet members and the whole community took the activities of WTCA so serious and contributed enormously. One of the reasons was a new way of cultural environment that included poetry, performance arts in the huge gatherings, poetic sessions organized at various places of Gojal, providing space forr Wakhi language in the Radio Pakistan Gilgit, and the like.
More particuarly, brother Ghulamuddin would travel to China especially after 1985, and he had his great contacts and relationships with the high ranking Chinese officials. Consequently, when the Chinese artists were invited in the international festivals organized by WTCA in close collaboration with the Aga Khan Cultural Services, Pakistan (AKCSP) where Ghulam Amin Beg was the Program Manager based in Gilgit and Ghulam Muhammad was the CEO based in Karachi, and especially Lok Virsa, Pakistan, which was led by Uxi Mufti as Executive Director.
Such linkages, collaboration and support in international festivals provided a great impetus, confidence and exposure to WTCA. This community organization thus boomed up at various scales in organizing and collaborating at high level programs. Though, there were some cultural forums of other languages like Burushaski, Shina, Balti or others, they were not that much exposed and had not such level of credibility at Government level. The actual pathway in cultural development as a whole was shown by WTCA. Consequently, people got mobilized.
WTCA’s programs impacted other language communities in the entire Hunza and also in Gilgit, especially when the Chinese Wakhi professional artists arrived on the scene such as Laili and Saltanat.This also encouraged the Wakhi community members and that started taking a pride of their language. Otherwise, could one imagine to sing in Wakhi in the old cultural environment of Hunza? Not at all.
It was unfortunate to note that singing in Wakhi was being discouraged and depreciated in the recent past before inception of WTCA. As a result, our people would feel shy and humiliation. Instead, the people would appreciate to sing the devotional songs, particuarly in Persian. People would laugh upon those who would sing in Wakhi. When WTCA took such great initiatives, the people re-directed their path from the Persian and other languages. Even, Burushaski had its deep influence on our languages for being the language of the ruling class, particularly the Mirs.When someone would speak at that time in Burushaski, we would get inspired and think him as lucky and sharp: for instance, in today’s context English and Urdu have such influence on our languages.
Speaking in Burushaski was considered as a sign of prestige.Those who were near the Mir and would speak in Burushaski, they were highly regarded despite the fact some of the Mirs also talked in Wakhi such as Mir Nazim Khan whose mother was a Wakhi speaker herself (dauther of Lugh of Gulmit). Besides, Ayash Khan son of Mir Ghazan Khanwould also speak in Wakhias he was fostered in Gulmit by Arbob Gohar Hayot and family. Similarly, Ghazi Johar son of Mir Nazim Khan, an extraordinary gentleman, would also speak in WakhiOn the contrary, Group Captain Shah Khan son of Mir Nazim Khan , like others, was also fostered in Gulmit, but he won’t speak or hesitate to spaek in Wakhi.
Moreover, there was a national level program on Pakistan television in 1989.And the program became famous with the name as “Music 89.” In this program, Ali Aman Gojali of Gulmit, for the first time sang a Wakhi song and it had its greater and positive impact on our people and they begin to think that our language has a value. Had dressed himself in a typical Wakhi costume. Looking at him while singing in Wakhi, I personally felt a great pride.
Let me comment a bit heere. Whether or not people like Ali Aman Gojali or the Bulbulik Heritage Center (BHC) of Gulmit for their parochial approaches,they have a big contribution to our culture and language. For instance, by the way, I switched on to ARY Mucis Channel and with a great wonder I found and watched a Wakhi song presented by the well dressed artists of BHC . The music has been composed by the artists the poetry was of Nazir Ahmad Bulbul. Looking and observing them, I was so much touched and happy , indeed.I thus reflected on our past conditions for a while. The rapid progress in such a manner then gives us a real pride on the talents that our youth possess.
We are poets and we might possess some jealousy for each other but the wonderful performance of Bulbulik Center impressed me enormously. I enjoyed it, too. The recording was also so much of a class, I think that was recorded by Coke Studio.Our family members also watched it with a great enthusiasm.
WTCA blessed not only the respective community in general but also encouraged many individual and groups to take initiatives to contribute towards the Wakhi cultural promotion in different ways. Among them are the poets on top for their best creativities as more than a hundred Wakhi poets are evidenced from Pakistan alone. They are followed then by the talented singers and musicians.Although, it’s not possible to mention names of all of them, it’s pertinent to highlight some of them based on their merit and they include Dawlat Wali Baig of Shimshal and IPPAC (Initiative for Promotion of Pamiri Arts and Culture), Shumol Band of Ghulkin (particularly my nephew Mu’aziz Shoh), Fazal Rahman Shirin Sado of Chipursan, Nazir Arman Baig of Ghulkin, Navid and group of Murkhun, Shahid ali Yakhsuz and Safar Muhammad Afghan of Ishkoman, Safar Muhammad Tojik of burughel (Chitral), and many more who through their creative music composition and singing has been contributing towards promotion of Wakhi culture at diferent levels.It’s also worth mentioning and soothing that the female singers are coming up with a high confidence. Among them are Zahida Parveen, Razia, Almas Iman, Yasmeen Zaman, and so on. It’s hoped that the female artists would intensify thier artistic skills robustly and take the lead role in the field of education and performing arts in more profesoinal manner in the near future.
What I want to say that the music and the like gives us a prideful identity. Someone believes me or not, the Lok Virsa, Islamabad is filled and dominated by Wakhi pictures and songs. I was so happy and surprised to observe the phenomena and felt a real pride.Otherwise, people around our environment would underestimate and insult our language.We must of proud of our cultural and lingual identity.
The WTCA thus changed the trend of the people around us. Its contributions therefore needs to be disseminated to various stakeholders.The Bulbulik Center of Gulmit itself is because of WTCA. To what extent, they acknowledge it is upon the perception of them. However, I made it clear to them when I was chairing a program of Bulbulik Heritage Center that when there was a sense of deprivation and disappointment in the 1980s, WTCA addressed it genuinely in the 1990s and 2000s.
Today, Bulbulik Center has taken the music component, the pictures of the event you have included in your proposal to the US AID and you won the grant for the collective cause. This is pride for us. They thus agreed it. It’s not something hidden from the people. In a proposal, you try to justify that why you are going to apply for the grant? It then requires rationales with evidence. Images in proof have to be shown to the donors. When they have shown the evidences, the donors got convinced. It’s other thing that BHC caught and cashed it.
Abuzar Ali as the President and other office bearers also contributed significantly to WTCA within their limited capacity, in which I myself was away for a long time due to our professional commitments. For instance, the events they have organized in 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2014 and the like have been so significant.
I must mention here that the events organized in the 1990s had their own energism, requirement and approaches. Each time comes up with its own challenges and opportunities. We should therefore not expect that what had been contributed earlier should be at present. We need to focus on and seize the opportunities that we could do in the contempoarry context. The mega level events organization may not be possible but at micro level they could be organized. WTCA needs to be enlivened as it’s the only binding force of the Wakhi community in Pakistan and represents the whole of the Wakhi Tajik across the where the respective communities live.
Although, Rai Ghulamuddin was not academically of a high level, his vision was clear in leadership.In contrast, when observed, we have acquired high levels of degrees such as masters, M. Phil and PhDs. But what is the need of such accomplishments when we are confined within our own webs.
There are popular speculations around that Wakhi language, like others, would vanish from the world in the upcoming decades. I don’t agree much with this notion.Those who say so are going to disappear themselves. They need to first properly survey the languages and the speakers. Those who are experts, researchers or the linguists show their concerns about them, they should first survey the language population. How much literatures including poetries, prose and the like have been produced in different languages.Those speculating so have to see and evaluate them. In presence of such volumes of literatures, if the languages disappear, they need to identify the reasons that why would they face such consequence of mortality.
Among the native community, for instance, when I look at Fazal Amin Beg’s collections and documentation , I become so much encouraged and optimistic that our language won’t vanish. This is just one example and there are so many among the Wakhi community language researchers and activists.In Tajikistan, the native scholars are working on Wakhi; in the same manner, in Afghanistan and China. Contextually, in Pakistan, books of poetries and prose are being published as could be seen of Nazir Ahmad Bulbul, Karim Khan Saka, Amanullah Maad and others.
Besides, website based publications are also evident of various Wakhi initiators including www.fazalamin.com of Fazal Amin Beg, www.wakhi.org of Pamir Media Group, (led by Ejaz Karim), and other contributors. Besides, various blogs of Wakhi individuals are seen proactive in the digital world such as those of Ali Rahmat Musofir, Rahim Khan, PamirTimes and many others.Many individuals and social media groups (including FaceBook, What’s App and YouTube channels) are also proactive in this regard. More particuarly, the young generations , taking a positive pride of their language , havebeen contributing in speaking thier mother tongue and cartoons are being dubbed in Wakhi. These are teh postive moves and we need to appreciate them sincerely so they are encouraged to come up with further refinement and advancement in their creativities according to the desired needs and accomplishements.
Even, I’m also optimistic about Burushaski, S̃hina, Balti and Khowar languages of Gilgit-Baltistan that they would also not disappear, though Dumaaki language is at a risk of extinction because there are some people left who speak this language.In other words, I’d say that this language is at the verge of extinction,because no proper work has been carried out on this language by the native people themselves. On the other, their number of population is also so much shrinked and I think they have over 200 speakers left out, who actually speak it, though their population is in few thousand.
At present, we are confident for the preservation and promotion of Wakhi language.If there was no WTCA, no other related organizations, no other related native and foreign researchers or the hosts of poets and their poetries, no Wakhi songs and their singers, the music and professional musicians (like those of Bũlbũlik Center of Gulmit and abroad), no enthusiastic native speakers, the encouraging youth and the young generations not taking a pride of their mother tongue, we could then anticipate and predict the death of Wakhi language, at least in the context of Pakistan. But, it’s on the opposite when looked on the ground realities. At least in the northern Pakistan, Wakhi language would get preserved and promoted.
About the Chinese Wakhi, I cannot say anything as China has its own conditionalities and politically sensitive realities. It has set a kind of standards, especially moving towards more economic greed than the need.If the conditions continued, it’s possible the Wakhi people of China would lose their mother tongue. We can hope and trust the Wakhi people of Tajikistan and Afghanistan would take up and sustain the good tradition of their language.
Furthermore, once, the political situation of Pakistan and Afghanistan gets improved and our borders are opened, it’s possible to have our restored relationship and the languages of small population like Wakhi and other would get access to each other and exchange on the states of affairs for the promotion of their mother tongues.
What we could do, as I propose, that the Wakhi cultural centers (WCC)could be formed with the support and patronage of the respective governments in Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and Tajikistan so to look for the mutual cooperation in the future.
There should be cultural exchange among the wakhi at international scale so to assess teh states of affairs in a logical manner. What type of positive, legal and productive planning could bee made. This is highly important to be considered and need of the time in this period of globalization.
WTCA officials need to look for all possible and legal ways and means and convene time to time grand meetings to discuss such matters. Serious considerations are required to be taken as we have related experts on various subject areas. In addition, WTCA now needs clear reformation based on the decades long experiences and the highly educated people have to be brought together.
At community level, there could be a network of the cultural forums like Gojal Educational and Cultural Association (GECA) Bulbulik Heritage Center (BHC), Ishkoman Wakhi Welfare Organization (IWWO), and others that should form a network with WTCA. Finally, there could be a network of WTCA across the countries wherever the Wakhi population lives. In this way, we could work for the preservation and promotion of the language. For instance, if the Wakhi language died out in other countries, it might then also die in Hunza. The logic is behind the decreased population or speakers. This will then lead towards decreased in the strength of the language.Overall, for instance, if there are currently over a hundred thousand Wakhi speakers, how to sustain the population will be a big question mark for the concerned people.
Well, in line with poetries, we are there to contribute our part but what is the future scope of WTCA? Where we need to link it? Whether or not with the CPEC, it has its genuine relationship? How to link it with China and Central Asia? Now, the routes are open and everyone visit the related countries. At a wider range,it should represent the Wakhi Tajik people.
Continues Ahead: Part 4 (Final)of the biography of Ali Qurban’s can be accessed and read on the following link of FAZALAMIN.COM:
Those who have missed the second part of the biography can get access to it on the following link:
Note: I owe my sincere appreciation and indebtedness to Mr. Niyyat Karim and Mr. Ghulam Amin Beg of Gulmit, Hunza, for their productive reflections and feedback after review of the whole draft of biography.
Second, I had conducted a detailed video interview with Ali Qurban around his biography and other topics in English, Urdu and Wakhi for my YouTube Channel named EaglesWorl. Those interested can access and watch them on the folloing link: