By Fazal Amin Beg
This study presents a holistic picture of the development and change from the people’s perspective in the mountain society of Hunza valley by taking the village of Ghulkin as a case and the AKRSP’s intervention year in the rural settlement  as a reference point. Development and changes are seen against different indicators within the social, economic, political, cultural and environmental realms. Beginning from a conceptual argument, the paper links it with the study locale. The paper gives a historical background to the settlement in addition with the etymological interpretations of the locale’s toponym. The study then explores and finds the grave societal situations before and gives accounts of development after 1983 when for the first time Aga Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP) enters in the village and leaves its landmark effects on peoples’ minds,and development. It finds a significant change in the quality of life of the people, especially in the past 26 years when compared to situations before 1983. Many facets of this study could be generalized on the development and change in the regional contexts.
It was back in 2006 that Aga Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP) assigned me an official task to get some descriptions on development transformation on Ghulkin Khayber and Khunzhrav Villagers Organization (KVO) in Hunza valley. AKRSP needed the stories in lesser than five pages per target community. This provided me a golden opportunity to explore and understand the communal issues and development in more and more depth. Consequently, purposes of both AKRSP and my own thirst on the subject were effectively served.
Based on the above, this detailed study I conducted in 2009 that had then already got published in 2009 and 2010 in the development journal (edited by Zulfiqar ali Khan) of Karakoram Area Development Organization (KADO), a renowned CSO in the Northern Pakistan. But KADO published this study in parts (keeping in view their set requirements and standards) and many readers did not get access to the second part whatsoever reason may be. However, one point was clear that there was desire for the whole study in one publication. After eight years, (in June 2018), I’m thus presenting and publishing the study in a whole here (comprises of over 40 pages) on this website. Hope it will provide a good opportunity for those interested to see and compare the societal changes ( in an evolutionary perspective) may get benefit out of this original contribution, because this study itself could stand as a reference point again on the target community.
If humankinds (and their interests) are the source of their society’s formation, it is then the humankinds themselves, who can determine, bring and manage change, and move ahead at individual and collective levels. There could be three ways of bringing societal change: internally motivated or forced; externally motivated or imposed; and/or the blend of the first and second approaches. Effective and sustained societal change could be brought only if changes come or are brought first in the human minds. Minds would accept the change only when they perceive the needs, get motivated and wish for the change. Without bringing change in human minds and/or stirring up the mindsets, societal change may not be more effective or sustainable because a society—whether a rural, urban or a blend of both— fosters diverse views and thoughts (supportive, opposing and latent) of its dwellers possessing different backgrounds and interests (e.g., familial, ethnical, lingual, religious, financial, political or otherwise). In such circumstances, around the diverse interests, the roles and functions of some social groups at different levels become very crucial who lead, guide, advise and represent their members on various options and directions.
This study is about a small but an impressive rural society, a village called Ghulkin of the Hunza valley in the Karakoram region. Ghulkin was previously unsettled by humans except for the existence of other biodiversities. For the first time, emigrants with different descent groups came here in varying periods from different geographical regions such as Central Asia and South Asia, specifically from today’s Afghanistan (Darwoz), Xinjiang (Sariqol), and Pakistan (Gilgit-Baltistan); and founded the settlement. One can imagine how the societal composition of different human entities would have shaped this settlement with the course of time. We can observe that since its inception how the apical ancestors of different descents groups engaged themselves in the developmental activities of their rural society by constructing the water channels, bridges and footpaths in the arduous terrains in absence of any adequate tools; in building their houses and developing/leveling the lands; raising the livestock and having transhumance; in cultivating crops and celebrating festivities and rituals; in regulating the society and representing their clans, in confronting each other and preventing/resolving conflicts, in having the corporate and forced laboring and so on.
In its history of not more than three hundred years (maximum 11 generations before], the Ghulkin society, like others in the valley, encountered with and witnessed different experiences and phenomena, critical and normal, and proceeded ahead (progressed). It is noteworthy that in order to see a societal development and change, it is necessary to have a reference-point/mark before us, against which we could measure adequately and logically the previous and post development cross and comparatively. In the context of Ghulkin (also entire Hunza), we find various events as reference points in historical perspective. For instance, 1824 CE: the first Ismali Mir (ruler), Silum Khan-III’s death and peoples’ conversion to Shi’a Ismaili faith; 1891: the British campaign against and occupation of the former princely states of Hunza and Nager; 1912: establishment of the first ever primary school in Hunza [Baltit] opened by the British-Indian government; 1921-22: visit of Agha Abdul Samad, His Highness Sir Sultan Muhamamd Shah, Aga Khan-III’s representative, to Hunza and China; 1940: the peoples of Gojal’s revolt (excluding Gulmit and Ghulkin) under Arbob Adob Khon of Passu against the injustices in the chiefdom and demands for reduction in taxes; 1946: establishment of the Diamond Jubilee schools in Hunza by His Highness, Aga Khan-III; 1960: the visit of the first ever Imam of the Ismaili community, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, to Hunza; 1974: the abolition of the Principality of Hunza by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto; 1978: the opening up of the Karakoram Highway (KKH); 1983: the development intervention of the Aga Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP) in the village of Ghulkin; and the like.
Many options were there to take any of the important turning-point in the regional context, but when we focus on the village of Ghulkin, it becomes more pertinent and logical to take the AKRSP’s intervention year (1983) as a reference-point, which proved both internal and external motivation source for the community to bring societal change. Second, comparatively, post-AKRSP intervention year in all its history could be observed as an “era of rapid societal development and change” in the village as well as in the region. Some critics may argue that it was either the KKH or abolition of the princely state that brought change in the region and the regional change affected in the village’s development. I would partially agree with them; but we cannot give the sole credit to either the road-communication (KKH) or the abolition of the state. If we try to give entire credit to the KKH, then why is there not that much change or development in the rural societies of those areas (in the south) where from the KKH passes through such as Hazara division, Besham, Kohistan, Chilas and even in Glilgit? If one argues or gives sole credit to the abolition of the princely state of Hunza, then why didn’t the change came up swiftly within those principalities that were abolished in the same period in different parts of Pakistan?
This paper is an attempt to explore and find out the internal and external forces of motivations of development, and the lessons learnt out of confrontations among different social entities that lead to the societal change in Ghulkin, Hunza valley, keeping in view the AKRSP’s intervention year in the settlement (1983) as a reference-point.
2. An Account about the Locale
Ghulkin, a village of Lower Gojal , is situated on the west of the Hunza River in the Karakoram. The village is entrapped naturally by and between the glaciers and glaciers’ streams: to the north by Ghulkin-Hussaini glacier, and to the south by Gulmit glacier. Within the main settlement, Ghulkin is bifurcated by the Rawd, water emanating in the spring season from the glacier and flowing from the middle of the settlement. To the West of Rawd are Suru Diyor (Upper village) and Pastu Diyor (Lower village); to the South lies the Abdulloh Khon-e Shawaran (polo-ground of Abdullah Khan) and Chunum, snout of the village. To the East and Northeast of the Rawd are Matur Kits and Nachirey Diyor. Besides, there are also the sub-villages named as Ẓ̌uy Ṣ̌ix̌ (the lake area), Suru Jingal (Upper Jangle), Pastu Jingal (Lower Jangle), Chatghust and Ghushtik Bushay that lie in the south, east and northeast of the main village respectively.
The link road of the village from the Karakoram Highway (KKH), is almost 142 kilometers away from Gilgit city. The village is then accessed through its linked road by ascending further 3 km from the KKH at Ghushtik Bushay—currently not a communal residential area but future’s commercial center of the village. Ghustik Bushay is that particular place on the KKH where the land of Serena Hotel was bought by Prince Amyn Muhammad, Aga Khan, in 1989 and the hotel is expected to be constructed in the future.
There are currently (in September 2009) 153 households in the village with a population of 1185 individuals. According to a conservative calculation, the literary rate of the village is above 75% while 100% of the children (male and female) do attend the three types of schools: Diamond Jubilee (DJ) middle school, government primary school, and Nasir Khusraw Model Academy. In addition, religious education is also given to the students in the religious centers. Ghulkin has also an attractive jamatkhana (prayer-hall). The government has facilitated the village with a basic health facility, a first-aid post.
The language spoken in the village is Wakhi—a language of the old Eastern Iranian Stock within the Pamiri group. All community members presently speak the same language and have same religious affinity, being the Shia Ismailis, but it is interesting to note that the social environment of the village is further composed of and colored by different descent groups and ethnicities coming from different regions and localities.
Population-wise, there are two big descent-groups in the village called Busing Ktor having 79 households and Nakhchirey comprised on 45 households. The apical ancestor of the former was Khoja Ahmadi Busing who is said to have come from Darwoz (Darwozi speaker); while the apical ancestor of Nakhchirey, named Palwon Zanchi, immigrated to Ghulkin from the Shigar valley of Baltistan (a Balti speaker). The Busing descent group has three sub-clans known as Bakht Ktor (37 households), Qerghez Ktor (22 households) and Cheqer Ktor (20 households). The Nachirey clan has four sub-groups named as Khalifa Ktor, Qurbon Shoh Ktor, Dinor Ktor (also as Shor Ktor) and Mamusing Ktor.
Four other descent groups, came in the village from different regions, have allied with the two sub-clans of Busing: Bakht Ktor and Qirghez Ktor. These allied clans are called Buduley (also called Budul Ktor: 13 households), Abdullah Khan Kuts (4 households), Matur Kuts (8 households), and Shotman Kuts (4 households) within Maltashey . The apical ancestor of Buduley or Budul clan is said to have come to Gulmit from the Chaprot valley in Nager; and then two brothers, named Khuram Shoh and Bodur Shoh were settled in Ghulkin. The apical ancestor of Abdullah Khan s/o Mir Silum Khan-III was Ayashum Ayasho [Shoh Khon] who has been brought from Darwoz of Afghanistan in order to rule the Hunza State. The apical ancestor of Matur Kuts (or Matur Kitsik), named Yighul Matur, has emigrated from Tung of Sariqol to Tashkurghan [both places in Xinjiang], and from Tashkurghan to Chipursan and then finally he settled at Ghulkin. The ancestor of Shotman Kuts has come to Ghulkin from Manich of Yasin Valley. This descent group also links itself, paternally or maternally, with the Diramting tribe of Baltit.
All these clans and sub-clans thus do maintain covert and overt roles and function, which give them a pride, prominence and identity in their society. On the other, they also significantly influence and dominate the societal development in Ghulkin.
Politically, besides a small number of neutral group, there are two strong groups affiliated with the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Ghulkin has a union councilor represented in the respective union council for Lower Gojal.
Above all, there are numerous voluntary setups whereby hundreds of volunteers work for the social, economical, religious, cultural and environmental development of their society. Significant among them are the village and women organizations (VWOs), local clergies (Mukhi, Kamarria, Khalifas), member of the Ismaili Council for Gulmit; Ghulkin Educational, Social Welfare and Nature’s Conservation Association (GESWNCA)—the umbrella organizations of the village, the uniformed volunteer groups of the Aga Khan Volunteer Corps, Boys Scout, Girls Guide, Board of Governors of the community school (Nasir-e Khusraw school), committees of other schools and so on.
2.1. The toponym and the etymological interpretation
After embracing Islam, a universal religion, it may be hard for some people to believe that any language spoken by the Muslim communities (whether by a majority or minority) could have escape the strong influence of Arabic—being the Qura’nic language. The evidence could be found in terms of Arabic vocabularies in the respective languages apart from Arabic narrations or recitations in their rituals at both marriage and funeral or in the daily prayers. Taken into accounts this phenomenon, the languages spoken in the Hunza valley or in Gilgit-Baltistan are of no exception. It is evidenced at least in the Wakhi language that there is a large number of Arabic vocabularies used in the normal life conversation, also in their topoynms after conversion to Islam. Examples could be seen in the context of Hunza such as Aliabad, Karimabad, Hyderabad, Murtazabad, Ahamdabad, Hussainabad, Hassanabd, Nazimabad, Rahimabad, Nasirabad, Khizrabad, Aminabad, Attabad et cetera. The only word, which is non-Arabic is these toponym is abad (correctly pronounced as obod in Farsi and Wakhi), which signifies “settlement.”
The two syllables toponym of Ghulkin is composed of compound words, ghul and kin. It depicts different meanings in different related languages; and they almost hold true contextually. As mentioned earlier, there is no aboriginal descent group in the settlement, rather they have historically come from different regions with different ethno-linguistic identities such as Pamri, Dardic, Burusho, Tibetan and Turks. It is noteworthy, however, that the academic exercises of the etymologies derived out and interpreted hereunder may not be termed final.
Ghul in Arabic means “giant”, “ogre” or “demon”; and kin/keen in Farsi means “rancor”, “spite”, and “revenge”. Both these coined words signify as “giant’s or ogre’s rancor or revenge.” In the folklores of the region, we often come across the stories of the giant, ogre or demons; and the tug-of-war and animosity between [the spirits versus humans or vice versa. In Ghulkin’s context, the folklores, narrated by the respondents, describe that when Khoja Ahmadi Busing, came for the first time in this village, he was along with his immediate family. Some respondents say: “Khoja Ahmadi controlled the evil- sprits such as giants, demons or ogres and involved them for the construction of the Ghulkin irrigation channel, which were seen at that time by the women of Busing’s family when they carried lunch at the construction venue.”
Second, kin in Farsi is also an abbreviation of “ki in” means “that (which is) this.” When ghul, as explained above, joins its second syllable, then Ghulkin gives meaning of “that, this is the giant or ogre or demon.” The land, when it was unsettled, could have been the “land of giants, ogres and demons.” The folklores are in abundance in this regard, as mentioned in the first interpretation.
Third, there is also another word in Arabic called “ghull” , which means “Iron collar”; “chains”; “yoke” ; and kin in Farsi for “rancor”, “spite”, “revenge” or “hostility”. In this way, the coined words of ghul-kin gives us meaning of “yoked or chained in revenge or rancor or spite.” When we look into the respondents’ narratives with regard to their societal evolution and development, it becomes clear that these heterogynous clans coming from different regions with different ethnicities got problem of recognizing each other’s existence. The strife could be observed from a historical account. The respondents narrate that because of the inter-clan tussles and strife in the village—and consequently to counter or balance the power, the opposite sub-clan of Nakhchirey called Qurbon Shoh Ktor, two brothers named Khuram Shoh and Bodur Shoh s/o Hassan Ali (five generations before) of the Budul clan were taken to Ghulkin from Gulmit on special request to the then Mir by the Bakht Ktor. This was done so because the siblings’ mother was from the Bakht Ktor of Ghulkin; and more particularly because the siblings’ paternal family was politically dominant, being the arbobs (headmen), in Gulmit (the second capital of the former principality). In brief, “Ghulkin” could therefore also mean “yoked or chained in [clan] rancor or revenge or strife”. The influence of clanism, as is for other villages of the region, too, could be observed even today.
Fourth (Wakhi-Wakhi): “Ghul” in Wakhi is for “group”, or “gathering in circular-form” too. When ghul combines with the second word kin (of Fars & Wakhi), it gives us the meaning as “group(s) in rancor, spite or revenge”. Connotatively, the explanations have been made above (in third) whether rancor, spite or revenge is among the evil-spirits or among the humans (inter-clans) or between the evil spirits and the humans. Furthermore, kin in Wakhi also means “whose”. In this manner, Ghul-kin means “Whose group.”
Fifth (Burushaski-Farsi/Wakhi): “Ghulk” in Burushaski (and also in Wakhi) means a “pond.” When ghulk joins the second part kin, then it means “pond of rancor, spite and revenge or animosity”.
Sixth (Burushaski-Burushaski): There is another Burushaski word khan [i.e., kan], which means “settlement”. In this way, Ghulk-khan gives us the meaning of “pond-like settlement”. The landscape of the main settlement of Ghulkin is like ghulk-khan.
Sixth (Burushaski-Burushaski): When in(e) of Burushaski meaning “his”, joins “ghulk”, then Ghulkin signifies as “his pond.”
Seven (Burushaski-Farsi): if the second syllable “in” of Farsi becomes prominent with the first syllable of Burushaski ghulk, then Ghulkin gives a sense as “This Pond.” Eight: when ghulk combines with the Wakhi kin (means “whose), then Ghulk-kin means “whose pond.”
3. Societal Pictures before and after AKRSP’s Intervention Year
The prevailing situations before and after the AKRRSP’s intervention year at Ghulkin are seen around different parameters, that clearly shows societal change from its previous state to the present.
3.1. Social Organization
Before the AKRSP’s intervention in the village, the people, like other societies, organized around their interests at the level of descent groups (families, lineages, clans) and village, besides their age-grade or friendship associations. The community would diverge on different issues, but for their communal interests, they converged again. Politically, the people would organize around the arbob (headman of the village, and performed their tasks at community level such as the involuntary or forced laboring (called ashar) in the fiefdom. There wasn’t however any adequate or truly representative platform whereby the whole community members could openly and democratically participate, express themselves and discuss their common issues.
When the AKRSP arrived in the village in 1983 that provided the community, for the first time, the collective forums in the form of village and women organizations (VWOs), as one of the community leaders expresses proudly:
“When the AKRSP began its development intervention in the village, it firstly started organizing the community around one platform each for male and female by forming the Village and Women WVO), in 1983 and 1984 respectively; and advised us to hold regular our weekly meetings, deposit and maintain our savings, openly discuss our common issues, and make effective and agreed resolutions to address those issues and challenges.”
A VO member says: “It was a time when the people had no money; and few people had seen the currency notes.” “We initially started our saving from half a rupee and one rupee only. While we had no money, we would sell eggs and save the money in our WO account”, a WO member describes.
Commenting on the previous socioeconomic conditions, another community leader describes: “Although, Ghulkin had a good reputation for its agricultural produce (specially faba-beans and barely) which also met the needs of the needy people in our village and other villages by lending the grains to them, but even then, I must say, the socioeconomic situation was worse, indeed.”
Composed of contrasted descent groups (related to the Caucasoid & Mongoloid races), the small society of Ghulkin (comprised on 83 households), the people at the grassroots level came encountered each other in the VO’s forum. Initially, it took time for the members to understand and accept each other’s views in a democratic way. Resultantly, confrontations on development emerged.
3.1.1. Confrontation among members on the first PPI to Ghulkin
After the formation of the VO, members discussed getting a Productive Physical Infrastructure (PPI) project from the AKRSP. Two proposals came up in the meetings. A minority group construction of the irrigation channel to a deserted-land in Chatghust; but majority of the members supported to construct the irrigation channel in Shohbod, an old settlement in Borit that had become desolate due to the cut-off and severe damage to the previous channel as a result of glacial movement.
This disagreement resulted an internal conflict in the VO. Under carpet of this issue were clan interests: Nakhchirey versus Busing Ktor and their allied clans. If the irrigation channel of Chat Ghust (belonging to Nachirey) was constructed, it would not benefit even half of the community; if Shohbod’s irrigation channel was constructed, it would benefit almost the entire community. The AKRSP therefore opted for the benefit of the majority. After a series of dialogue, the minority group grudgingly agreed. Soon, Shohbod’s irrigation canal was constructed and water began flowing to the desolate-land.
3.1.2. Completion of the first PPI and litigation on Shobod’s land
After bringing water to Shobod, the community of Hussaini, a neighboring village, immediately sued against Ghulkin community in the government’s court [in Gilgit] claiming ownership of this desolate-land. The litigation continued for several years but no result came out. In such circumstances, the Aga Khan Arbitration and Reconciliation Board (AKARB) within the Shia Ismaili Council for Gulmit intervened to settle this case outside of the government’s court. The volunteers of the AKARB and area’s notables with the help of representatives of both parities both villages however, successfully resolved the issue. The case was then drawn from the court where it hanged for many years without result.
3.2. Housing structure of the community
The Wakhi Pamiri housing structure is fascinating, which has different portions and platforms inside the house. Conventionally, there are four main portions of the traditional house named as Saroy, entrance, corridor and toilette portion; Kʉnj (kũnj), intermediary part between the main house and Sroy, also for keeping shoes; Xun [Khun], the main-house; and the γ̌anʒ (g̃hanz̃), treasury/store for cereals, flours, dairy and fruit products. The main-house has six platforms named as nʉsʉn-e raž (nũsũn-e razh), sleeping platform; jiča or ziča raž (jicha or zicha razh), infant’s or delivered-mother’s platform; kla raž (kẽla razh), sheep/goats platform; past-raž, lower-platform; nikard, sitting platform around the hearth; dildung, upper-platform of the hearth. Besides, there are other parts in the main house such as yorch, place of fire-woods (and also dance during wedding); č̣ikiṣ̌ (c̃hikis̃h), utensils’ place; yiri, place of bread-basket, pots of yeast and dough and so on. The main house stands on seven pillars and it has two big-holes for the light, air and smoke called ricn [ritsn]. On top of the roof, there remained a fruit-store called mara along with its terrace termed as bildi.
Although, the traditional Wakhi house is attractive, but one thing could be considered negative in today’s perspective as it had open toilet system, mostly located at the entrance of the houses. Normally, there was no bath-room system. Besides, the cattle-houses were also attached with the human houses. Such phenomena therefore openly invited diseases at all seasons to the humans. For the first time in Ghulkin, Ashraf Khan, then an employee of the Northern Areas Transport Corporations (NATCO), introduced the modern lavatory system in his house in 1976 and the community looked at it awkwardly.
After installation of the modern lavatory (flush system), the villagers looked at it skeptically. It was hard for them to believe in and accept the modern way of managing human-wastes. They thought “It was bad and would restrain the people in producing manures for the agricultural field.”, the respondents say..
Master Sultan Ali Samarqand, a great guru of educational development in Hunza, who also belonged to this village, tried to motivate the people to replace the old lavatory system by the modern, but the people commented that “Samarqand is detracted from the agricultural activities and he wants us to be like him,” describes a respondent.
After 1983, the community members began replacing their traditional lavatory system and also detached the cattle-houses from their houses. Workers of the Aga Khan Health Services, Pakistan (AKHSP) established its center in Gulmit in 1979, also contributed enormously with regard to hygienic issues and the lavatory. Presently, all houses in Ghulkin have the modern lavatory system with running tap water in the bathrooms. Furthermore, most of the people have also constructed additional rooms with bathrooms. The cattle-houses and pens are detached.
In the 1990s, Building and Construction Improvement Program (BACIP) within Planning and Building Service of AKDN began its experiments in the traditional houses in introducing the hatch-windows (on the roof), better lighting, and insulation system. Today, all traditional Wakhi houses, in the village vary in many respects from that of the previous period (before 1983).
3.3. Family, kinship and marriage system in the society
Hunza valley, like other regions, has a patriarchal society. Descent is traced through the male line. Basically, being agro-pastoralists, the family types in Ghulkin remained extended with an exception for some nuclear families. Mostly, clan-endogamy was preferred in the society, besides cousins’ marriages; though, some inter-clan and inter-village marriages also took place. One thing is significant to note that inter-clan marriages within or out of the village were also used as a tool for their effective and better human relationships.
Mate selection remained arranged and not on the basis of understanding or love between the expected conjugal partners. Levirate marriage, termed as haqdor, sorrorate marriage and polygyny (one’s wives called hambgh to each other) also remained in practice. No marriages out of their religion took place. Education of the expected partners wasn’t preferable (as there was no formal education system), rather wealth along with the partners’ personal character were other determinants. Marriages took place not only in teenage, rather before; and procreation of more children was encouraging.
Preparation of marriages would involve four to six days; and the time and day calculated by the khalifa, village clergy. On the last day, the wedding would take place. If marriages were between distant villages, the time consumption for travel was long in absence of any road and vehicle as the people would travel by riding horses and on-foot.
Before the era of Mir Nazim Khan (1891-1938), as some respondents describe, the musical instrument in Gojal mainly included flute (nay/tutek,gabi), tambourine (doriya or daf) and a kind of violin (sitor; ghizhek or also called as ghirzhek); and the womenfolk could also dance in the wedding. The three local musical instruments, the drums (dedang & damal) and pipe (surnay), were introduced and followed in the Wakhi society during Nazim Khan’s period.
The study witnesses that presently out of 153 households , nuclear families are increasing composing 47.8% of the households in Ghulkin; while the extended/joint family system comprises on 52.2%. (Vide family types below).
Table-1: Family types and houses of the descent groups in Ghulkin
No. Descent groups Sub-groups Nuclear families Extended/joint families Total
1. Busing Ktor Bakht Ktor 18 19 37
Qerghez Ktor 11 11 22
Cheqer Ktor 11 09 20
2. Allied groups of Busing Budul Ktor 07 06 13
3. Matur Kuts 04 04 08
4. Abdulloh Khon Kuts 03 01 04
5. Shotman Kuts 01 03 04
6. Nakhchirey 18 27 45
Total 73 80 153
Source: Author’s own survey through respondents, September, 2009.
The current preferences in mate-selection are more focused on the state of boys’ and girls’ educational qualifications, income and personal characters. The previously arranged and preferred endogamy (within cousins, clans or village) is losing position (though, still strong) in result of people’s more exposure to education and the media, especially the electronic. The expected conjugal-partners have presently more power in the decision-making processes than their parents or any other immediate family members. Marriages of consent, understanding and love between the expected life-partners are regarded while previously it was discouraged or viewed as awkward. Age-limit has been fixed procreation of more children is not encouraging rather most of the conjugal partners follow the modern family planning techniques and practices. A son’s birth is still strongly preferred as was prevalent before.
The traditional way of marriage arrangements of four to six days are also in practice, but a move is also witnessed, too. Instead of engaging the clan members or lineage groups for several days in cooking and preparing the traditional wedding dishes and the like, some people, who became better-off on the one hand; and gave up their livestock on the other, opted for the alternatives. This may lead towards ending of the old dependent social cooperative by giving food orders and arrangement in the restaurants/hotels. Second, if the marriages are between villages of long distance, the days travel is covered in hours by riding vehicles. The role and power of a khalifa, clergy at village level, has greatly reduced as compared to the previous time. Now a khalifa could be engaged only in few rites and ritual (such as wedding and death).
The traditional musical instruments are in use except for ghizek. In Gojal, there is a great dearth of ghizhek-player, as the only expert of the region in this field is Rahmat Ullah Baig (age: 60+) of Ghulkin. Besides, the modern musical instruments such as organ/piano and others have also entered in the local culture. The community also established a Scottish band in the village in 2008 during the period of the Golden Jubilee of His Highness, Shah Karim al-Husseini, the Aga Khan-VI. There are more than 60 members in this band group.
3.3.1. Role and importance of children
Child’s birth is very welcoming in the Wakhi society. More particularly when a son is born, parents and the family members and other relatives rejoice it by shooting fire in the air; and on birth of more daughters, the parents and the family members would not be pleased; and no question in air-shooting for the girls. The roles and responsibilities of children remained diverse. Like other agro-pastoral societies of the region, when the children grew up, they became helping hands to their parents and the large family (extended). As there was no education system at all, or no adequate education system in the village, the children extended their laboring in grazing cattle, goats and sheep; collecting and bringing fire-woods and dung; and performing other different tasks according to their capacities and gender. The children thus relieved their family members from a big chunk of workloads and saved enormous monetary resources in today’s term.
The previous roles and responsibilities of children according to their capacities and gender have drastically changed. From age 3, the children, girls and boys, are sent to pre-schools for getting early childhood education. They are now engaged with their schooling education; then they move ahead in colleges and universities. Realizing the importance of education, most of the parents in the village have given up rearing the sheep and goats; and also cut down the size of cattle, sheep and goats. A few children could be there who are involved in helping their parents in rearing the livestock while returning from their schools.
3.4. Gender roles, responsibilities and functions in the present context
As per norms and values, hard or heavy weighted tasks remained part of men in the Wakhi society including Ghulkin. A highlight of some of their tasks follows as carry out manures from the cattle-sheds to and cultivating/plowing the fields; irrigating the fields; watering forests and gardens; cutting forests/trees for timber and other purposes; carrying out forestation; breaking stones/boulders; building walls or houses; leveling the lands; carrying heavy loads on their backs (e.g., fire-woods, cereals et cetera); fighting in the battles.
Women’s roles and responsibilities mainly included cooking, washing, sweeping, rearing children, bringing fire-woods, grazing and caring the livestock, cleansing cereals, fetching water, and processing and preparing the dried-fruits and the dairy products, and so on. Within the households, a senior woman would perform as a manager to supervise and conduct the in-house affairs. In addition, there are some areas of work that may not be heavy and could be shared by both gender group.
Women were confined to their domestic chores, and had no say even in their personal decision-making processes. This could be evidenced at least in marriage engagements. Women got married when they were hardly 15 or 16 years old, rather even not reaching their teenage. Food of good quality was for the male members and low quality or even the leftovers were for the women. Wheat production was not in abundance, and in eating the wheat breads was an expensive thing. When some guests came in the house, the host would serve considerate wheat-breads to them; and then to the male members of the houses. In routine days, all gender group would eat faba-beans (baqla) in their houses. The people considered girls’ education (as it also held true for the boys education) awkward by saying that would the girls become a religious clergy (khalifa) or a clerk (munshi)? There were workloads on women, and in case of any negligence or otherwise, harsh behavior of the male members (or vice versa) was there. Some women of the village were compelled to get suicide. Divorce of women was relatively also high.
At present, all those tasks that involved physically (and also mentally) hard aspects were part of men as per norms and values. There is no change in this connection (especially among those who are non-literate or less educated. A majority of the village people have given up the livestock (goats & sheep), as mentioned. In place of manures, the people buy chemical fertilizers from the bazaars.
The conventional roles and responsibilities of women in relation with managing and performing the domestic works (inside the house) such as cooking, washing, sweeping and son on exist. Women’s assignments in wool-related tasks ceased when people began to give up rearing their sheep and goats. No more burden of fetching water from distant places in drums, as clean drinking tap water is available in houses from the spring. The old or senior women’s role in managing and controlling in-house affairs mostly ended who used to be very much careful in providing flour and other stuffs to the junior women. The non-gender-specific tasks could be performed by both sexes. Some of the common tasks may be bringing fire-woods, lighting fire, caring children, supplying food on the table/cloth, picking fruits from the tree et cetera. Now-a-days, a change is also seen with men that they assist women by cooking food. The reason is men’s exposure to the outside world. In the context of Ghulkin, there a special instance, too that a two bachelor siblings spent almost their entire life together. His sister passed away but the man is still alive (65+) who does all the works and has no concern of gender related works.
Almost all womenfolk of the village presently have power in deciding for their fate regarding their conjugal partnership, especially marriage engagement in result of acquiring their education. There is no more food discrimination with women to whom the leftover was given despite the fact women cooked the food. Today, men and women can eat their meals together on the same table. Women’s suicidal case in their houses could not be found. The only suicide case in the recent period could be seen when a girl student of a school from Ghukin got suicide because of her failure in her examination.
Women are not confined to their houses, rather they have started their own enterprises not only modernizing their traditional handicrafts at their households, rather in groups they have began the business in the field of sewing, knitting, weaving and so on.
Women have acquired full participation and representation in the community’s social life, which was mere a dream in women’s minds prior to AKRSP’s intervention. “Women were used by men like animals, and now thanks to the AKRSP’s initiatives, our situation has improved,” mentions a previous WO member. Women are not only participating in the decision-making process but also holding positions in community organizations. Women are seen shoulder-to-shoulder with men in different communal and public sector organizations both inside and outside the village as employees and volunteers. These days, men strongly support girls’ education and female empowerment.
3.5. The educational status
Informal education remains part of every family and elders in a society whereby different facets of cultures (intellectual, social and moral et cetera) are taught and transferred to their progenies and generations. In the context of Hunza and Ghulkin, besides family members, the khalifas and other elderly members of the society had their big role in providing informal education to their descendants. Formal education in Hunza was initiated in 1912 by establishing a primary school in Baltit; and more particularly, His Highness, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan-III, opened the Diamond Jubilee (DJ) schools in 1946 in different parts of Hunza including Gulmit. Some students of Ghhulkin did go to Gulmit for getting education in a pastime manner, not to become a past-master, as the high priority remained for their agro-pastoral activities. Few students of that time survive who are presently in their 80+ of their age.
For the first time in its history, a DJ primary school for boys (on the demand of the community leaders to Jamal Khan, the then ruler) was opened at Ghulkin in 1957 with Ali Johar as the first native teacher . The school was run initially in a local traditional house, then in the langar, communal kitchen cum store attached to the jamatkhana. The government opened its primary school in the village after 1974. The girls’ education was initiated in 1970 (as coeducation) in the already established DJ school. The first boy and girl of the village did their matriculation in 1968 and 1982 respectively .
The literacy rate of the village before 1983 was very poor and 100% of the students, especially girls did not attend the school due to social taboos. People were unable to leave their villages for educational or other purposes because of an overall poverty.
After 1983, the educational progress is amazingly different in this small village. At present, there is no more social taboo on girls’ education rather some parents prefer girls’ education keeping in view their Imam’s directives. 100% of the children, both boys and girls, do attend the three types of schools: the DJ by the AKESP, a primary school by the government, and another middle school with the name of Nasir-e Khusraw Model Academy (NKMA) by the community . Since 2007, through community-AKESP partnership, classes are also run at Early Childhood Education (ECD) and secondary level (9th & 10th) in the DJ school . The ECD classes are also run in the government primary school with community partnership.
The following table hereunder reflects the number of schooling going students in educational institutions within the village.
Table-2: Number of students in different types of schools in Ghulkin
No. Name of school
Number of students
1 DJ Middle school 51 59 110
2 Government primary school 28 25 053
3 Nasir-e Khusraw Model Academy (NKMA) 65 39 104
4. Community-based secondary classes 07 13 020
Total 151 136 287
Source: Records of the schools, September 2009
In percentage, the female students are of 47.4% and male 52.6%. This tiny village seems to have become a laboratory for the community on education; and on the other, there seems a competition among these schools in attracting students in the respective institutions. There, however, arise serious questions related to facilitating students, primarily in availability of teachers. The following table shows the number of teachers the different schools of the of the village.
Table-3: Number of Staff members in the Schools of Ghulkin
No. Name of the school Number of teachers Total Number of Support staff Total
Male Female Total Male Female Total
1. DJ Middle School DJ teachers 03 03 09 00 00
1.1. Community Teachers 01 02 00 01
2. Govt. Primary School Govt. teachers 02
00 04 01 00 01
2.1. Community Teachers 00 02 00 00
3. NKMA (middle school) Community teachers 02 09 11 00 01 01
Total 08 16 24 01 02 03
Source: Respondents of the respective schools, September 2009.
The above table vividly reflects that the DJ system has only 6 teachers for 10 classes (Nursery, Prep to class-8) and the government’s primary school has only 2 teachers for 6 classes (from grade zero to 5); while NKMA has 11 teachers for 10 classes. Managing teaching thus is difficult in both the DJ and government schools. Therefore, they have established a kind of partnership with the community/parents who pay the salaries of the teachers. These teachers are called community-teachers. While NKMA is totally a communal school up to the middle level education, which is seems better than two types of schools fulfilling teaching staff. In contrast, the community also experiences that teachers in NKMA do not sustain because when the teachers get better employment opportunity, they quit and other teachers come. It takes some time for them to get themselves adjusted with the children and vice versa. On the other hand, NKMA—like other private/community schools—seems a center for teaching training.
Looking at the number of students and teachers on the one hand, and community’s participation such as paying fees etcetera in enabling environment for the children on other, it becomes clear that the focus is enormously on education of their children. The table hereunder shows the students’ monthly fees of the educational institutions functioning in the village.
Table-4: Statement of per month fee in the four types of school in Ghulkin
# Name of School Education Fees Remarks
PKR Primary level
PKR Middle level
PKR Secondary Level
1. DJ Middle school
200 350 600 500 ECD and secondary level education are community-based started in 2007.
2. Govt. primary school 050 No fee
Not applicable Not applicable Community-based ECD and fee paid to the teachers
3. NKMA (middle school) 100 200
300 350 Not applicable 250 for Nursery class
300 from Prep-Grade-5
Source: Records of the respective schools in September, 2009.
The above cited educational platforms have given the parents different options in order to admit their children for getting education. The DJ school has insufficient teaching staff (and probably capacity, too) as also holds true for the Government Primary. They therefore depend on the community-teachers. While the purely community-led school, NKMA has adequate teaching-staff but with not retainable teachers who leave the school when the teachers get high-paid salaries. Despite this fact, one thing is crystal clear so far that NKMA has produced brighter students than the DJ. One of the examples could be seen that 42 students of NKMA so far could quality the tests and were admitted to the Aga Khan Higher Secondary School; while the students of the DJ school could not compete and qualify to this level. Within the village, there seems an internal competition among these schooling systems, especially between the DJ and NKMA over students’ admission.
Regarding the school buildings, it is noteworthy they were constructed through self-help initiatives as the community members offered their voluntary laboring and individual philanthropy. For instance, the community, yʉrt (yũrt), constructed building of the government’s primary school in the 1970s with the help of local philanthropists. Likewise, they also constructed the old and new buildings of the DJ school building in the 1980s with the help of AKESP. In 2003, they uert also constructed the beautiful school building of a community-driven and community-led school called Nasir-Khusraw Model Academy, with the financial support of the international donor organizations like Global Environmental Fund (GEF) and United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
3.5.1. Computer facilities in the schools
All these schools in the village have also been facilitated with computers in order to equip the students and teachers alike, but the schools reportedly lack in having an appropriate computer instructors. Besides the schools, many households have computers, too and facilitated their children to be acquainted and experienced with the computer know-how in their houses. Among these schools, Nasir-e Khusraw school has a computer lab, too.
3.5.2. Students of Ghulkin studying out of the village
Besides the 287 students pursuing their education in the institutions within the village, once can observe the thrust of the community members investing in their children’s education outside of the village, too. By collecting the statistical figures on the students, it was discovered that currently 249 students are engaged with their studies in different institutions out of the village that are illustrated in the following table.
Table-5: Number of students studying in different places in the country
No. Place of pursuing education
Number of students
1. Gulmit (FGHS, FGGS, AMS) 21 09 30
4. Central Hunza (AKHSS, private schools/colleges) 02 28 30
5. Gilgit 34 28 62
6. Islamabad 08 01 09
7. Rawalpindi 10 10 20
8. Abbotabad/ansehra 04 01 05
9. Peshawar 01 02 03
10. Kashmir 01 00 01
11. Lahore 02 00 02
12. Karachi 68 19 87
Total 151 98 249
Source: GSA (2009), GECA (2009), and through enumerators & respondents in September, 2009
After acquiring education at middle level, most of the students get options either to go to attend the community-based secondary classes in the DJ school at Ghulkin or go out of the village in search of better educational institutions found in Gulmit, Central Hunza, Gilgit and down country. Same occurs for acquiring admissions at college and university level. The first highest number of students out of the village are found in Karachi; second in Gilgit. In Gigit and down country, most of students are engaged in their college and university level education. The current (2009) number of regular students enrolled in some universities of Pakistan (not included university students through colleges) engaged with their masters level education (MA, M. Sc, MBA,MPA, M. Com etc) is shown in the following table.
Table-6: Current Number of Students from Ghulkin pursuing their Master’s Degree from the universities in Pakistan
No. Universities Number of the regular students Total
1. Karakoram International University, Gilgit 03 01 04
2. Peshawar University 01 02 03
3. Universities in Islamabad/Rawalpindi 03 03 06
4. Karachi 01 00 01
Total 08 06 14
Source: Own survey through enumerators (September 2009).
Overall number of students engaged in their education from ECD level to masters is 536 (302 male, 234 female) making 45.2% of the total population. In the premier institutions in Gilgit-Baltistan like the Aga Khan Girls Higher Secondary Schools (AKHSS) in Karimabad and Gilgit, there are currently (September 2009) 9 girls & 14 boys respectively. In the Karakoram International University, Gilgit, there are in total 16 students (10 female and 6 male). It is estimated that every year, the number of masters’ degree holders would increase by more than 15 and their employment issue would intensify yearly.
1.5.3. Master Degree-Holders from Ghulkin
Before 1983, there was no masters’ degree holder from the village; but in the aftermath a slow move is witnessed till 1999 (only seven master degree holders and no female). From 2000 onward, an amazing speed is seen. Presently (September 2009), there are 54 Masters’ degree-holders (40 male and 14 female).
3.6. Health condition and healing approaches
Before 1966, there was no health facility at all in the entire Gojal. Among the whole Hunza, there was the only dispensary in Aliabad, almost 50 km away from Ghulkin, established during the British Indian government. The people of the region therefore depended mainly on two types of healings: given supernatural knowledge, and acquired indigenous knowledge.
Within the supernatural healing approach, there were further categories. First, individuals would present special offerings in the name of God in their meditational place. Second, patients were taken to the clergies called khalifas or mullo, who would make talismans/amulets and other healing tools. Third, pay special visits to the shrines, especially Bobo Ghundi shrine in Chipursan valley. Fourth, pay visits to the shamans called bitan.
In contrast, there were (and still are) the indigenous knowledge specialists who would treat the patients through the scientific approach of their capacity in line with setting the joints’ dislocation of the body; adjustment of bones’ fracture or crack; dealing with stomach problems, headache, jaundice, treating tonsils and the navel related issues, pneumonia and so on. Patients for complicated and serious types of diseases were in great trouble and passed away. For addressing the issues of maternal and child health during delivery, the senior and experienced ladies would voluntarily serve the patients. The maternal and child mortality rate was very high, however.
For the first time, in the history of Gojal, the government opened a first-aid post in 1960s in Gulmit , the principality’s second capital. The patients were given the first aid treatment. First time again, the Aga Khan Health Center was established in Gulmit in 1979 that effectively targeted women and children health issues in the region. Women and children of Ghulkin thus started taking benefits from this center.
After AKRSP’s intervention year, the government facilitated Ghulkin with a first-aid post in 1984. It was initially started from a local house, then continued a rented shop; and afterwards, the government constructed its own building. Preliminary health issues are dealt here; but for complicated problems, patients are carried to the hospitals in the Gulmit; and in case of any emergencies, patients are referred better treatment in the hospitals in Aliabad or Gilgit or down country.
The previous dependence on the traditional healing approaches, especially the supernatural has significantly decreased; but dependence on the indigenous knowledge experts in the field of bones and joint fixation still exists as many bone-related patients still do prefer to be treated by the specialist/practitioners of the indigenous knowledge in Gulmit .
3.7. Agricultural practices, livestock and food
Before the AKRSP’s intervention, Ghulkin community had a subsistence economy depending almost entirely on livestock and agriculture . The main crops cultivated were faba beans (baqla) and barley. The climatic condition was cold for the wheat cultivation: so, it was given less importance. Among the fruits, there existed primarily apricots while few dwellers would grow pears. There was no tradition of growing various kinds of vegetables. The people grew some potatoes, but they were at limited scale for the respective households’ consumption only, and not for commercial purpose.
In order to produce better quality of agricultural crops, the people would make more focus on the manure production (human or animal wastes).Doomesticated animals (ruminants and non-ruminants) of the community members included cattle, sheep, goats, hens, horses, and donkeys. Some peoples petted cat but no dog. The livestock contributed significantly to the community’s wealth generation such as dairy products, meat, dung for the organic fertilizers, besides meeting the peoples’ needs on special occasions like the rite of passage. From the manures, farmers produced a considerable level of crops’ yields. From the hairs of the livestock, the people made the traditional caps, woolen cloths, made rugs and the like.
The oxen were utilized for plowing purpose. Some instances of plowing with horses are also found. Cows, young oxen, donkeys were tied and threshed the crops for hours and hours, sometimes taking the entire day. The threshed pile was winnowed to separate the grains from the chaff which was subject to an adequate breeze.
After 1983, AKRSP did not focus focus on the social organization and savings, but rather also through the forceful forums of VWOs, it provided and introduced variety of seed-potatoes, plants (both of fruits and others) and so on. Above all AKRSP built the community’s capacities in a variety of fields including agriculture, horticulture, sericulture, preserving and drying fruits, forestry and plantation, livestock, wildlife, internal lending (VWO banking), bookkeeping, leadership, community participation, enterprise initiatives, tourism, and the like.
Consequently, the subsistence economic mode of the people diversified—not confined only in agriculture or livestock. The community has ended up the crops of faba-beans, and a discouraging level of peas cultivation. The previous limited number of potatoes’ production for the community’s subsistence has transformed into highly productive and marked-based item that has been contributing significantly to the people’s economy that addressed the previously devastating poverty. People produce variety of vegetables mostly for their domestic consumption. Less-productive fruit plants (including apple trees) have been replaced by more-productive varieties like apricot, cherry, and almond trees which the AKRSP and UNDP/FAO introduced. No cows, young oxen and donkeys are used for threshing, rather tractor machines have replaced their functions and have liberated them in threshing and plowing .
All people haven’t more dairy products at present because of either reduced number of livestock or they gave up rearing sheep and goat or even cattle. A latest survey (September 2009) shows that out of 153 households, 83 households (54.3%) in Ghulkin have totally abandoned rearing sheep and goats; while 70 households (46.7%) are still engaged with: more people who have even one or two goats or sheep in number and very few have retained maximum 45 or 50. Today, instead of rearing more traditional cows, many people preferred rearing one or two hybrid cow(s) and replacing the previous category of breeds that were less productive in milk.
Previously, there were more experts in the community who made traditional hats, woolen cloths, rugs and so on; but at present these activities have significantly decreased in some thematic areas. Local long shoes and leather overcoats (krest) et cetera ended.
3.8. Food insecurity and internal credit system or lending in kinds
The poverty among the masses of the principality (including Ghulkin) was grave, and the food consumption among the people varied seasonally from house to house. The previously key indicators of wealth were the landholdings, livestock, agricultural produces, trees/plants and forests in addition with mental capacity. Around these parameters, a person was weighed in wealth. During the principality, there were three tiers in the society such as upper tier called zharzhon or usham (fictive/foster relatives of the Mirs), middle tier as darqan(ey),and lower as borwar( laborers). But these social tiers would not necessarily purely reflect the state of wealth or poverty. Even instances are found that among households of the upper social tier, peoples were reportedly not secure or sufficed in food. Peoples generated wealth through raising more livestock, and from the livestock they produced more manures. More and better quality of manures led to better agricultural produces. Those who worked hard and had the capacities (mental and physical) in agro-pastoral adventures produced more yields of grains at the end. But majority of the population could not do so. The agro-activities also were susceptible to the natural factors (weather condition), especially during the summer. For instance, if there was more rain or the weather was cold or otherwise, it would also negatively effect the crops. The food security in the spring season was really a tough period to reach in summer till ripping of the crops and getting food. The autumn and half of summer (those who had fruit trees) were really the rejoiced seasons (having food availability) for the communities of the region including Ghulkin.
3.8.1. Internal lending system: a social protection mechanism against food insecurity
Keeping in view such bitter socioeconomic circumstances, the community of the region had an internal lending or credit system of grains. This traditional credit system in kinds was called tol, meaning weigh and give grains to the needy-persons during the spring season. Tol was both at house to house level (within or out of kin groups); and community to house level; and even among the community to community (inter-village) level in the region. The community of Ghulkin had a grand store in the premise of the present jamatkhana. Persons in need would, for example, go and lend 1 ghilbel (= 13.7 kg) grains (žaw/zhaw. The borrower would then pay back the amount of grains in addition with one jʉṭi [=11.7 kg] in autumn as interest after harvesting of the crops. Taking back of the interest was however dependent on an individual’s will. An borrower could exempt (either within the kin groups or between a well-off and a poor) the interest or leave the credit as a philanthropic assistance. This kind of mechanism seems really interesting that how this social safety net worked effectively.
After formation of the VWOs in the village, AKRSP introduced an internal lending or credit system in cash evolved from the traditional lending system in kind. In the beginning, “Our VO members had entrapped in the social conflicts and litigation, and there remained no other option before them except for the weekly savings. It was therefore necessary to create some visible and tangible works that attract all members. In this regard, when the VO banking/credit system was introduced, it was a new experiment for the members,” describes a reformist manager of the VO.
“Following the set VWO banking rules, we provide the members loans, when s/he meets the lending criteria, without any bias of kinship relationships or otherwise. After granting and issuing the credit, three reminders are sent to the borrowers: one, three months before the recovery, one in the beginning, and one in the middle of the recovery period. The borrowers thus enable themselves to successfully return their lending. Thanks God we haven’t had any recovery problems”, added the VO and WO presidents. “In the beginning, there was a bad precedence, but the borrowers were from outside the village. Nonetheless, ”We got the recovery,” explains VO’s manager.
Mainly because of the VWO banking system, the savings increased exponentially . Presently, the VWOs Ghulkin have obtained a saving of more than 15.6 million rupees The table hereunder illustrate the VWO savings of the starting year (1983): PKR 4764/- only for the VO in 1983 and PKR 1516/- only for the WO in 1984. Savings of VWOs through different important years have been included to observe the gradual increase.
Table-7: Saving Statement of VWOs Ghulkin for 2009
VWOs Total Savings (Audited)
** 1996 2006 2008
VO 4764 40, 604 — 3, 259,490 9,323,542 11,392,154
WO 1516 — 170,746 1, 793,541 3, 329,238 4,224,347
Total 6280 5053031 12652780 15,616,501
Source: VWOs Ghulkin, September 2009.
*VO was formed in 1983; and WO in 1984. **VO banking started in 1988 and WO banking in 1991.
The internal credits are granted to the members for business and enterprise; addressing health and educational issues; meeting agricultural needs such as purchasing seed potatoes, chemical fertilizers; buying the livestock, developing land, meeting marriage requirements and so on.
The following table (hereunder) shows the increase of membership in the VWOs since their inception.
Table-8: Members in the VWOs in different years from the beginning.
VWOs Total number of members in different years (1983-2009)
1996 2006 2009
VO 80 83 — 131 183 192
WO 81 — 100 145 215 228
Total 161 276 398 420
Source: VWOs, Ghulkin, September 2009
In 1983, there were 83 households in Ghulkin and we can see that almost each households had membership in the VWOs. Initially, for four years, the momentum remained slow in membership, but after introducing the VO banking, the speed begins going up. At present, there are 153 households in September, 2009 . The above figures illustrate that there are today more than one members from each households in the VWOs who get benefits from the internal lending to the optimum level.
By bringing the savings of the VWOs in circulation within the members through internal lending since their inception in 1988 (having PKR 40,604/- with 83 members of VO) and 1991 (having PKR 170,746/- with 100 members for WO), the collective saving of the VWOs till 2008 has risen to PKR 15,616,501/- with 420 members (PKR 11,392,154 with 192 members of VO; and PKR 4,224,347 with 228 members of WO).
3.8.2. Key features of the traditional and modern internal lending system
Some important differences are observed between the previous (traditional) present (modern) lending mechanisms while seeing both systems cross.
(1) The traditional lending system was more not more formal whereas the present mechanism is formal;
(2) The traditional lending system was in kinds and not in cash, as majority of the people had seen no cash while the present transaction is in cash;
(3) The previous lending system was taken not very openly as getting tol was considered an insult; while the present credits are taken openly and with pride;
(4) The previous lending system was not strict in paying the interest in kinds, rather they could return the principal amount of grains; while the present mechanism of banking is strict to pay the interests, a part from the principal amount.
(5) In the traditional tol system, there were no adequate human resources due to absence of education, while in the present system there are educated and experienced persons.
3.9. Food consumption and clothing of the peoples
Because of the dire poverty in the so-called kingdoms of Hunza and Nager, the subjects could hardly make their ends meet. In Gojal (including Ghulkin), the subjects’ food for three times could include soup of low quality (e.g., dried-apricot or otherwise) in breakfast; dried-breads with water or sometimes with buttermilk (if someone possessed) for lunch; in supper, some would subsist on mulberries and apricot et cetera during summer; and few fortunate would have some vegetables such as carrots or turnips. In winter, those who worked efficiently and with adequate agricultural know-how from spring to summer would get appropriate produces and very few dried-vegetables—besides cooking modest pieces of meat, animals slaughtered in winter for food purpose called guṣ̌ti (gus̃hti) . In spring, peoples would begin clandestinely lending for food (i.e., grains). Some peoples who continued up to the summer would also move very considerately.
Apart from the routinely poor food menu, the people had variety of special dishes served during marriage ceremonies, death rites, festivities and guests’ visits to one’s home. Variety of the traditional dishes included bat, molida, ghũlmindi, semn, gral, chamũrki, shũlbũt, chilpindok (a specialty of Shingshalik) and et cetera.The local beverages and liquefied stuffs comprised on milk, chẽmos (apricot juice), pistov (made out of apples), buttermilk, dũghov (made up of buttermilk), tea made out of c̃humuru, bozlanj, yogurt, qanda, and a variety of soups from kernels, bones, apricots and so on. Tea is said to have been introduced in the 1940s but consumed with the then elites. Rice could also be seen diffused in the village in the 1950s or 1960s; but cooked as a special dish by those who could afford it.
Not all peoples of the valley (including Ghulkin) had appropriate clothing. They had woolen clothing (hardly two pairs) with a few exception rare non-woolen-cloths especially brought by the Chinese traders in the caravans, on the one hand; and the local traders/business persons bringing the stuffs on the horses from Gilgit, on the other.
People had the locally made long-shoes called ṣ̌ʉṣ̌k (s̃hũs̃hk) and sandal. Not necessarily all community had the s̃hũs̃hk and sandal . There were a few experts who could make it for their family members and kinspersons . The company-manufactured short and long shoes were introduced in the region in the 1960s and 70s. Besides, men had the woolen caps (still continues) and women had initially plain but later crafted caps (old women still wear).
In a sharp contrast to its previous era (before 1983), the community of Ghulkin could be termed presently as self-sufficient in managing foods for themselves, especially by producing and selling potatoes, both table-potatoes and seeds. The previous subsistence mode has gone where the poor would have (or even absence of) low quality of apricot soup in breakfast, eating dried chapattis by dipping them in water for lunch and having apricot soups in supper, too. Tea as an expessive item for the better-off has become commoners breakfast along with wheat breads of oven or otherwise. In meals (lunch & supper), all people eat variety of vegetables, pulses, rice, meats, and better quality of soups are cooked and drank besides other beverages available in the bazaars.
The traditional dishes of festivities and rituals are also present, but not cooked frequently. Among the beverages, pistov (made out of apples), teas of bozlanj and other herbal liquefied items are not in use which the people used especially for medicinal purposes, too.
Contrary to the local-made (in-house) woolen cloths (trousers and shirts), today we see a revolution among the local communities in the village (and the valley) who make clothes out of company-made cloths such as polyester, cotton, felt, silk, velvet and son on imported from China. People had only one pair of clothe, especially among the conjugal partners; and when a husband got a new clothe, his wife would put on his used one. Now, we can observe that an individual has at least six to ten pairs of clothes in different variety and fashions for different social events in a year. One can notice such phenomenon during festivities, more particularly on the occasion of Imamat Day Saligrah (anniversary of accession day to the throne of spiritual leadership) of His Highness, Shah Karim al-Husseini, the Aga Khan-IV, on July 11, which sounds that we are in fashion-show.
Previously, the parents would make hardly two pairs of clothes for the bride but at present minimum 12 pairs, otherwise 15 or 20 pairs of clothes are made for the bride; and the bride goes herself shopping the stuffs along with her immediate family members. In the previous period, it was hard to get burial cloths for the corpse, but these days they are found at their doorsteps in shops of their villages.
Earlier than AKRSP intervention year, some skilled persons could make the in-house long-shoes , s̃hũs̃hk and sandal, that would torn sooner if a person went to a longer place. 1960, in order to see their Imam of the Time, His Highness Shah Karim al-Husseini, Ag Khan-IV, many people of the region—due to poverty but filled with the affection of their Imam— walked barefooted for minimum 50 km and maximum 300 km from Gojal to Altit (Central Hunza) and back. We can witness today that men and women put on variety of shoes and change them quarterly.
Today, children cannot evidence the previous in-house-made leathered sandal or s̃hũs̃hk (which is like a story or fiction for them), or cannot encounter the company-made rubber-type of shoes, torn and welded with patches. In contrast, today’s children put on the company-made leather, canvas and other kinds of good quality shoes brought in the village from China and down country.
3.10. From the exploitation of nature to nature’s conservation
The climatic condition of the region was so severe during the winter as heavy snow would fall and roaring wind would blow . In such circumstances, the human-hunters would adventure and hunt the ibexes and Marco Polo sheep for the purpose of alternative meats/food. Those who hunted these animals were elevated by society members with the term as palwon or paliwun (i.e., champion).
The predators such as snow-leopard and wolves would then come down in the villages from the mountains and hunt the livestock of the peoples. For this reason, peoples of the twin-villages of Ghulkin and Gulmit would collectively pursue and hunt the strong predators to save their livestock. This collective hunting campaign of predators was known as Ṣ̌apt Ṣ̌kor (shapt shkor: i.e., wolf hunting) or Pes Ṣ̌kor (snow-leopard hunting). Such food-battles between the human-predators (paliwun) and the wild-predators (snow-leopard & wolves) thus continued. It is noteworthy here that in such condition, the human-predators were crossing their assigned domains and ate the food of the wildlife. And that is why, in a natural reaction, the wildlife-predators hunted and/or sometimes destroyed the livestock of the humans. Apart from hunting the ibexes or blue-sheep, the people were also very enthusiastically engaged in hunting the fishes, and the birds such as ducks, geese, partridge, different kinds of sparrows et cetera. One thing is more significant to note that during summer, there used to be a brutal night-game, called basa, The people, especially youth, would go and hunt the birds with their sticks and stones. A group would hunt at least one or two hundred birds.
Being a simple society, there was no kerosene, no electricity, no gas or otherwise, the people of Ghulkin, like other villages of different regions in Gilgit-Baltistan, had their full dependence on natural forest that survived not only down to the settlement, but rather down to the Hunza River. With the passage of time, in a couple of hundred years, the natural forests receded because of heavy exploitation. A lot of natural plants such as juniper, birches, willow et cetera existed in Ghulkin’s jurisdiction; but they were depleted after construction of the road-links, more particularly after the opening of the KKH.
After the AKRSP’s intervention and its awareness raising campaign, there came up a surprising change in the peoples’ mindsets. Now, the Ghulkin community, besides the communities of Khyber and Avgarch, have become champions of preserving the nature: this itself is a big revolution. The cases are presented here under to understand to know how conservation of the nature became part of Ghulkin’s development agenda?
3.10.1. Formation of the Nature’s Conservation Committee
The community leaders in 1992 founded an organization to protect and preserve natural resources in areas within its jurisdiction, and link conservation programs with human development.
The Nature’s Conservation Committee (NCC) functions under its legal entity and umbrella organization named Ghulkin Educational, Social Welfare and Nature’s Conservation Association (GESWANCA). NCC took its first challenging initiative by protecting the seasonally migrated Siberian birds/ducks that used to come to Borith Lake, 9 km away from the settlement. Hunters from Ghulkin and other villages, even from distant areas out of Hunza, would come to Borit lake for hunting. Besides hunting, the alien hunters not only disrupted the physical landscape but also disturbed the cultural environment. Such intrusions discontented some sensible individuals of Ghulkin. In order to safeguard their cultural environment, the people had to decide in materializing the AKRSP’s ideas of conservation of the nature. In brief, they initiated to protect the lake, birds other local wildlife (such as ibexes, blue-sheep, snow-leopard etc).
The conservation lobby prospected strong reactions from the hunters, within and around the village, but they were determined. Even some key high officials at that time–including the then Chief Secretary of the Gilgit-Baltistan, Assistant Commissioner and Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP)—not only opposed the conservation campaign but also personally violated it to hunt the birds in the lake. A conflict emerged between the then honorary Wild Life Officer (HWO) of the NCC and the high government officials:. But, the former won over the later. Consequently, a more considerate situation resulted; although, time to time conflicts also arose between steadfast NCC members and the stubborn opponent. A concrete case in hand is presented hereunder.
During a night, two hunters from the neighboring villages reached in the conservation area to hunt the ibexes but they were unaware of presence of the NCC informers in Borit. Knowing about this violation, the NCC members rushed towards and reached on the spot, and pursued the hunters in the darkness. Two NCC members eventually accessed the hunters but the latter were oblivious of this fact. Suddenly, a scuffle ensued between them. The former succeeded in detaining the violators (hunters) and snatching their weapons and the dead ibex. The NCC members carried the perpetrators to the police station in Gulmit and filed the FIR (First Information Record) against them. The case ultimately went to government’s court. Eventually, the nature’s conservation committee won the battle in continuing the nature conservation.
Interestingly, in the 1990s, an American hunter, Reni Snider, came for the trophy hunting in the conservancy area of Ghulkin. She could not succeed in hunting ibex, but she paid the fee of USD 3000/-. Afterwards, the community hosted and entertained her with a musical program. She was inspired and donated a USD 2,000/- to the Nasir-e Khusraw Model Academy, a community school.
The Borith lake is preserved, which is a host of ducks, geese and other birds as the visitors can witness these realities once they are at the location. The surrounding mountains of the conservancy flourish ibexes, blue-sheep, snow-leopards and other wildlife. The social environment has become secured. In addition, campaigns against pollution have also helped in combating for and maintaining a healthy environment. In such ways, the environmental conservation efforts and the promotion of sustainable human development is in progress in the village.
3.11. Political institutions: governance and social control
In the former Hunza’s principality, Ghulkin like other villages, was run politically, administratively and judicially under the position of arbob (village headman); and his institution known as arbobiγ̌(arbobig̃h). In addressing and resolving the societal conflicts and disputes, there was a traditional mechanism of ‘holding astam’ [i.e., council for dispute resolution] for hearing of the cases, reconciling and/or passing judgments, The arbob in consultation with some judicious elders of different descent groups used to mediate, reconcile, penalize and resolve the issues and conflicts in the village . For the official tasks, the arbob would gather the community through his chorbũw (information-communicator) and would assign them the tasks such as free- or forced-laboring (ashar or rajaki or otherwise.
The chiefdom of Hunza was abolished in 1974 Zulifqar Ali Bhutto and the old political system transformed into the modern governance structure. This phenomenon led to a political bifurcation among the community even within households. The conservatives, adhered to the former rulers and their like-minded party, came under the umbrella of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML). Conversely, those who were poor, suppressed, and right-based joined Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP). The absolute roles and responsibilities of the arbob ceased and the term arbob was named as lumbardar. In the beginning, a strong political tug-of-war began among community members in the village and within the houses. But some neutral notables from different clans and members of the voluntary organizations (such as Shia Ismaili Council for Gulmit) played a pivotal role in mediating the discords.
After transformation of the political system, candidates of the PML for the District Council and Northern Areas’ Council (now as Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly) have been winning in majority from this village. At the grassroots level, Ghulkin has a councilor who represent the village in the Union council. There used to be selection as the community undermined this important political position. But for the first time, an election held to become member in the union council in 2004. Interestingly, the union councillorship election was between two candidates of the same party, the PML; but, in the local context, two different descent groups. To what extent, the local election between the same affiliated party effects the upcoming election in November 2009 is a question. Some respondents envision and hope an educated and honest person would come up to represent the village in the council. Whosoever, but one thing is important to note that how the 689 voters of the village (330 female and 359 male) prove their maturity, and honestly use their votes to choose their representatives at union, district and legislative assembly level will be a big question mark.
3.12. Construction of the road-infrastructures
Before construction of roads in Gojal, people either travelled on foot, or rode animals like horses, donkeys or yaks for transportation from one place to another on the footpaths, tracks and trails in the arduous terrains. For the first time in the history of Hunza, the small narrow road was constructed for the jeeps up to Baltit/Karimabad in 1958 and then was extended up to Passu (Lower Gojal) in 1962. In 1963, the Ghulkin community constructed the jeep-road .
In the aftermath, construction of the KKH was started and in 1970, the communities in Gojal region were linked together through the asphalted-road (KKH) for the first time in its history. Because of these phenomena, the people’s hardships in long travels decreased and days of travel turned into hours. Along with the roads construction, the interactions among kinship and friendship relationships also significantly decreased.
The community constructed link-road of Ghulkin in 1963 was improved and expanded in 1982 by the government. Through a government scheme, the link road is being expanded and asphalted up to the main settlement since 2007.
Within the village, non-asphalted (coarse) link-roads have been constructed around the main settlement; and the sub-villages have also been connected to the main settlement, besides linking the villages’ neighboring villages of Gulmit and Ghulkin at the top below the Kamris (Gulmit) glacier. The small and medium size vehicles, especially tractors for plowing and threshing, could drive easily on these link-roads.
3.13. The state of telecommunication and other electronic media
The idea of telecommunication was relatively not new for the people of Ghulkin and region as we can trace it historically at least back in the British-Indian period. Apart from Baltit and Gulmit, we can evidence it in different villages of Hunza. For instance, a telephone call center in Misgar in 1912; likewise in Murkhun, Passu, Husaini et cetera run under the arbobs. A call center was opened in Ghulkin in the 1970s, but that was taken away when the foerm State was abolished. Afterwards, in the first half of 1980, a public call center was reopened in Ghulkin. In first half of 2000, the government provided the digitized telephone sets to the people; and at present there are more than 70 telephone users of Ghulkin.
Apart from the landline telephones in the households, there are presently innumerable mobile sets with people in the village using particularly the Telenor’s and/or Zong’s SIMS. Within a house, there could be more than 2 or 3 mobile-sets. What are the pros and cons of these mobile-sets is a different but valid question rather an interesting research question in itself.
a) Radio and TV Sets
The first radio set entered in this rural society in the 1960s. Some respondents say that late Ali Shafa brought and introduced the first radio in the village, some advocate it was Amir Dil of Kirmin (Chipursan), an emigrant of Ghulkin. Today, in an average, every household seems to have the radio set with them, though the TV channels are preferred upon radio, when there is no load-shedding of electricity. The TV set and dish antenna (satellite receiver) was firstly introduced in the village in 1992 by Qurban Hussain. Today, at least 50% of the houses have the TV sets.
3.12. Business and trade initiatives
Informal businesses in kinds (barter system) have remained in practice among the people at individual level within the kinspersons and within the village. Historically, individual level small businesses might have been (as we can see different descent groups of the village with different background), especially taking into accounts the caravans coming from China to Hunza and going back.
A formal enterprise at collective or group level was initiated in the 1950s when the Ghulkin community formed a society and opened a shop in the village. This shop fulfilled some basic requirements of the people. The items were brought from Gilgit on horses. It is narrated that the villagers had not seen the currency at this period and the transactions they made was in kinds. In the second half of 1960, late Qurban and Habib Shah of Ghulkin also opened a shop in the village. Probably in 1971 or 1972, Habib Shah also bought the first vehicle (jeep). He was then followed, after KKH’s construction, by late Muhammad Baig and group in venturing in the transport business. They bought vehicles such as jeeps and bus: thus, peoples mind was given a direction towards the transport business.
In 1980, a group of ten members took an initiative for a cooperative society and opened a shop in Ghulkin. Not a single year had elapsed, a soldiers’ group (in the army and Northern Light Infantry) also formed a society in 1981 with the name of Al-Karim Ghazi Multipurpose Society. Ghazi Society was a soldiers’ society, but membership as not for entire soldiers, rather was extended to few civilians also, based on personal likeness. Some retired soldiers who had not sufficient money, they could not qualify for the membership. Conversely, immediate civilian kinspersons of some ex-soldiers and better-off got the membership. As a result, almost all members of the previous society formed in 1980 merged with them.
Other civilians wanted membership in the Ghazi society, but forerunners of Ghazi society denied it as the community had a bitter experience of failure with the shop of the cooperative society formed in the 1960s.
The denial of such civilian membership in the Ghazi society led to a tension and a tug-of-war between the groups civilians and the soldiers. The former assembled and made another society named “Awami (i.e., civilian or public) Multipurpose Society. Some members of the Awami Society raised objection on the Ghazi society and asked the government’s registration authority in Gilgit not to register the Ghazi society. Finally, the registrar reached Ghulkin and solved the issue by providing registration to both societies on a condition that both would run in healthy competition and not with conflict.
The Ghulkin community who had once just a couple of existing shops and transactions done mostly in kinds—have now (after 1983) ventured in dozens of fields in trade and businesses. These entrepreneurs are not confined only within their village, but rather have their businesses out also, mainly in Sost, Gulmit, Aliabad, Gilgit, Rawalpindi, Kashmir, Karachi, Xinjiang (China) and Florida (USA). The following table provides an insight to look at their enterprises thematically at different places.
Table-9: Enterprises/businesses of the community members of Ghulkin in different places
No Location Types of business Total
1. Ghulkin General stores 06
Sawing Mill 01
Handicrafts’ center 01
Sewing center 01
Beauty parlor 01
VO bank 01
WO bank 01
Cosmetic shop (within house) 01
Hotel & Restaurant 01
Seabuck thorn production & processing 01
Potatoes production and selling All households
Fruits production and selling Almost all community.
2. Gulmit Shops: Garments, general stores 04
3. Sost Shops: garments, cosmetics, electronics 06
Market of 12 shops on rent 01
4. Aliabad General stores, electronics and audio & video center 03
5. Gilgit Rented and running restaurants 03
6. Karachi Marbles shops 02
7. Tashkurghan Marbles shop/general store 01
8. Kashghar Marble shop & general store 01
8. Florida USA 01
Sources: Author’s own Survey through respondents (September 2009)
Besides, some of the community members have also invested in buying the land-pieces and houses, especially in Gilgit city. The following table illustrates the number of houses and property owners of Ghulkin out of the village.
Table-10: Property-owners from Ghulkin (out of the village within the country)
No. Places Property-owners
1. Gilgit 13 20
2. Sost 00 05
3. Islamabad 01 00
4.. Karachi 13 00
Source: Own survey through respondents (September 2009)
The status of purchased houses, cited above, in Gilgit and Karachi varies. Some of them the owners have given on rent; and in some of them, the owners (especially those employed) reside themselves and liberated themselves in paying the rents. The owners would either construct houses on the purchased plots in or would resale them taking into accounts the rising market rates.
Table-11: Mode of Transportation: Number of Vehicles in Ghulkin
No Types of Vehicle
1. Land-cruisers/jeeps 02
2. Cars (one among them is used as taxis) 07
3. Vans/wagons (for public transportation) 08
4. Suzuki (rental for carrying loads and persons) 07
5. Tractors as load-carriers, threshing and plowing. 05
6. Mazdas (small trucks) 02
7. Motorbikes (Personal) 15
Source: Own survey through enumerator (September, 2009)
3.12.1. Women Vocational Center (WVC)
The women vocational center was established in 1992 in order to enhance women’s skills in low-income households and other unskilled women in Ghulkin. Since its inception, the WVC has been providing training courses on weaving, knitting, and stitching as well as cooking. This has enabled women to produce market-based products besides performing their domestic obligations. Currently, there are three vocational centers of women groups who have do their business independently.
3.13. Intervention of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the village
In 1950s, the Aga Khan Education Board (AKEB) intervened and opened its primary school in the history of the village and began lightening people’s dark minds and nourishing them. In addition, the Aga Khan Volunteers Corp for Ghulkin was formed. In 1981, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) had its development intervention hat experimented on the soil of the village for crops production. In 1983, the AKRSP intervened in the village for the first time and formed the village organization (VO) and women organization (WO) in 1984, which started contributing enormously to uplift the people’s quality of life. In 1984, the youth of Ghulkin founded the Prince Ali S. Khan Boy Scouts headed and Girl Guides by Niyat Ullah Baig and late Jameeda respectively registered with the Shia Ismali Council for Gulmit.
In the 1990s, the long abbreviated GESWANCA (Ghulkin Educational, Social Welfare and Nature’s Conservation Association) with its broad development mandate of this tiny village emerged to stand as a legal umbrella and entity, and an intermediary for the already initiated committees in the fields of education, social welfare and nature’s conservation. GESWANCA and its development committees are run democratically and effectively by a team of volunteers led by the president. CIDA through AKRSP funded a pipe project of clean drinking water and the community successfully completed it.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF); Ministry of Women, Islamabad; and Karakoram Area Development Organization (KADO) partnered with GESWANCA and very effectively worked in the fields of nature’s conservation, women vocational centers and capacity building.
In the field of performing arts, Wakhi Tajik Cultural Association (WTCA) has been working since 1991. WTCA organized two programs in Ghulkin and the community hosted wholheaertedly and impressively hosted the musical and poetical programs.
In the current decade (2000s), GESWANCA successfully completed construction of the school building of Nasir-e Khusraw Model Academy in partnership with Global Environmental Fund (GEF) and UNDP, and technical support by the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services, Pakistan (AKPBSP). In 2008, a network of pipes was spread to all houses of the village and clean drinking water reached for the first time in its history to the households in their washrooms . In cultural conservation, a project on an old mosque’s restoration Durbin e Masjid) was accomplished in collaboration with the Aga Khan Cultural Service, Pakistan (AKCSP), and restoration of the old house of Busing, apical ancestor of the Busing clan is in the pipeline.
3.14. The language and its concerned position
A language, whether written or spoken, is not only an identity of a culture or mere a source of communication for the peoples, but rather it is even beyond these phenomena. Besides the communal integration factor, peoples of the respective cultures have observed and assessed their environments and have encoded and decoded the things around their cultural, physical and metaphysical environments through production of sounds and henceforth in words, phrases and sentences. Every word in a language is filled with concepts at a varying degree, which is decoded by the peoples concerned.
There has been thousands of languages in the past, but majority of them disappeared because of different power incidences. Currently, as UNESCO describes, there are more or less 6,000 languages in the world and majority of them are facing endangerment. In this connection, the languages of Gilgit-Baltistan and Hunza valley are of no exception in the face of globalization; although, globalization has its positive effects, too.
The Wakhi language, an ancient Pamiri language, spoken in Hunza valley has a unique characteristic, which distinguishes it [Hunza Wakhi language] from the Wakhi language spoken in other region or countries such as the districts of Ghizer and Chitral in Pakistan; Wakhans of Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and Xinjiang of China as well as a considerable number of them settled in Russia, Turkey and other countries on permanent basis. Besides difference in pronunciation, the distinctive characteristics could be found in the infinitive’s forms, usage of transitive and intransitive verbs, nominative and possessive pronouns and so on.
Before the British occupation of Hunza and Nagar, the Wakhi language was influenced by Farsi and Arabic languages, in addition with Burushaski. From 1891-1947, we can observe that along with Arabic and Farsi, some Hindi/Urdu and few English words also started penetrating in the Wakhi language of Hunza. From 1947 onward, Urdu and then English languages gradually held their strong grips in the local languages. The local languages including Wakhi thus began retaining the previously influenced vocabularies, on the one hand; and on the other, absorbing the words of British colonial languages. In the 1980s and 1990s, the entire Hunza (including Ghulkin) strongly switched over to the English medium language as a medium of education in the schools. In Hunza valley, 1990s and 2000s also witness the media invasion (a facet of globalization) on the local cultures and languages. Variety of TV channels through dish antennas, cable networks, internet and so on are on rise. The cellular phones, these days, have their own drastic and long term effects on peoples’ minds, then definitely on the local languages, especially through text messages either in English or in Urdu. In such circumstances of global languages’ strong influence, the languages like Wakhi or Burshaski, Shina or other mountain and rural languages in the region are having hue and cry that are at the brink of endangerment, if necessary steps were not taken.
Some tangible examples are found in the context of Wakhi language of Hunza. The respective Wakhi speakers in Ghulkin and in the region have given up many indigenous words that the language, being a vehile, possessed and carried along for centuries. Get aside other words, even the indigenous kinship terms for parents, grandparents, children, siblings, uncles and aunties et cetera (that traveled for millennia) have been given up not only by the youngsters, but even by those Wakhi speakers who are claim as educated and are in their 40 plus or 50 plus of their age. This is abasing phenomenon and a serious concern, not only for the Wakhi speakers, rather for other languages spoken in the entire region. This argument never means “not to learn other languages,” rather encourages to preserve and speak one’s mother tongue along with yearning for and learning other languages.
3.15. Festivities and Sports
Festivities and sports are other integral parts of a society whereby the concerned people celebrate the important events, get rejoiced, refresh and entertain themselves. These facets are also found in the main societies (Wakhi, Burusho and Shin) of Hunza. Focusing o the topic, let’s have a glance on the features vis-à-vis the Wakhi and the locale.
In the Wakhi society, festivities start from Kitδit , cleaning the dust and smokes of the traditional houses’ ceilings. Kitδit is celebrated in the first week of February to mark moving towards the warm season (spring), getting-off and saying goodbye to the harsh winter. The houses were though cleaned time and again but the ceilings would be cleaned annually especially for this festivity; and a collective gathering would take place in the jamatkhanas. The special dish for this festivity was Khista (leavened bread) of faba-beans (and in some instances of wheat), while butter and oil on the top. Some people may cook shulbut, a savor food having meat in it. Womenfolk would carry along the foods and visit their patri-locals, immediate families and neighbors’ houses.
In the first week of March, the plowing festivity called Taγ̌m(pronounced taghm by non-Wakhi speakers) would celebrated. The special dish of this festivity is semn prepared in both pudding form and in a chapatti. The sports activities for male group remained polo on horses and on-foot polo; while the female group would have “put-din”, tossing the ball (of cricket’s size) or strike it against the ground, besides yupk fẽzdak, (having a fun of sprinkling water on the passersby whosoever encountered or crossed them, particularly on the men). Womenfolk would pay courtesy visits to their kinspersons in their houses and carry along the food. At present, the pivotal role of both the oxen and horses were replaced by the tractors and horses winded up. So holds true for the oxen. During the plowing festivity, the ceremony is celebrated symbolically. There is no more sport’s activity in polo on horses because there is no horse in the village. After a long break, the WTCA revived the polo on horse and on-foot after more than two decades. The people (youths) played on-foot polo, but was banned after the polo-ball was hit on a gentleman’s eye in 1994. The fun of splashing water , rather apricot juice (chẽmos) of the Wakhi women on each others, especially on any male passerby exists in the village.
The first summer festivity would begin with Wingas Tuy, literally as “marrying the sparrow.” When the barley grains would start growing, the sparrows attack and destroy the crops. Wingas Tuy was therefore innovated and celebrated which prevented attacks of sparrow on the crops. The special dish for festivity was bat, a kind of savor food. The religious clergies, without any academic exploration, discouraged and ended celebration of this festivity; and today, there is no more Wingas Tuy.
When the barley is ripen, the harvesting festivity of Č̣inir (c̃hinir) comes up. The special dish in C̃hinir used to be bat, semn and shũlbũt, addition of meat with bat. As customary, the womenfolk would carry the foods to the houses of their dears and nears. The sports activities remained polo, and the children (including girls) would enjoy having seesaws (qardang). Chinir is celebrated today also, but there isn’t the sport activities like polo.
In autumn (end of September) the pastoral peoples would come back from the pastures along with the flocks of livestock. Some of the village peoples would go 2 to 5 km away of the village to receive them. The village’s pastoral people would bring some special foods cooked on the pasture-houses. These special dairy products including jige,kẽdhek-e pẽt̃ok, and qũrũt. The villagers who gave their flocks of sheep and goats to the respective persons would now formally visit the houses of people in transhumance. The pastoral and settled foods are exchanged. Another festivity of the autumn is Khũdhoyi), Thanks Giving, or offering in the name of God which shows celebration of summer ending and the people and livestock of the villages reached safely.
Besides the old traditional festivities, the religious rites are also celebrated not only at Ghulkin but rather amongst all Ismaili communities. These ceremonies include anniversaries of His Highness, Shah Karim al-Husseini, Aga Khan-IV, on the day of his accession to the throne of spiritual (and worldly) leadership on July 11, his birthday on December 13, his first ever visit to Hunza on October 23, in addition with the revered days of Eid-e Ramzan and Eid-e Qurban. It is worth mentioning that for the anniversary of July 11, the community members, who are out either in pursuance of their education or having any employment or business, would try their level best to reach to their respective villages and participate in this religious festivity.
3.16. Creativities and Entertainment
Music, poetry, dance and singing are those expressions which have their own significance in the Wakhi culture and society. Like other villages, Ghulkin is also fertile and functional in cultural activities. The young and elders alike do participate in the grand programs within and out of their village, and express their artistic skills. Music and dance are the integral part of marriages and festivities; but comparatively, poetry and singing were not encouraged before 1983. After formation of the Boy Scouts in Ghulkin, the scouts (along with other volunteers), such activities were carried out gradually. The poetry, poetical contests, music, singing, dance and dramas intensified and got exposure to the broader audiences in the grand festivals and programs (at regional, national and international scales) after formation of the WTCA in 1991, which frequently campaigned, patronized, fostered and stimulated the community in these specific fields. At present, the artistes of Ghulkin are really champions in the performing arts.
Presently, there are 15 poets (especially three are well recognized), 25 singers (20 male and 5 female), 10 traditional music experts in addition with dozens of music players of the Scottish band and 3 artists. Besides, there are also dozens of devotional female singers, too and the history goes back in 1983. Although, in there is a good progress in the above fields, but there is a dearth of folksingers in the village along with music expert in ghizhek.
3.17. The state of voluntarism
Kiryar, voluntary corporate laboring (a facet of social organization), Khũdhoyi (Thanksgiving or to get intentions fulfilled, at individual or collective level), swob-e yark (philanthropy/volunteering to get God’s reward), and nang et nomus-e yark (philanthropy for fame) remained an integral part of the agro-pastoral community of the region from the old days. The scope of kiryar, Khudoyi, swob-eyark and nomus-e yark can be within or out of the families or descent groups, and within and out of the village. The nature of these works comprised on agrarian and pastoral; constructing buildings, bridges or footpaths on the arduous terrains (piryen); ceremonial and ritualistic; giving foods and or clothing to needy or otherwise, and so on. Today, kiryar within their descent groups to carry out their agro-pastoral activities has been replaced by the paid-laborers from out of the village and region.
Other voluntary offerings such as Khudoyi, swob-e yark and nomus-e yark, whether at individual, group or communal level, still exists among the community. Today, the nature of work has somehow changed from the previous period. The current mode of voluntary services is more through organizations such as contributing to VWOs, GESWANCA and their committees, and religious institutions like the Shia Ismali Councils and its subsidiary organizations (volunteers, scouts, guides) or committees, Ismaili Tariqa and Religious Education Board’s committees, cultural and youth’s forums, and so on.
The development practitioners and students need to recognize that the societal change, which we see in Ghulkin or in the entire valley, could not come so rapidly and effectively, if the respective communities were not mentally prepared and mobilized; and if the community leaders and members would had not volunteered their precious time, resources and energies to carry out the development projects through their local civil society organizations. Enormous representatives of the voluntary institutions, in the initial phase, the religious institutions such as the Shia Ismaili Council for Gulmit (like other local councils in the region) and the clergies (Mukhis, Kamrrias , Khalifas), orators (Wa’izeen), and the Ismali Tariq and Religious Education Boards (ITREBs) proved to be very effective in preparing and mobilizing the community for their development projects. Later, dozens of other volunteers in the social organizations such as the VWOs, and GESWANCA—along with its committees and sub-committees on education, welfare, nature’s conservation, tourism, culture and so on—played their significant role in conception and successful implementation of different projects in the village. One of the secrecies of effective development and change lies here with the voluntarism in its variety of forms.
Today’s society of Ghulkin is not that society which existed prior to the AKRSP’s intervention year, but rather has evolved itself and/or transformed in many respects. Economically, the community does not depend solely on the agro-pastoral mode of life, but men and women have diversified their livelihood strategies in also doing businesses (within and out of the village); and engaged in employments in public and private sectors, and civil society organizations. The community has abandoned cultivation of faba-bean (millennia old crop) and is adopting cultivation and production of a large scale potatoes used for in-house consumption, and more particularly for commercial purpose. Out of 153 households, 83 households (52.3%) have totally abandoned rearing sheep and goats; and 100% of the population has no horse and donkey. There is less dependence on manures (feces) and more dependence on chemical fertilizers bought from the market. Opposed to the previously excessive exploitation of the natural resources such as hunting the wildlife (ibexes, blue-sheep, birds, predators like snow-leopards and wolves), or intensified deforestation of the natural forests, today the community organization, called GESWANCA, aggressively works for the nature’s conservation and environment.
In contrast to previous ignorance for education, the people now advocate for quality education and prefer female education. There was no master’s degree holder from the village before 1983; and currently, there are 54 masters’ degree holders (40 male and 14 females) with dozens more pursuing their higher degrees. Previously, there were two primary schools in the village; but presently, there are two middle schools in addition with one government primary school and one community-based AKESP school for secondary level. The schools are equipped with some computers but no adequate computer instructors/teachers. Besides, all students (numbering 287) in the village also do get their religious education in the three religious centers that have 8 religious guides and more than a dozen volunteers who offer their services to educate the students/juniors religious education. Out of the village, there are 249 students pursue their education in different institutions (schools, colleges and universities). There is a first-aid-post in the village since 1984 that deals patients with initial heath issues; and for serious issues, patients are taken either to the not-equipped hospital in Gumit, otherwise to the hospitals in Aliabad and Gilgit, or Islamabad and Karachi (Aga Khan University Hospital).
Opposed to the previously extended/joint family system, the nuclear families are increasing (currently 47.8%). Children’s roles as a labor-force have decreased and/or transformed from agro-pastoral and other laboring work to educational activities and pursuance. Decision on mate-selection (conjugal partnership) has significantly changed from the arranged marriage to marriage of consent, understanding and love; and age limit of minimum 18 years is pre-requisite for the wedlock as opposed to the previous marriages which took place even before 18 or before reaching their teenage. Polygyny is no more in practice today, as we could find examples in the previous period. Levirate and sorrorate marriages depend on the situation, however. Women’s roles have changed to a significant level from the confined in-house activities to organizational employments and voluntary services. In the previous agro-pastoral society, the parents produced more children. At present, the parents are motivated for less children and they do practice the family planning techniques and tools.
The old internal lending or microcredit system in kinds (called tol) transformed into the modern internal lending in cash, introduced by the AKRSP in the VWOs 1988 has its significant effects in improving the quality of life of the village community in the fields of education, health, enterprise development, land-development, marriages, and so on; although, some negative issues could also prospected, if in case non-payments came up.
No more travel on horses or donkeys could be dreamt of. The main link-road to Ghulkin constructed in the 1960s, improved in 1980s is currently being widened and asphalted. The coarse link-roads around the main settlement and sub-villages have been constructed. More than 50% of the households have the landline telephone system in addition with, an average, almost 100% households having mobile-sets. Almost 50% of the households have the computers.
Each household is currently having clean-drinking/tap water in their houses as opposed to the previous situation where the people consumed muddy water of the glacier (before 1981) for cooking and drinking. All households, like other villages in the region, have electricity (since 1987) and having variety of electrical appliances, as opposed to the previous situation where there was no or no adequate light system.
Previously, there was the old toilet system in the traditional Wakhi house. In 1976, when the first toilet was introduced, the community did not accept this change because of human manure production from the human excrements. But at present (in 2009), 100% of the households have replaced the previously traditional manure-based disease-oriented toilets in addition with removal of the pens or cattle-houses.
No more traditional long shoes (s̃hũs̃hk or sẽndal ), or a traditional outfit like krest (an overcoat made out of goats’ or sheep’s leathers), or in-house made woolen clothes can be seen that the people wore previously. Instead the company-made outfits of polyester, woolen, felt, velvet, and cotton et cetera are bought from the bazaar. The traditional robe called bet and the traditional caps are seen that the people put on especially during the winter. The youths, both male and female, seem indifferent in this regard. There is no more subsisting foods at meal because the community has diversified their modes of income; and significantly improved their nutrition at homes. The community still retains the traditional Wakhi dishes, but comparatively not cooked very often for the guests as those dishes had their special social significance. These days, for instance, if the high-ranked traditional dishes like molida, γulminid or bat are offered to the guests instead of meat and rice (and no milk-tea in the aftermath), the guests or hosts may not elevate the food status: and no mention if there are vegetables, rice or pulse. So holds true to beverages like fruit juices (e.g., chmos), milk, soup, yogurt, or buttermilk versus milk-tea: .milk-tea would be preferred upon the harmless traditional beverages.
Unlike the previous period, poetry, singing and dramas are encouraged. Music and dance had their awesome prominence before, especially during the weddings. Both music and dance; andthey still retain their significance although, some melody changed. The folksongs and folkdance is not highly prominent. Today, we can find more than a dozen artistes each in the fields of poetry, singing, dance, music and dramas at Ghulkin. The traditional voluntary modes—except for the corporate laboring (a facet of social organization)—still exist in addition with organizational voluntarism.
The local languages of Gilgit-Baltistan including Wakhi, as vehicles of cultures and traditions, are witnessed losing their important vocabularies and encountering robust challenges for its survival. On the one hand, globalization (besides its positive realities) has negatively affected the languages of small population; and on the other, the discouraging behaviors of the respective community members, especially apparently educated peoples (particularly between 25-60 years old) towards their languages and not preserving the fundamental vocabularies of their ancient languages like the Wakhi Pamiri.
To sum up, societal change is a continuous process that occurs when changes come in the human minds and in collective mindsets of the community. The gloomy past of the society in socioeconomic and politico-cultural terms has gone. The society is being developed impressively in a short span of time, but gloomy times could come again, if adequate and considerate measures were not taken ahead to address same or different kinds challenges in an organized and united manner. 52.3% of the community has abandoned their livestock (sheep & goats), Full focus on the children’s education and more than a dozen degree-holders are coming annually out of their education institutions and facing unemployment in the job markets. Those students, unable to continue their education after their matriculation or even under-matriculation or otherwise, are already in the unemployment bazaar, and engaged with variety of business activities or otherwise within and out of the village. With the growing population and nuclear families (47.8%), the land distributions among the siblings are reducing. Hanging on their academic certificates or degrees, they may not aspire to continue their agro-pastoral mode of life. They would also come across issues in mate-selection (getting the desired conjugal partners), which would further aggravate the frustrations of the youths.
In such circumstances, some could opt for exogamy (marriages not only out of the clan or village, rather out of their language-groups, out of their religious affinity or out of their nationality for their survival and social prestige. We can already witness scuh sort of exogamy in the village. Implicated social issues could emerge, if positive adjustment could not come. What the respective social institutions, community leaders and organizations could do to address such future challenges would be a big question mark.
Beg, Fazal Amin, 2006. A Story of Social Change and Development in Ghulkin, Hunza Valley. AKRSP, Gilgit.
Beg, Fazal Amin, 2006. Towards Social Transformation: An Account of Khayber Village in Hunza. AKRSP, Gilgit.
1. Farhang-e Ameed-e Forsi(Ameed Persian Dictionary).
2. Related office records of Diamond Jubilee School Ghulkin, Aga Khan Education Service, Pakistan.
3. Related office records of Gojal Educational and Cultural Association (GECA), Islamabad.
4. Related office records of Ghulkin Students Association.
5. Related office records of Village Organization, Ghulkin.
6. Related office records of Wakhi Tajik Cultural Association (WTCA), Hunza.
7. Related office records of Women Organization, Ghulkin.
My sincere gratitude goes firstly to AKRSP for providing me an initial opportunity of carrying out such kind of study on the theme in 2006 that encouraged me to go more and more in depth to quench my personal thirst on the subject of societal development in an evolutionary context.
My heartiest gratitude to all related organizations, the key informants and all respondents of the locale from Ghulkin to Gilgit, and Islamabad/Rawalpindi to Karachi for their encouragement and gracious support in sharing the relevant information with me to develop this paper.
Appendix: Acronyms and Abbreviations
AKDN Aga Khan Development Networks
AKESP Aga Khan Education Service, Pakistan
AKHSP Aga Khan Rural Support Program
AKHSS Aga Khan Higher Secondary School
AKPBS Aga Khan Planning and Building Service
AKRSP Aga Khan Rural Support Program
AKUH Aga Khan University Hospital
BACIP Building and Construction Improvement Program
BOG Board of Governors
CBS Community Based School
CMH Combined Military Hospital
DHQ District Headquarters
DJ Diamond Jubilee
ECD Early Childhood Education
GESWANCA Ghulkin Educational, Social Welfare and Nature’s Conservation Association
GECA Gojal Educational and Cultural Association
GSA Ghulkin Students Association
NKMA Nasir-e Khusraw Model Academy
NCC Nature’s Conservation Committee
PIMS Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences
UNDP United Nations Development Fund
UNESCO United Nations Education ,Scientific and Cultural Organization
UNICEF United Nations International Children’s Education Fund
WASEP Water and Sanitation Extension Program
WTCA Wakhi Tajik Cultural Association