By Fazal Amin Beg
The Ismaili community, comprised on millions of population, is a branch of the Shia Islam found in more than 50 countries around the world. They are brought up and fostered in diverse cultural and regional settings; and thus, they make up a global community having a unitary command led by their exceptional spiritual leader called Hazar Imam (i.e., Imam of the time). Their Imam is responsible to give time to time directives to his followers not only in the spiritual realm but rather also in the worldly affairs and well being of the community and the entire humanity. Their present Imam is Shah Karim al-Hussaini, prominently known as His Highness, Prince Karim, Aga Khan—the 49th hereditary Imam in line with Ali Murtaza, who was the first cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, and above all the testimonial successor of the Prophet (Wasi) and the first Imam of the Shia Muslims in the institution of Imamat, office of spiritual leadership.
A significant number of scholars, explorers, researchers and writers contributed enormously by sharing their knowledge and experiences in the contemporary or historical domains on the Ismailis of different regions such as North America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Central Asia, South Asia and Far East. But specifically on the Chinese Ismaili community, at least in the contemporary perspective, dearth of knowledge prevails. The main reason obviously lies in the strong political environment of skepticism in China. The socialist government is strict in allowing openness and sharing real information and knowledge within or out of the country. Not to mention, the Chinese government also seems suspicious in permitting foreign researchers or scholars to conduct appropriate studies or documentation on the respective ethno-linguistic and/or religious communities. Although, the government provides official statements, such as the census reports, they may not fully or truly be relied upon, more particularly regarding facts and statistics on the minorities (ethno-linguistic and religious) until and unless the official facts are crosschecked from other credible and neutral sources.
This document therefore intends and attempts to explore, from an anthropological perspective, overview and concisely share some key findings on the Shia Ismaili community of China who live as a minority in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. The findings shared herein are from the primary source.
The Tajik Identity of the Chinese Ismaili Community
Mainly the Ismaili community of China are distinguished, identified and termed officially as Tajik. Tajik is however a kind of polemic term of address or reference and identity in a broader perspective. In the context of other countries (e.g., Afghanistan and Tajikistan), this may not necessarily be an Ismaili entity, rather majority of the Tajiks belong to the Sunni Muslims. Interestingly, few contrasting ethno-linguistic groups of small population in Xinjiang are lumped together and sandwiched as Tajik, which however almost entirely refers to or represent the Ismaili identity.
Ethno-linguistic Groups within the Chinese Tajik
Linguistically, the Chinese or Xinjiang Ismaili community is composed of mainly three language groups: Sariqoli, Wakhi and Yarkandi (a variation of Uyghur). The first two, Sariqoli and Wakhi language groups are branches of the Pamiri languages family within the Eastern Iranian languages. Sariqoli (also written as Sarikoli) is very closed to (even some academically argue that it is a variation or duplication of the Shugni language), mainly spoken in both Afghan and Tajik Badakhshan.
The Wakhi language is spoken by a small group of people (more or less a hundred thousand individuals) in five nation-states, They live specifically in Xinjiang of China (lesser than 20,000); in the valleys of Hunza, Ishkoman and Yasin in Ghizer district and Burughel of Chitral district of Pakistan (more than 20,000); in Wakhan of Afghanistan (over 15,000); in Tajik Wakhan, Murghob and Kuy-e Bish of Tajikistan (maximum 25,000); Russia (over 4,000); and Van province of the modern Turkey (40-50 individuals) .
The Yarkandi (or Uyghur) speaking Ismailis are actually not the Uyghur ethnicity or original Yarkandi speakers. Rather these people settled in China as emigrants of Hunza and Nagar (in today’s Pakistan) and whose actual languages were Burushaski and Kajuna/Shina respectively. In 1892, when the British-Indian forces conquered Hunza and Nagar for the first time, the then ruler of Hunza, Mir Safdar Ali Khan, along with his 100 subjects fled their ancestral abode (Hunza) and took refuge/asylum in Xinjiang (the village called Ojriq). These people thus did not return to Hunza and permanently settled at this place. These small community unfortunately could not retain and sustain their mother-tonguge, and lost it in a century at the expense of and adopted Yarkandi language due to their socioeconomic needs (as survival of the fittest). The Kajuna/Shina speakers were the victimized people of Nagar (Hunza valley) who were sold/traded to Yarkandis as slaves by the then Hunzaians (dwellers of Hunza). All these ethno-linguistic groups are lumped together and are now under the unified umbrella of Tajik.
Ethnically, the Ismailis of Xinjiang are very diverse belonging to different descent groups (lineages and clans). The Sayids and Khujas (or Khojas) are elevated high in their society. The Sayids and Khujas have been playing religiously their vital role by leading and protecting the Ismailis as pirs (religious leaders). Even though, these pirs speak Sariqoli, Wakhi and Yarkandi, they also retain their prominence by maintaining themselves in Farsi language and also some Arabic. The Sayids are basically the Arabs who claim their descent line (linage) with either Imam Ali or the Prophet Muhammad. But with the passage of time, when they immigrated to different regions and intermingled with different communities, they lost their Arabic linguistic entity (at least in terms of speaking Arabic) but retained and maintained themselves in Farsi language.
The Khuja pirs and descent groups trace their lineage back to their apical ancestor called Sayid Surob-e Wali, a foster/fictive son of Nasir-e Khusraw .
Another prominent descent group comes up of the ruling family of the Tashkurghan county known as “Bigon-e Sariqol” or “Begs” who ruled the principality for centuries. Apart from the Begs [or Beks], other ruling descent groups such as the Khan-e Kanjut (rulers of Hunza), out of Tashkurghan are also found in Poskan and Yarkand. Besides, dozens of other descent groups are found in all counties within the Tajiks, especially among the Ismailis.
Distinguishing the Religious Affinity of the Tajik Community
Almost all Tajik are the Ismaili Muslims. The Ismaili Tajiks make up—according to the Census and a survey in 2006—a total population of over 50,000 (fifty thousand) individuals. There is also a small number of Sariqolis that belong to the Sunni faith in Islam and whom the Panjtani or Ismaili Tajik would term as as Choryori . These Choryori Sariqolis lived in Burungsol, a Yiza or Gungshi within Tashkurghan County. This Yiza encountered flood and the Sariqoli Tajik of the village were shifted to a new settlement named as Tajikabad—more or less 2 hours drive from Kashghar. There also lives a little population of the Sariqoli Choryoris in Qughushluq (Kughushluk), which is a;sp a Yiza (or a small magistracy in administrative setup) in Tashkurghan county.
The Burusho (i.e., Burushaski speakers)—emigrants/refugees of the former Princely State of Hunza—who now speak Yarkandi and are under the brand name of Tajik are Ismailis, of course. The Kajuna speakers (whose apical ancestors were sold in Yarkand) seems somehow ambiguous who are also under the umbrella of Tajik identity, though they have deep relationship with their fellow Ismaili Tajiks. After opening of the Khunzhrav (distortedly written as Khunjerab) Pass in 1986 for the purpose of cultural exchange, tourism and trade development, the Nagar traders and businesspersons got their access and interactions with these people. Reportedly, a couple of families now do covertly practice their faith as Shia Ithna’shari (Twelevers).
Geographical Locations of the Tajik Community
Inhabiting the strategic locations, the Ismaili Tajik community is found in the two prefectures [=districts] and five counties of Xinjiang province. The Sariqoli Ismailis and the Wakhi live in different villages and valleys of Tashkurghan county (the former Sariqol State) within Kashghar prefecture. The Yarkandi speaker Ismailis along with the Wakhi speakers live in the counties of Yarkand, Poskam and Karghelik within Kashghar (also written as Kashi) prefecture. Besides, the Wakhi Ismailis live in the Guma county within Khutan district of Xinjiang, bordering with Zizang [i.e., Tibet].
Geographically Political Identities of the Tajik
The government has, like other minority ethno-linguistic groups, given the Tajik community of Xinjiang with geographical identity at county and Gungshi or Yiza levels. The geographical identity indicates that the respective ethno-linguistic group lives either completely or in majority therein. In this connection, one can find a county named behind the Tajik, which is called as “Tashkurghan Tajik Autonomous County” within Kashghar prefecture. There are two Yizas/Gunghis under Yardkand and Poskam counties named as “Zarafshot Tojik Mili Yiza” and “Buyluq Tojik Mili Yiza” respectively functioning under Kashghar prefecture. The third Tajik Yiza is within the Khutan prefecture of Xinjiang functioning under the Guma county with the name of “Nawabod Tojik Mili Yiza” inhabited by the Wakhi Pamiris. It was interesting to note in the field (in August 2006) that how these Ismaili community members get pride and honor of getting their geographical identity being Tajik.
As mentioned earlier, a new place has been settled and named behind Tajik as Tajikabad or Tojikabod near Kashghar city and its geographically political status needs to be found out. The Chinese government was intensively constructing a mega dam in the Baldir Valley of Tashkurghan county, dwelled by the Wakhi and Sariqoli Tajiks. The socialist government asked the inhabitants of Baldir valley to empty the area and settle in Tajikabad—a plain area in contrast to the mountain situated at a distance of more or less 8 hours drive. But the community was reluctant and refusing to abandon their centuries old abode.
Special Characteristics of the Wakhi Pamiris
Could there be any language community within the Ismaili Muslims that has its complete affinity only within the Ismaili faith and the community cannot be found in other faiths either within Islam or out Islam? Although, I am ignorant about other languages within the Ismaili faith or other schools of thought possessing the indicated characteristics asked, but I would like to answer the question in “Yes.”
Within the Ismaili Muslims, the Wakhi language community has this special characteristic that by now (2010) all Wakhi speakers belong to the Isma’ili faith and no one could be found as non-Ismaili (or if anyone has got converted recently in the case of Tajikistan, I m ignronant about it). If someone identifies himself or herself as Wakhi Pamiri or Wakhi Tajik, it certainly also reflects that s/he is an Ismaili. Their population in Xinjiang is lesser than 20,000 but they live in the entire five counties: whereas the Yarkandi Ismailis are in Yardkand and Poskam counties and the Sariqoli Ismails in Tashkurghan county.
The Faith Practice within the Tajik community and Role of the Pirs in China
The pirs, religious leaders, and their assistants in the villages called khalifa, belonging to different ethnic or descent groups, have their critical role in maintaining and sustaining the Ismaili faith and practice. In a socialist country like China, the pirs safeguarded both their disciples and the Ismaili faith. The pirs concealed safely and neatly the Isma’ili literatures at distant or unknown places during the high times such as that of the revolutions, especially during the cultural revolution of China. After some decades, they unearthed the old literatures and now are put in their home libraries/studies , although not yet openly shown to all Ismailis fearing the harassment due to the political sensitivities.
The Ismailis did not openly practice their faith, but at least covertly they did continue it, at least infrequently. If they couldn’t openly practice their faith in the jamat Khanas, they could practice some facets of their faith during the marriage ceremonies and death rites.
After some openness in the political environment, the government permitted the minorities with some conditions to practice their faith. The conditions reportedly included as follow:
a) The people practicing their faith should be above 18 years of age; and children under 18 were not allowed;
b) Those employed in the organizations were not allowed.
The Pirs’ Role: Other Side of the Coin
Already entrapped in the socialist government’s extra-ordinary restrictions, the pirs have also played or are playing their theocratic role in the community. Some respondents were observed reluctant about the pirs’ roles.
There are five pirs presently in Xinjiang. Pir Sadruddin, belonging to the Khon Ishon’s family , lives in the Baldir valley of the Tashkurghan County—two and a half hours drive from Tashkurghan center. Pir Adil lives in Zarafshat Tajik Mili Yiza within Yarkand county. Pir Aziz Uddin son of Abdul Aziz lives in Poskam city. Pir Dildar Jan (pronounced as Dildor Jon) and Pir Isa Khan live in Tolqichi—a village of Poskam county—30 minutes drive from the Poskam city.
Reportedly, there was no adequate cooperation and/or coordination among these pirs. Even I was told that the jamatkhanas are divided and the disciples would go to their respective pir’s jamatkhanas . This however needs further verifications. One thing was however critical to note that there seemed a kind of competition among the pirs, as could be seen among many professionals in different organizations having professional jealousy. Whatsoever competition, but one thing is clear that the innocent followers will suffer and lack in an integrated and pluralistic concept of Ismailism.
Apart from the pirs’ positive role in, at least, uniting the Ismaili Muslims in groups, though the community is integrated around their cultural entity being Tajik, a dearth of overall leadership was felt. This would, it is hoped, improve with the course of time when there comes up an enabling environment for the development intervention from the outside, as we could witness Tajikistan (being a socialist republic) as a precedence before us.
The Chinese Socialist System versus the Devout Ismaili Faith
The background of the Chinese socialist system of governance is before all those acquainted with its political history. Restriction on the religious practices has been, or is, of no wonder in the country. Interestingly, different political strategies and approaches of the government in getting away the respective communities, especially their young generations, could not defeat the peoples’ centuries old belief system. And there should be no wonder it holds true to the minority Ismaili Tajiks of China.
In 2006, I was although on an ethnological exploration (demographic survey) in Xinjiang, but definitely, being a student of anthropology, I also looked at and observed the community in a holistic manner. It was really touching to observe and witness that some of the Ismaili Tajik community leaders—in political realm like the socialist party secretaries at the Gunghis, county or above levels from whom I would avoid or care not to talk about religion—were found very devout in their religion. For instance, when we would leave their houses or places, they would kiss our hands in horrifying us (which we reciprocated),literally weep/tear out by passing on such remarks:
“You are the fortunate people. You are the Haji (pilgrims) because you have seen (had didar of) the Imam of the time. We the Chinese Ismailis are sinful and really misfortunate because we are deprived of seeing our beloved Imam. We have seen the Imam’s pictures only, but you lucky people have seen him physically and are blessed with his directives, time and again.”
Such sentiments of the community members were found at all levels in the entire five counties. We got a pride while looking at their love and affections for their Imam. On the other, we would also shatter cordially when they would weep while seeing us off. In response, we would then console and hearten them by saying:
“You are the fortunate community members that you haven’t seen your Imam physically. You people are devout and you see your Imam from your heat’s eye. We are sinful. We have seen him many times, but what is the need if we could not recognize the Imam from our heats eyes. Animals also see the Imam from their external eyes, but cannot recognize him . So we are like animals.”
Tajik Festivities in Xinjiang
The Ismaili Tajiks have many festivities and it may not be possible to incorporate all. Two of them, celebrated at mega level, are worthy to mention hereunder.
Like all Tajiks and Iranians, the Chinese Tajik also celebrate the Nawruz with great enthusiasm every year on 21st March. Various entertaining programs are organized and the people express and share their joys together.
The Ismaili Tajik of China, like other Muslims, celebrate the Eid-e Qurban with great zeal and zest. The government grants them leave for couples of days. The Chinese Tajik celebrate the Eid as a cultural event and therefore the government doesn’t become reluctant. If it was declared as a religious ritual, the government could then impose restriction on it, describe some respondents.
Apart from the above, other cultural ceremonies are also observed that include the marriages, death, offerings, pilik-e rasm and so on.
Literacy and Acquisition of Languages
The statistics, as mentioned earlier, regarding the demographic or other facets of a community or society is difficult to obtain in the socialist republic of China. The literacy rate among the Tajik community is not easy to be provided accurately. The medium of instruction in the educational institutions are either Uyghur or Mandarin Chinese . A young Tajik is therefore supposed to learn, along with his/her mother tongue), mainly three languages .
Professions/Occupations of the Tajik Community
After getting their required and desired education, the Tajiks choose their profession/occupations. Majority of the community are affiliated with the agro-pastoral activities. Many community members are employed with the public sector organizations, esp. many could be found overtly and covertly in the Chinese intelligence department. Few Tajik professionals play their key roles in the central government. When I was in Guma county, I found a Wakhi Tajik who was a county judge.
Besides, a limited number of the Tajiks venture to run their enterprises such as tea-shops, cloth-houses, transport and so on. A considerable number of young men and women are engaged with the leisure and tourism industries. Very high professional musicians, singers, dancers, poets and the like are found among the community who could sometimes be seen on the television channels.
Situation Analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
There are although many characteristics within or pertaining to the Tajik community of China, it may not be possible to describe or encompass all. Some of those characteristics as strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) are however being highlighted and shared hereunder.
Being a traditional practicing agro-pastoral community, the Chinese Tajik people have abundant natural resources. They have huge livestock, spread over the meadows in the mountains, which they sell at the doorsteps to the Uyghur traders coming from Kashghar. Unfortunately, the community members have either no aptitude or not the required and desired capacity to market and trade their flocks of livestock (e.g., the pamiri sheep, yaks), fresh or dried dairy-products, agricultural produces or other products (e.g., handicrafts or otherwise) to the markets in their counties or the prefectures (i.e., Kashghar and Khutan). Absence of the required or desired qualities thus leads to an exploitation of the community from different angles by the outsiders.
In order to survive in the social environment, the Tajik community members have made themselves adaptive to the socialist system. This attitude, on the one hand, led the Tajik people to build a mutual trust-relationship with the government; and on the other, paved a way for them to get employment, to a considerable extent, in the public sector organizations.
The Tajik community lives in strategic locations, more particularly in the Tashkurhgan county. The county is a rendezvous among five nation-states: China itself, Kirghizistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The geopolitical significance of Tashkurghan county (the former Sariqol state) therefore makes it a center for cultural diffusion in result of encounters and interactions of diverse national and international cultural groups. Likewise, this Tajik county has become a hub of socioeconomic and cultural activities.
The Tajik community members are multi-lingual. Besides learning their mother-tongues, specifically in the Tashkurghan county, the people learn the Uyghur and Mandarin Chinese as medium of instruction in the educational institutions. In addition, a prospective move, though incredible, could be testified as well. English language is also taught as a subject in the schools where the Han schools—medium of instruction as Mandarin Chinese. This phenomenon has both positive and negative socio-cultural effects. A good point it so, for instance, the community members become versatile in languages (being the cultural keys) and the people could get employment in different organizations—depending on their field of studies or specializations. In contrast, due to absence of any mother-tongue literacy program, the young, generation, especially in other counties (out of Tashkurhgan county) where in Ismaili Tajiks live, have become not only least interested in their mother=tongue, rather consequently they lost their vernaculars. The examples are more or less 5,000 Wakhi speakers in the Poskam and Guma counties; hundreds of Burushaski/Kajuna speakers in the Yarkand counties.
In result of the socialist system in the country, the Tajik community seems to have acquired an open environment. Coeducation prevails in the educational institutions. Men and women work together in different offices. The Tajiks are proactive in sharing and contributing in cultural events/performing arts. Enormous artistes such as singers, dancers, musicians, poets and so on are found in this field, even some could be witnessed on television during special programs.
Women’s and men’s rights are however protected, to a significant level, by the law of the land. A facet is worth mentioning. For instance, a young woman’s decision of her conjugal partnership cannot be influenced (against her will) by the second or third person (even including their parents or siblings) or by any other parties. In case of meddling in the states of affairs, the meddlers have to face the law. After marriage, the conjugal partners could produce not more than two children. Previously, there was permission of three children for the minority ethnic groups living in the rural settings, excluding the Han Chinese who could produce only one child. Such development though seems good, but for the traditional societies like that of the Tajik community, it somehow is suffocating. Majority of the young Tajik youth of both sexes (esp. men) are involved in the undesirable activities which their faith may not allow.
For more than a decade, the Chinese government has a strong development focus on the entire Xinjiang Region that also includes the counties where the Ismaili Tajiks live. Tashkurghan county is of a prime example. Strong and effective infrastructures have been developed in the county. High level of roads, highways, bridges; tele-communications (landline phones, cellular phones, internet); bazaars, educational institutions; health facilities, cultural centers, museums et cetera are evidenced in the area. The area could be a great tourist hub as the peoples and the government seems positive towards ecotourism; and on the other, the respective community is rich in the tourism resource-bases (natural and cultural).
Inhabiting in the borders region and keeping in mind their national security issues, the Tajik people are often seen skeptic and suspicious of the outsiders visiting their areas. In this manner, it sounds they show their extraordinary adherence or patriotism to their state and win the government’s trust on them. In contrast, there seems lack of political capacity and vision in the leadership in advocating for their border rights and incentives (e.g., trans-border cultural exchanges, trans-border economic/trade zone, trans-border ecotourism development and so on). In addition, it was also found that the people lack enterprise development capacity so that to venture and engage themselves adequately, effectively and sustainably in variety of enterprises/businesses.
Looking at the lucrative Tajik border county (Tashkurghan), many interest groups moved and entered in the Tajik county. A bid group among them includes the Chinese government itself that initiated investment in the region. The traditional sedentary society (being agro-pastoral) could not face the change positively and channelize it into their favor. Consequently, many groups of businesspersons, especially the Han Chinese and the Uyghur Turks, reached in the county. The native people, being incapacitated, got pushed back from the economic prospective, although some work under both these majority ethnic groups of entire China and the Xinjiang region respectively. It sounds as the big fishes in the ocean or sea exploring food and eating the small fishes. The Han Chinese, in particular, are being settled in the Tajik county as well. The Tajik demography, ethnic landscape and identity as well as economic opportunities and the friendly environmental would, of course, come under threat, if the Tajik political and community leaders would not lead their people with long vision and deep thought, instead of adhering chauvinistically to the monarchic and dictatorial socialist party at the expense of their communal interests.
A Brief Comparison of Development among the Tajiks of Central Asia
China and Tajikistan base on the socialist republics values. These republics took the responsibilities of overall development on their shoulders. They provided the fundamental needs (such as facilities of health, education, clean drinking water, gender equality et cetera) to their nationals. I was however stunned to observe while visiting different Tajik counties in 2006 that in China—although many restrictions could be found as well—the government was investing hugely on the communal development. In Karghelik county, we went to the Kuekyor Yiza including a remote kant (i.e., village) named Okmiqit (=Oqmichit) where the community had nice facilities. Even we went up in a pastureland on the mountain (near Raskam bordering Shimshal Pamir of Hunza), where we found better facilities up there: for example, facility of electric light.
In Xinjiang, the government does a lot for its citizens, rural or urban, but in Pakistan, the government doesn’t extend its generosity transparently. Interestingly, we can see the development in Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral (Pakistan) initiated, fostered and expedited by the community themselves especially with the compassionate patronage and financial support of the NGOs, pioneered and led by the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). Same holds true in the contest of the Afghan Tajiks (Pamiris) in Badakhshan. The Government of Afghanistan has not the desired and sufficient share in the development of their citizens in the Pamirs rather it seems the AKDN extended its generous support in a holistic manner.
In the Republic of Tajikistan, the situations changed. During the former USSR period, the government provided its citizens up to the Pamirs in Gorno Badakhshan Oblast (Autonomous Badakhshan region). But after collapse of the USSR and independence of Tajikistan, the novice republic saw a civil war leading Tajikistan from its so-called independence to full political, social and economic dependence. Among all interventionists, the AKDN’s role thus became vital and prominent after a visit of His Highness, Prince Karim Aga Khan to Dushambe and Khorogh in 1994.
In brief, Tajikistan’s Badakhshan province’s development landscape could be termed as a mixture of both the socialist and multiple development approaches. Pre-independence era of Tajikistan comprised on the socialist approach. Post-independence development era could be seen with multiple approaches inclusive of the socialist, capitalist and Islamist.
Conclusions and Recommendations
The Chinese Tajik community has great potentials, if truly explored. Unlike Tajikistan, the Chinese Tajik have acquired some good orientation with enterprise development in result of the government’s economic policies. It may therefore be easy to facilitate and support the community in different fields of development.
However, taken into accounts the Chinese government’s political skepticism, sensitivities, policies (internal and external) and security, on the one hand; and respective Tajik community’s protection, trends/interests, knowledge, skills, experiences and potentials, on the other, a comprehensive strategic approach may be required whereby slowly and gradual development interventions (overt and covert) could be made to enter in the community’s hearts and minds.
Some important recommendations in this regard are therefore made to address some of the genuine issues identified in this study document.
1) Strong dialogues of the AKDN with the Chinese high authorities at Beijing level is imperative to build a robust repo and effective relationships for the future cooperation, collaboration and partnerships.
2) As the Chinese Government is positive towards tourism development because tourism business is, of course, lucrative in China. So, as per high level dialogues and feasibility studies, investment in tourism business like opening the chains of Serena and Marriotte hotels, at least on experimental basis, in Tashkurghan Tajik County, Yarkdand County and Kashghar prefecture, which would provide earning opportunities to the Tajjik professionals on priority basis in different domains.
3) Exposure trips for the Chinese Tajiks of the five counties could be arranged time to time by using initially the cultural exchange programs as a tool of awareness and enhancing their capacity. The government of Pakistan and the Aga Khan Cultural Service, Pakistan (AKCSP), for instance, managed to bring the Chinese Tajik cultural troupes to Gilgit-Baltistan in 1994 and 1995 respectively. Afterwards, in 15 years period by now, no such cultural exchange programs are witnessed whereby the mountain communities (esp. the Tajiks of both China and Pakistan could interact with each other. It should also be noted that there is also closed kinship relationships, as indicated earlier, between the Tajiks of China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The AKDN could, therefore, once again, play its vital role in promoting cultural exchange among the Tajik communities, being ambassadors of their respective countries, who are cut-off from each other for more than 60 years.
4) Potential Chinese Tajik youths (male and female) could be identified to build their holistic capacity around n various fields and themes such as English language, ecotourism management, and so on. For this purpose, the energetic and potential Tajik youths could be sponsored and brought in Pakistan, Tajikistan or any English speaking country so that they should be engine of change, when they return to their country.
5) Potentials students need to be explored, identified and provided scholarship or sponsored by individual philanthropists for getting education (at different levels) out of China such as Pakistan, India, Tajikistan, UK, USA, Canada or other related countries so that their worldviews and outlooks shall change that are focused only on China.
6) AKDN could convene a development conference on the Pamirs wherein the Chinese Tajik experts in different fields, especially the scholars could be invited.
7) Advocacy could be made for the free trade zone of the Chinese Tajik county with Hunza (Pakistan), Murhab and Badakshan (Tajistan) and Wakhan (Afghanistan) so that the border communities could interact positively and easily with each other, and could get economic, social and cultural benefits to address poverty.
Thanks to all my respondents and key informants for providing me ample information on the diverse thematic areas while in the field. Without their assistance, I would never have accessed the information on the subject.
My cordial gratitude goes to my great German friend and mentor, Prof Dr. Hermann Kreutzmann, who had encouaraged and supported me to conduct the survey on the Wakhi and Kirghiz demography in 2006. Without his support, I would never have gotten the chance to visit Xinjiang.
Last but never the least, I would also like to pay my gratitude to my friends and companions Sakhi Jalil, Hyder Murad, Niyatulah and others who were very careful of my travel as am partially visually impaired (low vision) due to Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP).