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Democratic to the core!

CHITRAL, May 17: Although Chitral was a monarchy ruled by the Mehtar (king) but it had always been democratic, as the Mehtars made their decisions according to the will of the people.

During the State era, decisions were made at the Mahraka (royal court) with consensus. Lord Curzon, viceroy of British India from 1897 to 1902, visited Chitral in 1890 while he was a member of the British Parliament. He witnessed the proceedings of the Mahraka and recorded in his diary: “Chitral, in fact, had its parliament and democratic constitution. For just as the British House of Commons is an assembly, so in Chitral, the Mehtar, seated on a platform and hedged about with a certain dignity, dispensed justice or law in sight of some hundreds of his subjects, who heard the arguments, watched the process of debate, and by their attitude in the main decided the issue.

“Such ‘durbars’ were held on most days of the week in Chitral, very often twice in the day, in the morning and again at night. Justice compels me to add that the speeches in the Mahraka were less long and the general demeanour more decorous than in some western assemblies” (Curzon 1923:133).–Junaid Saleh Hayat

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