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Charun village – the ‘Punjab’ of Chitral

Deh ba Deh

Nasira Jabeen

Arising from the blunt foot of the lofty mountains in series to expand till the near brim of River Chitral, taking some length on its left bank, is the embroidered sheet of a valley called Charun. Situated about 61 kilometers away from the main Chitral town, Charun is a deeply set, quiet village of nearly 280 households with almost 1,500 population undivided but stretching all along the one side of the main road. 

HISTORY: According to one account, the scenic village acquired its name Charun in consequence of the four chief roads from four different sides reaching here. That is, one from Booni and upper regions, the other from Kosht and Mulkhow areas, another from Charun Oveer, yet another from Kuragh. These roads meet at a junction which is the renowned Charun Bridge. It is as though Charun is that juncture for the people from these places (save Kuragh), upon arriving which point their journey ahead is spurred on. For here they find themselves on a track leading them direct to the town and down cities. Charun is not as conspicuous as some villages of Chitral. 

EDUCATION: The village is known to have a semblance of primary school (in someone’s house) from the 1950s, from the period when the Walis or Mehtars of the once Riyasat were only nominal. In this school amidst others who left their education without reaching even the middle used to go Mr. Afzal Nadir, Mr. Amir Nowroz and Mr. Nadir Ali Khan (my own father ) too. These three are amongst the early education seekers of the valley who completed their primary school from Charun and went to Booni for their middle and high schools. Interestingly, my father, after doing his matric was appointed a government teacher. Good old days! The two of the pioneers furthered their studies to achieve their later success in the field of education. From 1956 on, the inclination towards education started and as time passed it gained pace and more and more after their primary education travelled for middle and high schools.

Later, primary school for girls too was established in the village and middle and high schools for both boys and girls were also built. These schools catered not only to the natives’ educational requirements but also students from its three neighbouring villages: Kuragh, Oveer and Junalikoch flocked here too, making Charun revere the dulcet echoing of the national anthem when in houses or upon the distant fields it was heard in summer mornings; and filling it with midday’s cries and swarming it with blue and white and black forms in the breaks they had. These are all the same now, only the voices are of today’s generation. The village is still the early educational centre for the mentioned valleys with the exception that the erection of a middle school in Oveer in 2002 holds the students back to let them flow here again after three years. 

OLD DAYS: To go but still to the past, the people of Charun have witnessed the formidable rule of a Hakim who too was one of the inhabitants. During Wali Riyasat’s period the Mehtars used to appoint sub-rulers of various ranks like Ataleq, Hakim and Charwelu and entrusted them with the administrative control of the areas. Shah Nawaz of the royal clan (Khosh Ahmade) was selected as Hakim by the fourth Mehtar Muzafarul Mulk and the sole authority to rule the areas from Reshun to Booni was conferred on him. In his seventeen years reign, he no doubt did many developmental works. He supervised and successfully materialized a water project and drained in here the water from Kuragh Gol through wide streams and from river Chitral he made feasible the flow of water to some sections of the village. But the absolute exercise of his power, it is said, outweighed his works of reform. He was perceived as cruel but who dared defy him then, even say he was wrong? To share but his one ‘innocent’ act: a certain Khan Mir Ajam Khan from Malakand, after the dissolution of the state of Chitral, was handed over the affairs of Chitral. He was then called Wazir Azam Chitral and Mulki. Once he visited the primary school of Charun when the earlier few students were being taught by their teacher Gulab Panah.

As Hakim Shah Nawaz was also accompanying; after Mir Ajam Khan tested the students, he inquired about the headmaster to distribute among the boys their reward of rupees five. Luckily Hakim’s son was with him, he instantly made him out as the headmaster to the dismay of the boys and to the meek acceptance and seething discontent of Gulab Panah. Charun has seen poverty, riches in the homes of the elites, favours and disfavours of a Hakim but tolerated each with its unwavering faith to arrive at its current prosperity in terms of freedom, education, wealth and infrastructure. 

COMMUNICATION: The village had one bridge, though not as strongly built, since 1972 to connect it with Bumbagh, Kosht and the adjoining areas but for Booni and upper areas the folks had to travel on foot through Chahchil – a plateau sort of land stretching high from the last end of Charun linking it to Booni. It was only in 1983 the sturdiest Charun Bridge was built with China’s collaboration to help meet the contiguous areas more conveniently. This bridge is the epicenter where crowds of people are more seen and always, as it is their station to depart to different destinations. There was a time when on this same spot people waited and waited for vehicles coming up the road to have a lift to Booni. Now the local people’s good sense have so prevailed on them as to stimulate them to start a Suzuki and coach service from Charun to Booni. The other day, the Suzuki man’s repetitive shouting, ‘Booni wala, Booni wala’, when I too was on the wait there, resonated in ear the annoying call for passengers in Chitral Ada. But that was nonetheless a delightful prospect. 

HEALTHCARE: Like the bridge and the schools, the Aga Khan Health Centre Charun also draws people from its four sides. Since the year of its establishment in 1962, this Centre has been providing healthcare facilities equally to all who direct their steps towards it upon light fever and injuries to cases serious. Sadly, Charun has no hotel in its possession. There used to be one by the bridge which took no time in turning to a shop owing to the less propitious stand of a hotel in a place which has still more of a rustic hue than being ‘of bazaar’ of a kind. Yet the people are happy and call on each other, exchange views, crack jokes and have best kind of refreshments for free. This bonhomie of theirs helps further bolster the unity of the valley. 

ELECTRIFICATION: The village was first lit by electricity in 1999. Before that the nights were not entirely dark, for besides other means few households had electricity generators and they served the purpose of diverting the villagers on occasions. But the threshold of the 20th century saw Charun all bright and lively. The subsequent years were of PTCL phones, wireless phones then of mobile phones. Thus with the dawning of the sunny years the locals’ worries attendant on life accommodations were parried to an extent. 

PEOPLE: Now what is to say of its people… they are of practical sort, determined, in the front for help and sympathy; plain though not naïve, positively crafty but no scheming and shrewd to hostility, chaos and ruination. Majority of the residents belongs to the Ismaili sect, the Sunni sect forms but a little part of the population. Both have been living in peace for ages. The village has two Jamat Khanas and one Mosque for their separate religious practices. Most of the people are educated. You will find people of every capability and in multi fields here: people in administrative positions, lecturers, educators, doctors, engineers, missionaries and health workers. Similarly, multifarious clans of people exist in Charun (almost 12 clans): Khosh Ahmade (in majority), Syed, Zondray, Bubakay, Mughlay, Bayikay, Boshay, Badikai, Mashuqay, Shaghotai, Godolai, and Lowaiy. Categorized in fact for distinction but harmony among these is seldom breached. 

CHARACTERISTICS: Charun is a cozy, small and inviting place; also known as ‘Charun Punjab’ for its comparative warm climate and hotter summers. Though unlike Punjab, in Charun there is a dearth of water but what if not for this, for the warmth it takes the ‘privileged name’… But much mouths were gaped, eyebrows raised and indignations shown when in a Khowar song they heard their title attributed to Kuragh but as ‘Nor thy pity, nor wit, Shall lure it back to cancel half a line, Nor all thy tears wash out a word of it’ of Omar Khayyam, it is written once and is sung too. So…no going back. However, Ye Charun, Think not of it, Thou hast other beauty too. And this beauty needs to be perceived through mind’s eye, else it is like, as Wordsworth says: ‘A Primrose by a river‘s brim, A yellow primrose was to him And it was nothing more’.    

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  1. Basharat says

    Thanks Nasira Kai for bringing the Charun-Punjab to focus and shedding light on its past history. The education in Charun has long history, what I know through family oral tradition is that my grand father Muhammad Hussaini Khan had studied in Madrassah in Bombagh in early 20s, and later on he used to teach at Charun first madrassah (school) Alogol. Many in Charun including Amir Nowroz Miki have been his students. About the administrative history of Hakimi, Hakim Shah Nawaz Khan was actually subedar major in Mehtar bodyguard in the early 20th century while Jalnus Khan (khoshamdatay) was Charwello of the area followed by his son Muhammad Azam Khan, who took part in 1919 third Afghan war (Birkoto Lam). Due to internal intrigue, Muhammad Azam Khan was replaced by Shah Nawaz Khan by Mehtar on recommendation British army officer and the nomenclature of Charvelli was changed to Hakimi.

  2. Prof. Mumtaz Hussain says

    Some more information about Charun’s history: Charun boasts of being the home of one of the three Buddhist inscriptions found in Chitral. The other two are those of Rayeen in Torkhow and Pakhturidini in Preit.
    In older days a rock bearing the inscription was buried under deposits of alluvia, and only during the 19th century it was rediscovered.  The villagers, either awed by the strange writing and the drawings or due to some very old memories of religious reverence, started treating this stone as a sacred one. The villagers called the rock “Ma’jad”, and offerings were made to it.
    When famous archaeologist Aurel Stein visited the site, he found the stone inside a hut for the purpose of protection. He was the first archaeologist to recognize the Brahmic writing and translate it. The inscription, according to him as well as later archaeologists, read something like: “A humble offering to Buddah by King Jaya Verman.” Along with the writing, the rock also bears a carving of a Buddhist Stupa. Who was this “Jaya Verman”?  Aurel Stein could not tell. But later discovery of large number of similar inscriptions in Gilgit and Chilas showed that small but literate Buddhist principalities existed along the Indus River in the beginning of the Christian era. Jaya Verman of Charun inscription was surely one of these rulers.
    The rock bearing the inscription still stands at the lower edge of the village, where the old road enters Charun from the direction of Kuragh. The general awareness among the people, ironically has posed great threat to this precious remains of the past. Religious awe gone, nobody cares about it. Someone has even tried to hammer it, resulting peeling off of part of the rock, and destroying some letters of the inscription. You can find more details here…
    Among the present dwellers of Charun, the local branch of Zondrey clan (called Khershiye) is the oldest. Tradition of these people go back to the legendary ruler Sumalik. They seem to be the earliest off-shoot of the Zondreys. They are somehow related to the Dokeys of Buni, Doqueys of Gohkir and possibly the Loqueys of Booni. One of the two branches of Dokeys were living in Charun till the end of the nineteenth century. A little research into the inter relationship of these clans may render a precious information on the ethnography of Chitrali people.
    Khushamadeys are the largest group in Charun. The Romkely section of the village is probably the earliest abode of this clan. When Khusamad was killed, his son settled here. Other lands now occupied by sections of this clan in Charun and Reshun belonged to his Uncle Rom, and were inherited by the grandsons of Khushamad, when Rom’s grandson died leaving no male heir. Romandur of Charun and Romandur of Reshun came into the possession of Khusamades in this way.  
    Apart from Hakim Shah Nawaz Khan, another eminent personality of Romkely was Ta’ajub Shah Lal. He was considered an authority on the oral traditions, history and ethnography of Chitral. Mehtars of Chitral always kept him in the Darbar for his knowledge.

  3. Munir Hamza says

    Really wonderful and informative. Naseera Sis

  4. Samina Sikandar Afridi says

    It is very informative and much appreciation for writer but I think Muhammad Rasool Name (The only National Footballer) should be among people of Charun who give proud not only to charun but for all Chitralis.

  5. Kamran Hussain says

    This is an excellent write-up, Nasira Kai. I agree that you could not have mentioned all names of people from Charun who have excelled in different fields, in that aspect Charun has surpassed most of the areas in Chitral. Charun is very rich in terms of education and producing successful people. One gentleman we tend to miss mostly is Mr Mohammad Rasool Khan who has represented Pakistan in different countries and is a national colour for Pakistan in football.

  6. Zahoor ul Haq Danish says

    Nice write-up Ms Nasira. This is by far the most authentic document on Charun valley. It would be equally good if you translate it into Khowar and send us (of course with the permission of the editor) for ‘Khowar Nama’ to be included in ‘Ma Deh Ma Ziarat’ portion, a series like this page’s ‘Deh ba Deh’, whereby we give an opportunity to people to write about their own villages in their own mother tongue, so that in the long run we get a complete book published on the village-profiles of the district.

  7. Shafie Ahmad, Islamabad says

    What Gul Aman wanted was his own name to be mentioned which NJ just forgot to mention in her article. It was a very good piece which was later tuned into a promotional piece with the subsequent comment followed by Gul Jee in a bid to please a handful of Charnegh, majority of them known for occupying AKDN instituions. The sole contention of Gul Jee which NJ failed to get was that his father and brother Azam’s name was missing. A handful of graduates in 2014 which Charnegh tried to present in such a way as some ‘khalayi makhlooq’ lives this tiny village which is only known for ‘mosquotoes’ beside those playing taash by sitting narby Mastuj road. Another thing which Gul Jee just forgot is ‘Charnegan tong’. Oh Charnegan grow up in which world you’ve been living.

  8. Nasira Jabeen says

    @ Gul Jee
    The names you mentioned are in truth persons of high capability and intellect; of high moral and social values and worth. Their mention ought to be made, you are right but along with these, few other names are also there, including Mr Sharif Ullah ,a renowned doctor, Mr Yosuf Haroon , another reputed doctor, Mr Aziz Ali (my own brother), who has widely explored the world of Botany and is known for his commendable services at the Aga Khan institutions in Pakistan and abroad, Mr Muhammad Hashim is there, a retired Subedar, who has remained a member of district council within Charun UC, Mr Zaheer, the TMO, Mr syed Mansoor and Mr Sharaf ud din, prominent for their able services at the Aga Khan institution, Mr Mazhar Ali Shah, PMS officer of recent years, Mr. Ali Nigah Jan, known for his services in the educational field and few others too would be there whose names can be cherry picked when it comes to skim the villages’ influential people and who have a bulky share in setting the village out as a cradle of education. It is not that they were sent to the farthest corner of oblivion , they were in the mind but the apprehension of ending up with a lengthy and dreary piece, escapes them away and the fact of Charun teeming with other known gentle ladies and men holding govt and non govt offices, was also strong enough to uphold my dread. And inexperienced I am to have put them all down and at the same time come up with a sensible comprehensive piece and so I resorted to the mention of only the very early batch of the villages’ school.

  9. Nadir Khan, Karachi says

    Excellent write-up and Ms Nasira Jabeen has done full justice with her home village. Indeed the beautiful Charun village and its lovely people deserves this. Appreciated.

  10. Sajid says

    It is truly a masterpiece Nasira Kai. Very well written.

  11. Basharat says

    Nasira Kai really interesting write-up on Charun what is locally called Charun Punjab. It could have been more interesting if you could have explored its history and education even deeply. Before the Hakim, this area was administered by Charvelo Jalnus Khan followed by his son Muhammad Azam Khan who was removed by well-known conspiracy and the charveli was replaced by Hakimi. About the education, it is said there was Madrassah in Bombagh, where my grand father Muhammad Hussaini Khan was student in early 1920s, Later on a school was established in Charun (Alo-gol) where my grand father served as a teacher.

  12. Gul Jee says

    Thank you Ms Jabeen, this is such a good and an informative contribution but I am sorry you missed a very important part of the society. Among the people you did not mention renown politician and ex-member of parliament late Syed Abdul Ghafoor Shah, civil servant and administrator Mr Rahmat Ghazi, a civil society expert and educationist Mr Shah Karaz and Mr Fida Ali Shah. Remember, Charun is famous and will be remembered due to these personalities and their services for the people of whole Chitral particularly for CHARUNIAN.

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