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Rights defenders worried over threats to existence of Kalash

They were speaking at a seminar titled “Consultation on challenges for the Kalash community: the way forward” organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). Speaking on the occasion, Gul Nazar from the Kalash valley said they are facing serious threats to change its religion. “Our land is being occupied and names of local places being changed. However, the media is portraying only our dances rather than highlighting our problems.” Ms Gul demanded that the Kalash area should be included in the World Heritage List in order to protect it. “Development work should be carried out in the area and basic facilities such as healthcare and education should be provided to the Kalash community. Doctors come to the Kalash valleys during the summer season and go back as soon as the tourism season ends. The syllabus of education should be in the local language,” she said. “Kalash people are not aware of their rights. On the other hand, people from other areas are occupying their land. Dozens of Kalash people have been forced to change their religion. We have been trying to protect our graveyards as people even steal the bones of our deceased,” she alleged. Ms Gul, who also looks after a Kalash museum, said the museum had information about the Kalash people but around three dozen officials of the elite force are now deputed there due to which tourists were facing problems. “When we approached the police officer of the area to address the issue, he said we cannot teach him archaeology and he could not teach us about security measures. So we had no option but to close the museum,” she said. Luke Rehmat, another representative of the community, said the Kalasha religion was divided into pure and impure. “Men cannot go to places where children are born and those who go to the delivery places cannot enter the respective village but tourists violate all these restrictions due to which the community suffers mentally as there are a number of stories (superstitions) associated with it,” he said. “Our religious ways are being blocked and names of our places are being replaced with Muslim names such as Qaziabad and Ahmedabad,” he said. Ali Ahmad Jan, the director of a civil society organisation, Sustainable Solution, said outsiders should not have the right to purchase land in the Kalash valleys like people of Pakistan cannot purchase land in Kashmir. “Some religious groups have been working in the Kalash valleys and forcing people to convert to Islam. Once a Kalash person accepts Islam, they are not allowed to wear the traditional Kalash dress and even are suggested not speaking the local language. There are also some religious scholars who say every Muslim should convince six non-Muslims to accept Islam. As a result, forced conversions are on the rise in the Kalash valleys,” he said. HRCP member Nasreen Azhar, who chaired the event, said the Kalash community land was being occupied by outsiders and a large number of constructions were underway in the area. “People from other areas also go there to build restaurants. There is a need to look into all these issues,” she said. Senator Farhatullah Babar said the Kalash community should move their case with the parliamentary committee for the marginalised people. He said every person had the right to live and practice their religion in Pakistan. Member National Assembly (MNA) Shahzada Iftikharuddin from Chitral, where the Kalash valleys are located, said there were severe security challenges in the area and the state had to fulfil its responsibility.-Published in Dawn on May 26, 2017]]>

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  1. Shams Baigal says

    Ali arslan khawaja sb, keep yourself and the tablighis away from the Kalashas. That is what they are complaining of, and do not want any interference in their rituals. They have every right to practice their faith as like any other Pakistani. And also they are as honorable as any other Chitrali.

  2. Basharat Hussain, says

    It is very unfortunate that Kalash community is feeling threatened in their own isolated valleys. They cannot perform their rituals properly and have to face influx of intruders The federal government, provincial and district particularly must understand cultural sensitivities of the area. The Kalash community must be taken into confidence while making security and cultural decision. The local political leadership of Chitral must visit them, consult them and approach the government regarding their problems.

  3. Jalil Abbas says

    Very shameful that these people belonging to the unique tribe living in Chitral are complaining about forced conversions, renaming of their places and lack of facilities. In Islam there is no concept of force for conversions but we are deviating this principle in the false hope of doing a service to the religion. my advice to all those forcing these people to convert is to be good human being and follow the true spirit of Islam so that people on their own good will embrace Islam without any tactics.
    I feel pity for these Kalasha people to born in Chitral, really sorry.

  4. Al Arslan Khwaja says

    Kalasha people are living in inhuman manner due to their non-social customs. To live as an honourable human folk is their right as humans. At least they are Chitralis and Pakistanis. Tablighis should play their part in this aspect.

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