No institution dares to highlight violations of Kalash’s rights: report

A report, ‘Protection, Preservation and Promotion of Constitutional Rights of Indigenous Kalash People’ launched by National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) is the first of its kind by the commission since its inception in 2012.

The report covers a plethora of issues being faced by the community while no institution dared to highlight the violation of their fundamental human rights. The report states that during discussions with Kalash elders by the NCHR team regarding the alleged incidents of forced conversions of Kalash people to Islam, the commission learnt that these people had no other option besides converting to Islam when they failed to follow their own religion due to several constraints. The girls were, in particular, victims of the issue by marriages with Muslims.

“They tacitly admitted that the overall socioeconomic and political conditions of the area are influencing the decisions of some Kalash people to abandon their religion and culture,” the report said. The literacy rate of Chitral, according to the report, is 73 percent for males and 44 percent for females. However, Kalash elders, according to the report, expressed concerns particularly over lack of the required education infrastructure in the valleys.

Kalash children cannot pursue college education in Chitral city due to poverty and for the majority of Kalash people it is not possible to meet the expenses of hostel accommodation. Kalash elders demanded exclusive quota separate from other minorities for admissions in colleges and universities and that some rooms must be reserved in the hostel of Chitral Degree College for their community.

The report said that the Kalash children were not being taught the syllabus as per their religion and culture that was a clear violation of Article 30 of the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which protects the right of minority or indigenous children to learn about and practice their own culture, language and religion. Land settlement was another serious issue facing the Kalash community.

The grand public gathering for resolving local disputes over land demarcations has not been held and the officials of the land revenue department have not held any meetings with the locals regarding their historical claims on their ancestral lands. The deprivation from their historical claim of ownership of Silver Oak forests in Kalash valleys granted to them by the Mehtar-e-Chitral about three centuries ago was another alarming issue.

The land revenue officials have told the Kalash people that the Silver Oak forests are a part of ‘Shamilaat’, which means that a Kalash family cannot exercise its privileged right over the Silver Oak forest rather it would have to share the forest with all the land owners of the area. “The issues concerning indigenous communities, for instance threats to their environment and natural resources, should be identified through environmental assessments and, therefore, appropriate measures should be taken under policies focusing on the matter,” the report added. Article 23 of Pakistan’s constitution grants every citizen the right to acquire, hold and dispose of property.

However, this constitutional provision is yet to be implemented in letter and spirit by the government in the case of Kalash people. The Kalash can be defined as indigenous people of Kafiristan. The Kalash people’s religion may even predate Hindu and Zoroastrian religions in this area with the possibility of some influence on the beliefs of these religions.

While giving some recommendations to resolve the issues of the community, NCHR Chairperson Ali Nawaz Chohan said, “We demand UNESCO’s prescribed measures to protect the Kalash culture. District and provincial government must take immediate notice of the reservations of these people. KP elementary and secondary education department should utilize the existing printed education resources available in Kalash language and as per these people’s religion.” Published in Daily Times, December 28th 2017.

2 Replies to “No institution dares to highlight violations of Kalash’s rights: report”

  1. @Ajaz Ahmed: I fully second the views expressed by Ajaz Ahmed. The report is just a rubbish and a pack of lies aimed at creating abhorrence between Muslim and Kalash communities living in the three valleys segregated from each other. I have attended a number of gatherings of Kalash to cover the visits of dignitaries of both national and international statures in which the Kalash elites showered praises for their Muslim neighbours living in the valleys and did never utter a word of complaint. NCHR is a government run institution which should have cared more than some of the NGOs who have been trying to raise storm in a cup of tea with the help of some ‘elements’ in the valleys who acted as their stooges. The ministry of interior is requested to conduct inquiry into the report to assess the veracity of the source of the report and make public the real facts about the status of human rights there and the magnitude of excess to which the Kalash minority is subjected.

  2. There is no any forced conversion in Kalash Valley, the report mentioned above is not based on proper research and evidence, and rather it is propaganda against the unity of chitral and its peace. Kalash people are enjoying complete freedom in their culture and religion. It’s always painful to see that the outsider without doing proper research publishing this kind of fake reports, in order to happy their master (Donors).
    Ajaz Ahmad

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