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Why Chitralis hate hard work?

Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig

(One of the many reasons to be discussed later).

There is a general idea about the inhabitants of Chitral that they are comparatively civilized, docile and have good manners, but this presumption arose out of misunderstanding due to inaccurate interpretation to those who come with questions about the inhabitants of this hinterland.

In fact, in Chitral, there are numerous tribes with roots from out of the borders of Chitral. All and each tribe has its own inborn characteristics, traits and moral standards. The Kho tribes of old Chitral had their own values much different from the Kalash or Tajiks who also had come to live here. The Kirghiz have their separate identity, approach to social issues, the Wakhis have brought their own cupidity. The Pashtoons later came and continued to maintain their culture and tongue and do it today.

The old men of Chitral were not as lazy  as they are today. They came here with poor resources but worked very hard to reclaim tracts of lands and dug water channels and got land produce as much as they required. This habit of hard work was an asset and transmitted from generation to generation.

As long as they were a tribal society without a cruel ruler they were free to do better work and competitive qualities but when kingship began to rule the tribes and assigned duties to each tribe taxes and the impressments discouraged the zeal for greater personal gains and the state intervention discouraged the smaller tribes for the menial role assigned to them plus state beggar.

The rulers of Chitral have left a very dark image of their characters. The rivalry among princes of two families left the people perplexed as whom to support and they had to change their loyalties every other year or month on the ascension of a new prince.

They did rule but mostly for a short span of time and the people had to suffer with the fleeting fortune of their favourites. This was not a time of peace for the whole of the state and the chain of rivalry continued to a point when the Britons appeared on the political scene and established a stable period but they did not do anything for the common man.( R.C.F. Schomberg). The impressments continued and the support extended to the ruling prince was of no value to the downtrodden tribes.

The local people had no rights over their lands; which could be snatched from them and given to a rival any time, even without any reason. This lack of sense of ownership of landed property crushed the ambition to improve one’s farms and get better land produce. They lost their interest in farming except a few slavish families who also tried to suppress the poor section of the inhabitants around them.

The rulers never encouraged their subjects but discouraged them. For example, one lower middle class man had built a wooden Takht made of planks of wood for his domestic use and guests but the ruler got report about such a new type of seat. He was exasperated and sent men to lift the wooden Takht from the house of the man and carry it to his fort. He wanted to impress upon the people that common man had no right to live a better life and the masses had come to understand that any improvement by them will bring the ruler’s wrath and destroy his household.

Thus they had little desire to improve their domestic life and standard of living. They lost all interest in hard work. They did not want punishments. They could not escape the borders of the state with their families but escape of the head of the family meant that his land will be confiscated and members of the family will be given to an aristocrat.

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  1. Mohammed Ilyas Ahmad says

    Mr. Professor has analyzed the matter in a wrong sense being not appropriately aware of the history of Chitral primarily.
    Mehtari Zulum that is an idiom is not the base of laziness. Mehtars became ultimately powerful only after the occupation of Chitral by English by 1895 when the ruler became subservient to English but independent of any need of council with his people that was in practice in the administration of the rulers before English.
    Moreover, Kho is actually corrupted name of Kohustani/Kohistani Kafirs turned Muslim. Chitralis by temper are somewhat lazy to work, fond of sports, excellent riders and perfect in martial skills as has been described by historians. They are organized people who for centuries had kept the central government of Kafirs and later as Muslims that of Chitral State.

    1. Dr. Khalil says

      Prof. Karim Baig has compiled a book, considered the most authentic on the history of Chitral.

  2. Amjad Shah says

    Prof. saab has written on a very relevant topic and has provided very logical and effective ideas .
    Chitral had some level of centralized governance for most of the time which facilitated some kind of progress and stability but lack of inclusive ownership of private property hindered innovation, hard -work and creativity in available technology and resources . Unfortunately after merger with Pakistan , the problems have remained the same , if not multiplied , due to the extractive nature of our political culture . The relative advantage of some racial groups at provincial or federal level is not due to competence or hard work but due to monopoly of available opportunities . Lack of centralized governance, disregard for private property ( still the govt. can occupy and distribute land it deems profitable) , extractive educational and political instituitions are the obstacles for people of chitral even today as it was 200 years ago.

  3. Janbaz Khan says

    Professor Karim Baig writes well but sometimes his prejudices gets better of him. The State for all practical purposes died in 1953 and was there in name only until 1969. From 1953 to 2022 is a long period during which the hidden qualities of the Chitralis should have emerged which in opinion of Mr Baig lay dormant because the cruel and arbitrary policies of the rulers induced dormancy in the people. Indeed on the contrary they seem to have worsened during this period from 1969 to 2022 during the period of the political raj. We now even fail to maintain the irrigation channels which were built so painstakingly by our earlier generations because wheat is available in government godowns so there is no need for the hardwork on the land which gives so little return. Lets not keep blaming our stars that we are underlings, the fault we must admit lies within us. We have many positive attributes like gentleness, affectionate, hospitality, fun loving, intelligent, and strong legs and so on. But we hate hard physical work. The Pakhtuns readily take tough jobs in the Middle East while we prefer to become cooks, or priests. Those intelligent and hardworking amongst us have excelled and reached higher heights because we are hardworking and intelligent and where given opportunity we excel.
    Mr Baig contention that land being taken by the ruler bred uncertainty and therefore no one wanted to invest in land is not correct. Where in the subcontinent did land belong to an individual until the British carried out settlements and created an owner class. The Hindu and Mughal empires did not have have private property it all belonged to the State. We at least recognized private property in this region. Is not it interesting that despite the low levels of landholdings only recently has landlessness started to emerge in this area. One major reason for the lack of investment in irrigation channels was that we lacked the technology to build higher and higher and more difficult channels. It was in the early seventies that dynamite and drilling machines were first introduced in this area which saw the development of many channels. Even with these technologies if you travel on the way to Mastuj from Chitral you see large tracts of land lying waste because its not economical to build channels for them or there are large tracts of lands where channels have been built but there are disputes of ownership among the tribes. The yield on a chakoram of land almost doubled on the introduction of chemical fertiliser in the eighties. Our farms did not produce enough manure to double them.
    Colonel Schomberg has given some ugly description of the Chitrali and his laziness in comparison to the Hunzakuts and Kashmiris. Its more than seven years for us to disprove him. We have disproved that in the field of education but let’s admit the only reason for our laziness was not some cruel ruler who took away our land. The story is not as simple and Mr Baig should be honest enough to admit it.

  4. Miraj uddin says

    Sr The Great!! Finally your articulated , indept , and meaningful critical historical analysis cleared my ambiguity about the underdevelopment of Chitral. You are very right: the obesession among the people regaring the owership of their property demotivated them; Consequently, they did not take any steps to develop agriculture sector ,which was the only means of survival and livelihood . Moreover, we do not see any kind of mega projects like irrigation canals and other state supported projects aimed to enhance the productivity of the area . Therefore, our rulers were despotic and very myopic in their policices ..

  5. Elahi Bakhsh says

    Brilliant indeed Sir to point to the dark side of our history

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