Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Rights activists highlight threats to existence of Kalash tribe

Rights activists highlight threats to existence of Kalash tribe
ISLAMABAD: `As members of the Kalash community we are facing threats to change our religion, our land is being occupied and the names of our places are being changed. However, the media is portraying only our dances rather than highlighting our issues.

This was stated by Gul Nazar, a representative of the Kalash community in Chitral, at a seminar on Thursday. The `Consultation on challenges for the Kalash community: the way forward` was organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) at a local hotel.

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 basicfacilities such as healthcare and education should be provided to the community. The syllabus of education should be in the local language.

Doctors come to the Kalash valleys during the summer season and go back as soon as the tourism season ends,` 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 all the information about the Kalash people butaround three dozen officials of the elite force are now stationed there due to which the visitors are facing problems.

`When we approached the police officer of the area to address the issue, he said we cannot teach him archaeology and he cannot not teach us 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 for a certain period of time but tourists violate 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 to speak the locallanguage.

There are also some religious scholars who say every Muslim should convince at least 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 on the marginalised people.

He said every person had the right to live and practice their religion in Pakistan.

Iftilcharuddin, Member National Assembly (MNA) 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.
Source: http://epaper.dawn.com/DetailImage.php?StoryImage=26_05_2017_152_003

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

سپریم کورٹ نے پشاوراورسندھ ہائی کورٹس کی جانب سےاقلیتوں کےاندراج کیلئے فارم میں کالم کے اضافے کا فیصلہ بھی معطل کردیا

مردم شماری فارم میں سکھ مذہب کا خانہ شامل کرنے کا فیصلہ معطل

اسلام آباد: سپریم کورٹ آف پاکستان نے ملک میں جاری حالیہ مردم شماری کے فارم پر سکھ مذہب کے خانے کو شامل کرنے کے حوالے سے پشاور ہائی کورٹ کے فیصلے کو معطل کردیا۔
پاکستان کی سرکاری نیوز ایجنسی اے پی پی کی رپورٹ کے مطابق چیف جسٹس میاں ثاقب نثار کی سربراہی میں سپریم کورٹ کے 3 رکنی بینچ نے پاکستان کے محکمہ شماریات (پی بی ایس) کے چیف کمشنر مردم شماری آصف باجوہ کی دائر کردہ پٹیشن کی سماعت کی، جس میں پشاور ہائی کورٹ کا فیصلہ چیلنج کیا گیا تھا۔
پشاور ہائی کورٹ نے اپنے فیصلے میں پی بی ایس کو ہدایات جاری کی تھیں کہ مردم شماری کے فارم میں تبدیلی کرکے اس میں سکھ مذہب کے اندراج کیلئے ایک کالم کا اضافہ کیا جائے۔
مردم شماری چیف کمشنر آصف باجوہ کا کہنا تھا کہ ماضی میں مذکورہ فارم میں اس قسم کی کوئی چیز شامل نہیں کی گئی ہے، جس کی وجہ سے بینچ نے فارم میں مذکورہ ممکنہ اضافے کے حوالے سے سوالات اٹھائے ہیں جبکہ مردم شماری جاری ہے۔
ان کا کہنا تھا کہ 1981 میں ملک میں ہونے والی مردم شماری کے مطابق سکھ برادری سے تعلق رکھنے والے افراد کی تعداد 0.003 فیصد تھی، مردم شماری کے دوران اور خاص طور پر اس موقع پر فارم میں اس قسم کی تبدیلی ممکن نہیں ہے۔
سپریم کورٹ کے بینچ نے دلائل سننے کے بعد پشاور ہائی کورٹ کا فیصلہ معطل کرنے کا حکم جاری کیا اور کیس کی سماعت کو غیر معینہ مدت کیلئے ملتوی کردیا۔
عدالت کا کہنا تھا کہ مردم شماری 63 اضلاع میں مکمل ہونے جارہی ہے اور اس موقع پر مردم شماری کے فارم میں اس قسم کی تبدیلی کرنا نا ممکن ہے۔
اس کے علاوہ عدالت نے سندھ اور پشاور ہائی کورٹس کی جانب سے مردم شماری فارم میں اقلیتوں کیلئے علیحدہ کالم کے اضافے کے فیصلے کو بھی معطل کردیا۔
خیال رہے کہ 22 مارچ 2017 کو پشاور ہائی کورٹ نے محکمہ شماریات کو مردم شماری کے دوسرے مرحلے میں سکھ مذہب کا خانہ شامل کرنے کا حکم دیا تھا۔
سکھ برادری کی جانب سے دائر کی گئی پٹیشن کی سماعت چیف جسٹس پشاور ہائی کورٹ یحییٰ آفریدی کی سربراہی میں 2 رکنی بینچ نے کی تھی۔
محکمہ شماریات کی جانب سے ممبر حبیب اللہ عدالت میں پیش ہوئے اور عدالت عالیہ کو بتایا کہ مردم شماری کا پہلا مرحلہ جاری ہے جس کے باعث سکھ مذہب کا کالم فارم میں شامل نہیں کرسکتے۔
خیال رہے کہ پہلے مرحلے میں ملک کے 63 اضلاع میں جاری مردم شماری کے فارم میں سکھوں کی آبادی کا صحیح اندازہ لگانے کے لیے ’مذہب‘ کے خانے میں ’سکھ‘ کا آپشن نہ رکھنے پر سکھ برادری نالاں نظر آتی ہے۔
Source: https://www.dawnnews.tv/news/1056540/

Friday, April 21, 2017

Peshawar High Court orders govt to include Kalasha religion in census

Peshawar High Court orders govt to include Kalasha religion in census

UPDATED APR 04, 2017 01:16PM

The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Tuesday directed the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics to include the Kalasha religion on the national census form prior to the second phase of the exercise starting April 25.
A two-judge bench of the PHC announced the order while hearing a writ petition filed by members of the Kalash community. The government was represented in court by the deputy attorney general.
Sabir Awan, the petitioner's lawyer, informed the court that the Kalash people subscribe to one of the oldest known religions of the region, and that their members continue to live in three remote villages in district Chitral.
Awan cautioned that exclusion of the religion from the census form would be an injustice to the community and a violation of law, which guarantees equal rights to all its citizens. He pointed out that almost all major religions were included in the form except Kalash.
After hearing arguments from both sides, the court directed the government to include the Kalash religion on the census form before April 25.
Members of the Kalash community present at the court appreciated the decision.
"It's a landmark decision and is a victory for the people of Kalash," Wazir Zada, a member of Kalash told Dawn.
Earlier in February, the people of Chitral had threatened to boycott the census for omitting the Kalasha religion and 13 other languages being spoken in the district from the enumeration form.
Representatives of the Kalash community were reported to have warned that the tribe was already endangered and their exclusion from the census database would create further complications, especially with regards to their size and strength.
Currently, the Kalash tribe is estimated to be around 3,500-4,000 strong.
Described as an “anthropological enigma”, the Kalash community is more than a magnet for local and international tourism.
Dwelling in the folds of the stony Hindu Kush mountains, the tribe draws its lineage from the ancient Middle East or even from soldiers of Alexander the Great's army, academics have speculated.
Kalasha, the religion followed by Kalash community, lies between Islam and and an ancient form of Hinduism.
Their ritualistic ceremonies serve as a potent reminder of the region's pre-Islamic past.
However, in recent years, there has been a sense of existential insecurity surrounding the tribe and its cultural identity.


Pakistan's Forgotten Pagans Get Their Due (Towards Cultural Identity)

Pakistan's Forgotten Pagans Get Their Due (Towards Cultural Identity)
And finally the Kalasha people are on the move regarding their cultural identity
Go to link for the story

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Pakistan's Kalasha people fear for their way of life as climate changes for worse

Pakistan's Kalasha people fear for their way of life as climate changes for worse

Chitral, Pakistan: For Akram Hussain, unprecedented monsoon floods that drenched his Hindu Kush mountain valley this year were a danger to more than just homes and crops.
His 4,000-strong Kalasha people, who live in three remote valleys in north-west Pakistan, preserve an ancient way of life, including animist beliefs at odds with Pakistan's dominant Islamic state religion. That has led to threats by the Taliban, who call them kafirs, or non-believers.
Outsiders, looking for arable land, also have increasingly moved into their high mountain valleys.
Now, worsening extreme weather linked to climate change is making efforts to preserve the old ways even harder, the Kalasha say.
"Our culture and language were already under threat and now these floods have devastated half our valley," Hussain said.
Torrential rainfall in July in the district - an area that usually falls outside Pakistan's monsoon belt - sent floodwater pouring down steep mountainsides, damaging infrastructure in the valleys of Bumburet and Rumbur.
Birir, the third valley inhabited by the Kalasha, was spared.
The floods damaged tourist hotels, shops and houses near the nullah (mountain stream) on the valley floor and swept away crops of ripe maize and orchards full of fruit trees.
"This winter is going to be very difficult for us," Hussain said.
Around the world, extreme weather and rising seas linked to climate change are presenting a growing threat not just to lives and homes but to cultures, from nomads in the drought-hit Sahel to Pacific Islanders who fear the loss of their entire nations.
Descendants of Alexander the great?
For Pakistan's Kalasha, struggling to preserve their culture is nothing new. They are the last survivors of the people of Kafiristan, who were mostly converted to Islam in the nineteenth century.
Their neighbours across the mountains, in the Afghan province of Nuristan, are the Taliban, who hold sway in parts of that country.
Among the Kalasha, prayers are offered during festivities that commemorate the changing seasons. Their elaborate rites demand the sacrifice of dozens of goats, which is becoming increasingly expensive, particularly as crops are destroyed by extreme weather.
"When the livestock comes down for the winter what are we going to feed them? If our livestock goes, our culture goes," Hussain said.
In Bumburet Valley, the Kalasha Cultural Centre, built by the Greek government in 2004, houses an impressive museum of Kalash artefacts,  including colourful embroidered clothes, musical instruments, jewellery and wooden sculptures.
Greek interest in the Kalasha stems from the belief that they are descendants of the army of Alexander the Great which marched through these mountains centuries ago.
The centre was spared by the floods, thanks to a strong stone wall built around its perimeters.
For the most part, the effects of climate change simply compound other problems the Kalasha have faced recently as migrants move into their valleys.
"Some of these migrants are brainwashing the Kalash people.
There have been several conversions to Islam this year alone," Hussain said.
The winter ahead - when the valleys are cut off from the rest of the country by snow - will be long and hard this year, the Kalasha warn.
In the village of Krakal, Shahida, a young Kalash woman explains: "We live on goat's milk, cheese and beans during the winter months. Now with our crops washed away by the floods and no fodder for our livestock we are very worried."
The sturdy traditional construction of the Kalash homes helped them to survive the 7.5-magnitude earthquake that struck the Hindu Kush on 26 October, although some have cracks that must be repaired before winter.
Most Kalash homes were also spared by the summer floods as they are built higher up on the mountainsides. But some tourist hotels and other buildings were washed away.
Deforestation problems
With all the reconstruction that will take place before the winter snow arrives in December, even more trees will be felled to rebuild hotels and houses. Shahida feels that deforestation is a part of the problem in the Kalash valleys.
"I think the main reason for the floods is the cutting of trees. There were so many forests up in the high pastures and they are gone now. If the government cannot control deforestation the floods will keep coming and become more severe," she said.
The Bumburet valley attracts thousands of tourists each year who come to see the Kalasha, especially during their festivals, when there is dancing and mulberry wine flows.
For many years, Greek volunteers would travel to the Kalash valleys to help with construction and other charitable work that contributed to their cultural preservation.
In 2009, one volunteer was kidnapped by the Taliban and released only after eight months in captivity. No further volunteers have come from Greece since then.
"That was a big blow to our community since he was doing good work for the Kalasha. The second blow was when one of our shepherds was brutally murdered on the border with Nuristan a few years ago. Luckily the army has moved in and we have better security now," said Shahida.
A military camp and new police station have sprung up in the last couple of years. The army is currently repairing roads and bridges destroyed by the floods, and they also patrol the high mountain border with Nuristan.
But "it's not the Taliban that is the main threat," said Quaid-e-Azam, a Kalash community leader from Rumbur Valley. "It is climate change. We need to start planning for future disasters, otherwise life is going to be very difficult for us."