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    July 13, 2016



Lest We Forget:

A few months ago, I came across a widely shared Facebook video song 'BaxhiranAmn o e peghamchetrari' and couldn’t resist sharing it too. Like most of the people who enjoyed the video, I was also dumbfounded by how beautifully the Peace & harmony, beautiful cultural values, History, Tradition, picturesque views and, above all, the peaceful People of Chitral were visualized. Thousands of people responding and sharing this video is a testimony of the fact that something relatable to all Chitrali folks was beautifully captured digitally. No doubt, this video brought joy to Chitrali people worldwide.

The first stanza starts off as“We are one race and one household. We are spreading the message of peace…” A simple yet very powerful line of the songgives goose bumps to any khowar speaker with strong admiration for the culture. The over-arching theme of the song is peace and the peaceful people of Chitral. Beautifully explaining the true identity of Chitralis, this song reiterates that people of Chitral are the peace ambassadors, no matter where they dwell.

Since olden times, similar socially and locally constructed narratives (in the form of stories, proverbs, and songs) have supported diversity of Chitral and strengthened the cohesion between communities. Peace is an elusive term and it is not easy to elucidate it through one song. But the whimsical lyrics and melodious voice of Zulfikar Ali Shah, has managed to reinvigorate the real essence of the culture through touching upon themes like tolerance, discipline, civility, politeness etc.

The elegance of our norms and customs is unique
The civility and politeness of Chitral are unique
No feud, you will find peace and harmony everywhere in Chitral
Harbour no grudge and envy, only loving is the people of Chitral
We are one brotherhood of Chitral

The flowers will remain blossoming here in Chitral
Free from all evils is the transparent of heart of the people of Chitral
A Chitral will not harm even the lowest creatures
Chitrali will remain a symbol of peace wherever Chitrali goes
I'm thankful to Allah, Chitrali's are united

It is pertinent to mention that Chitralies have beautifully managed sectarian, religious and lingual differences for many generations. Consequently, Chitrali are respected by the national institutions and equally by international community for their compassionate and hospitable nature.

However, my pride was hurt more than anything after hearing the news of dispute between Kalash and Muslims over conversion of a teenager Kalash girl. One of the leading national newspapers reported;

“Reena converted to Islam three days ago, and was invited to her home by her parents and elders of Kalash community on Thursday. However, news of her being reconverted to Kalash faith broke out as some people alleged her relatives of forcing the girl to change her faith. This had prompted a violent reaction from angry Muslims in all over Kalash valley, particularly in Bumburet, and surrounding areas. People pelted stones at the house, where Reena was present with her parents and others. However, police succeeded in bringing the situation under control after firing a few tear gas shells and resorting to baton charge against Muslim activists”.

Another national newspapers reported;

“The girl's decision to convert sparked a clash between the Kalash tribe and members of the Muslim community in the Bamburate Valley of Chitral district, forcing police to use teargas to disperse the mobs”.

The terms like “Violent Reaction”, “Disperse the Mobs”, “Pelting stones” etc. became the buzzword to describe the event. I realized that all the messages on social media, print and electronic media around the incident seems to negate the characteristics of Chitralies described in the above peace song. Thus, my understanding of my people, my sense of identity and the very cultural values that I inherited were trembleddue to aforementioned incident. I was not sure about the causes that had turned the very peaceful Chitralies into a “Mob” or towards such a violent behavior?People from down the country were equally surprised on the act performed by the people known for their culture of peace, harmony and compassion. Though, mob culture and violent behavior is prevalent in different parts of Pakistan but no one ever imagined that it could ever be associated with Chitralies.

Such a dishonoring incident could not be altered. Plus, conflicts are inevitable in any human society. But societies and communities should possess skills that can transform and manage conflicts.

In the current situation, government and non-governmental institutions based in Chitral should initiate more discussions and deliberations with communities (particularly with communities in Kalash valley) in order to develop strategiesto address and prevent similar incidents in the future and also to promote dialogue, collaboration and tolerance. As the absence of community based conflict resolution mechanisms further provides fertile grounds and viable environment for violent groups to impose their agendas.

Moreover, the local institutions should be equipped with proper knowledge and skills to deal with the growing trends of intolerance. If these issues are not addressed properly at the community level, it will lead to political, religious and ethnic conflicts at a larger scale disturbing local and even national peace.

I strongly believe that locally constructed narratives are very powerful and vital; as the locals understand the language and text easily and it could be propagated among wider audience. Local artists should develop more peace songs, stories and other narratives to promote the cultural values. But any narrative can have impact only if they are constantly re-evoked and retold. Therefore, it is the responsibility of every Chitrali to propagate locally constructed peace messages and inculcate it among the younger generation.

Lest we forget, Peace is locally embedded for generations and one event could not pull the people of Chitral away from their true values. Lets remind and remember again, “We are one race and one household. We are spreading the message of peace”.

Nasreen Samad
on email


mail @ chitraltimes@gmail.com

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