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No relief for Kalash in Pakistan’s Chitral Valley

A man adjusts a Pakistani flag on a building ahead of National Independence Day in Lahore, Pakistan, August 12, 2015. Pakistan commemorates its Independence Day on August 14. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza
A man adjusts a Pakistani flag on a building ahead of National Independence Day in Lahore, Pakistan, August 12, 2015. Pakistan commemorates its Independence Day on August 14. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

Islamabad, Aug.9 (ANI): Economic deprivation and alleged forced conversion to Islam has reduced the once large Kalash minority tribe to a population of about 4000 today.

According to a Voice of America (VOA) report, the Kalash minority tribe is now confined to the three small valleys of Rumbur, Brumbret and Birir), high up in the Hindu Kush mountains.

The poor condition of this minority tribal community is being laid at the doorstep of successive Pakistani governments. The administration in Islamabad is being squarely blamed for failing to develop their poverty-stricken area.

Promotion of the area as potential tourist destination is being seen as a way to provide relief to these cash-strapped Kalash families, which is largely dependent on centuries old traditional livelihood of livestock and agriculture farming.

Officials of the Pakistan government have acknowledged the sorry and sad plight of the Kalash community and admit that nothing is being done to reverse it.

Activists and researchers say Kalash settlements are being rapidly encircled by the growing Muslim population.

Community leaders also dismiss as “incorrect” that the tribe believes in twelve gods and goddesses. They say the tribe believes in “a single, creative God” and is referred to as Dezauc.

The belief in purity and impurity is deeply rooted in the Kalash society. Women are considered “impure” during their menstrual cycle and childbirth, and are not allowed to touch anyone. They are forced to spend their days in an isolated building called Bashali, which is off limits to men, and family members deliver food at the doorstep. There are no routine daily prayers. The Kalash do pray whenever they initiate any activities like harvesting, plowing, construction and whenever the favor and honor of Dezau is needed. They welcome local and foreign tourists to their four main seasonal festivals that some observers say mirror the old pagan festivals of Europe. The celebrations involve rituals and sacrifices, dances, songs, feasts and alcohol, which the Kalash brew themselves. (ANI)

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