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28 February 2001


During this short, but interesting testimony, Wafa, whose family has lived in Shimshal for 14 generations, discusses some of the activities carried out in the community. In particular he talks about the system of nomus (donation towards community project in the name of a relative), describing some of the nomus activities that have been carried out by his own family, and explaining the benefits of these activities both to the community and to the family itself: “the benefit we got from the philanthropic work, which we performed in the name of our father, was the sense of satisfaction. The resources which we offered for this cause didn’t matter to us much; instead it brought good fortune to our earnings and our lives.”

He describes some of the work carried out by the Shimshal volunteers and boy scouts as well as explaining the different activities that may be carried out by men and women, including the role of women at Pamir (Shimshal’s mountain pastures). He describes in some detail the various customs that are associated with the preparation of dairy products.

He discusses the work of the Shimshal Nature Trust (SNT). Although critical of the fact they have not managed to attract trophy hunters (hunters who pay the community to hunt for a large game animal) to Shimshal, he praises their work in preventing the area from being designated a National Park by the government. He outlines his fears of what will happen if the National Park goes ahead: “Our friendly and peaceful environment will be destroyed and our women will no more go to Pamir and this will cause complete destruction of our community.” He explains the immense importance of Pamir to the community: “our entire subsistence depends upon the livestock.” He concludes the testimony emphasising the beauty of their pastures by quoting the words of a song written by Shireen Shah which he claims was inspired by Pamir.

detailed breakdown

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Section 1  Introductions. He was born in Shimshal, and married with his own consent. 14 generations of his family have lived in Shimshal. Work carried out by family members – says one of his grandfathers caught a German spy and handed him over to the Mir (rulers of Hunza state up to 1972).
Section 2  More discussion of nomus carried out by family. His father constructed a shorter route to Pamir: “when we matured we deemed it necessary to reconstruct and improve the trek so we also performed nomus in the name of my father and offered material assistance for widening the trek with the help of the community.” The benefits of performing nomus. Positive impact of the new route: quicker and easier for people to get to Pamir. Benefits of the coming road. The current difficulties in transporting commodities is “the major problem of the village”.
Section 3  Hopes that the road will mean improvements to the school and hospital. Also possible adverse affects: “The road link will surely affect our culture and we will not remain united as we are today, it will also destroy our peaceful environment.” Concerned about more accidents, difficulty of maintaining proper relationships with increased numbers of tourists, lack of business aptitude for getting loans. The roles of men and women in nomus activities – men involved in construction activities, women in care of livestock and preparation of dairy products.
Section 3-4  Detailed description of the preparation of butter by women in Pamir. Further explanation of women’s activities in Pamir. The role of Shimshal volunteers. Shimshal Scouts: “the Scouts plays the leading role because it consists of the youth and is more swift and effective than the volunteers. The Scouts built their own office and they constructed an irrigation channel in the soil plain and also constructed the Shimshal road.”
Section 5  Arbitration: “In the government’s courts of law people spoil their resources (money) and life as the decisions take several years and there exists no more brotherhood between the parties…Our Maula (literally master; the Aga Khan) has established institutions for us and we should approach these institutions for speedy and cheap justice instead of going to the courts of law.” SNT prevented the area being designated a national Park: “SNT took the responsibility to safeguard the area and the wildlife. This was the commendable work of SNT.” Concerned about hunting ban: “they banned hunting and ibexes are abundantly found everywhere in the area… But our brothers in SNT do not invite trophy hunters so that the community has not benefited from the trophy hunting as the people in Khyber have earned lots of money through their organisation.” The problems the National Park could bring: “I think we would be deprived of our land and our pasture and consequently we would become poorer…. when it becomes a national park our yaks will be driven out of the area… Our friendly and peaceful environment will be destroyed and our women will no more go to Pamir and this will cause complete destruction of our community.”
Section 6  Further concerns about the National Park, distrust of the government: “We have been cheated several times before by the government and we were promised that we would be given a lot of money and services to each household …But our elders and our youth got united on the issue and rejected the plan.” Concludes quoting Shireen Shah’s song inspired by Pamir.