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8 December 2000


Gonik is a member of the Arbitration Committee (a group of villagers responsible for resolving conflicts) in Shimshal and also served as numayindar (village representative to the local government) in the village, during which time he explains that he tried to push forward the construction of the road. Before his retirement he served in the Pakistani army, and part of the testimony is taken up with his memories of this time. He also talks in some detail about life in the village during the time of the Mir (rulers of Hunza state up to 1974), and the changes that have taken place since then, as well as comparing life in Shimshal with his experiences of life “downside (in the lowlands)”.

He explains that life under the Mir was difficult, because there “were no such means of selling livestock like today, because there was a system of paying yeelban (taxes) to the Mir of Hunza, and people were paying that tax five times”. While he feels that some things – particularly their economic situation – have improved since this time, like many narrators he bemoans the loss of unity and mutual respect, explaining that “Today life is so comfortable and that is why we are not taking care of others who are in distress, who are having problems. In the past people had the same way of living, same food to eat, same dress to wear, and more time to spend together to share their problems.” He is also concerned about the impact that increasing numbers of outsiders will have on Shimshal.

It is evident that he values the time he spent outside Shimshal – explaining that, although uneducated, “I can talk to different people, I have seen the downside world and have became aware about different people living in different societies.” Yet he is attached to Shimshal and the lifestyle there. Despite their hardships he believes that Shimshalis are happier than people from down country (the rest of Pakistan): “We are happy here, because there are so many problems in the down areas, but we are not part of those problems, we are separate from all those problems, living in a peaceful manner.”

detailed breakdown

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Section 1  Interviewer’s introduction, describes the narrator’s “house of wealth”. Narrator introduces himself and his family: “Our mother left us (died) very early when we were so young. She was a great woman…Our father was very kind in nature and was a very cooperative person at the village level. As you know, everyone respected my father.”
Section 2  His own life: “We spent most of our life fighting with difficulties. We were not living as comfortably in the past as you are living today.” The uncompleted road continues to cause difficulties. His work as a porter: “It was difficult to get this type of work in the past, because tourists were not visiting our village as frequently as they are doing today. And the daily wages which we were getting were very low.” The system of working as lubis (border security personnel) under the Mir.
Section 3-4  Income in the past: there were only five people working as lubis and other “people were wholly dependent on livestock”. Describes the journey to pay yeelban to the Mir: “those people have been chosen who were strong enough to cross Qoroon peak with the heavy snowfall. If people were asked to do so, they never refused to go, because in the past people were respecting each other, and were caring for the weaker ones who were not able to do something.” The loss of respect: “In my opinion the availability of things has made us so proud that we all are in search of living liberally, and that is why we are not caring for others. But in the past all the people have faced difficulties and they felt it in the same way…”
Section 5  The Mir’s representatives. Life during the Mir’s rule: “We faced difficulties and to some extent a comfortable life during the rule of the Mir in Hunza, because the Mir of Hunza never did any sort of cruelty to the people of Shimshal. And the main reason behind that was that the people of Shimshal were taking too much care of the Mir by providing him with everything for his daily use like butter, cheese, meat, and other necessities.” Shimshali palos (local woven carpet of yak or goat hair): “People of Shimshal were very famous and expert for making beautiful palos. The expertise came from your grandfather.” His experience of being a lubi and deciding to join the army: “I decided to join the army at any cost, because I thought that it might be better than the labour work which our forefathers were doing for the last many centuries.”
Section 6  Experiences in the army: “When I joined the army, I was not able to speak even a few words of Urdu, because I was not educated… at that time the salary of the Gilgit Scouts were very low, it was only 15 rupees (currency) per month. While joining the army I [found] the way of living and the environment different to our forefathers’ lives; I found it better then ours.” Describes going for a parade and being welcomed by the Shimshali villagers: “they started firing bullets to express their happiness…Our villagers treated us very warmly during our stay in Shimshal, everyone invited us to their places for food or tea. They entertained us very well; we will never forget their hospitality.” His mother died during his absence. When they returned to Gilgit they brought gifts for Shimshal.
Section 7  The courage and hospitality of the Shimshalis. Experience of going “downside”: “For the first time when I went downside, the main problem with us was that we were not able to talk with other people, because we didn’t know their languages.” Being in the army means that he can now communicate in other languages: “in fact I think of myself as a lucky person, because without education I am able to spend my life like the educated ones today.”
Section 8-9  Compares Shimshal and areas such as Gilgit. The road: “I would say that we would not be able to get all those facilities available in down areas, and will have to face the difficulties here until we are able to construct our road. But I hope God will help us and it will be completed soon…” More comparison between life in Shimshal and life in the down areas. Feels that people in Shimshal lead happier lives. Life today and in the past: “we are having many types of worries in our mind, while people in the past were living a very simple life. The system of our culture and tradition, which we are having today, was celebrated by them in a very exciting way, which we are not able to do today.”
Section 9-10  Positive and negative impacts of outsiders coming into the village: “today we are getting benefit in the form of economic stability, but tomorrow it will affect our cultural values …The development of tourism is bringing many worries with it, because in the past we were living safely in our area, but now we are worried about our safety.” His work on the Arbitration Committee: “it is very difficult to deal with a case in a place like Shimshal, and that is why we used to give the decision on a participatory basis… the down villages…couldn’t give the decision through this committee and their cases have reached the courts. Shimshal, no cases have gone to the court yet...”
Section 11-12  Explains that most cases reaching the Arbitration Committee relate to land. His involvement in local politics as a numayindar, and his role in pushing for the road construction.