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17 January 2001


Raza became a teacher in Shimshal after passing his matriculation (completing his secondary education and exams) in Gilgit. Aside from his teaching duties Raza has also been involved in various social institutions in Shimshal, including the volunteers and the Tariqa (religious education) board.

In the first half of the testimony Raza describes in detail the time when he suffered from a form of mental illness which caused him to be afraid that he was going to die. He is evidently grateful to the support he received from his family and colleagues at this time.

Raza discusses different aspects of development and change in Shimshal. Nomus he claims, “played a revolutionary role in the development of our community… There was no concept of financial aid from the government. It was nomus that helped the community to develop its infrastructure.” He goes on to describe how the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) has also contributed to Shimshal’s development, most importantly through its support in initiating the construction of the link road to Shimshal. This link road is seen in many ways as the basis of the community’s future development.

Raza explains that the Shimshal Nature Trust (SNT) and the National Park body have the same aims of wildlife conservation but different management approaches on how to achieve this. He believes that the authoritarian approach of the National Park is likely to be less successful than the community-based approach of SNT. There is then an interesting discussion on the changing perceptions of hunting: “hunting was the favourite pastime of the people in former times. The individual did not consume the game but it was distributed among the community members. The hunters were named as pehlawan (hunter) and respected in the society...” He goes onto explain that “The respect for a hunter is evident from the fact that a person with the name of certain deceased hunter is still regarded with the name pehlawan which indicates the respect and tribute to that hunter.” Today hunting is banned all over the country and hunters who were previously rewarded with the respected title of siyod (great hunter) are today liable for fines, trials and even imprisonment.

The testimony closes with Raza’s recital of a short song/poem.

detailed breakdown

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Section 1-2  Interviewer’s introduction Family background: married according to his own will; one of his grandfathers built the kongra (tower used as observatory for movement of sun for Shimshal calendar). His grandfather was fined because the kongra’s design was similar to that of the Mir’s palace. Raza’s educational background: after finishing his secondary education in Gilgit he returned to Shimshal to be a teacher and thus was able to support the education of his brother and sister.
Section 2-4  Education standards of Shimshal’s Boy’s Middle School are lower than Gilgit due to Shimshal’s location, lack of sufficient buildings, lack of training opportunities for government-employed teachers and lack of facilities. But conditions are improving and the teachers try to take advantage of training opportunities provided by the Aga Khan Education Service. Other suggestions for improving education standards. More young people are leaving the village for higher education which will mean “more people will get employment and our society will make progress.”
Section 4-5  Positions in social institutions: secretary of the volunteers; chairman of the tariqa (religious education) board; joint secretary of the library; and currently coordinator of the Aga Khan Social Welfare Board. Activities during work with volunteers. Activities whilst chairman of tariqa board: “my priority was to get more teachers (religious guides) appointed and make efforts to try to build pre-school buildings at several localities.” Difficulties of transporting furniture to Shimshal for these schools. Raza also served as convener of the Conciliation and Arbitration Committee of Shimshal. Description of this local system of justice, compared to the government system which can be costly and inefficient. Raza also served as convener of the Conciliation and Arbitration Committee of Shimshal. Description of this local system of justice, compared to the government system which can be costly and inefficient.
Section 6  Running a shop in Gilgit compared to running one in Shimshal: “people have buying power and can spend money in the city shops… in the village people don’t have the money and they get the things on a loan basis…” Although people can make money from salajit, a mineral found in Shimshal – they have to go to Gilgit to sell the salajit and then they spend their earnings in Gilgit. Therefore “the money does not circulate in the village and I think the city men get the advantages of this money rather then the village people.”
Section 7-8  Description of the time when Raza suffered from some mental illness and was convinced he was going to die. Help and support from his colleagues during this time. Importance of Nomus. “People offered their resources in the name of their dears such as fathers, mothers, brothers, wives and other relatives and performed nomus and constructed channels, huts, trails and bridges. This helped the village to make progress.”
Section 8-9  Role of AKRSP in development: “It brought communities closer and developed brotherhood among them. It also helped the people through saving and pooling their resources and utilising them for their community development. It caused financial development and mental development of the people. It changed the perception of the people.” On seeing the success of the AKRSP link road project the government became involved.
Section 9-10  Without the road the government cannot “meet our demands for socio-economic development.” It is anticipated that the road will improve people’s health with the increased availability of medicines and medical expertise and the fact people would not have to carry everything. Also expected to result in more tourists. Anticipated disadvantages of the road link: “Most probably our culture will change and the spirit of cooperation and unity would weaken…”
Section 10-11  Importance of radio in Shimshal. Now a satellite phone in Shimshal; prior to that the relied on announcements from Radio Gilgit. Means of communication prior to radio and satellite phone: using border lubies (border security personnel) to take a message; and using fire or smoke to communicate that the Shimshal lake has burst its banks. Shimshal’s mountaineers have brought recognition not only to Shimshal and to the Northern Areas but to Pakistan.
Section 12  Impact of tourists on Shimshal: cause pollution; change in values; and the youth of Shimshal prefer to work with tourists than finish their education. “Tourism is important but not vital for the community. It is an easy source of earning that has diverted the entire attention of the people even the students are more attentive to the tourism rather then to education.”
Section 13-14  SNT and the national park: “In my opinion both the national park and the SNT are working for the common objective but the difference is that the management style of national park is authoritarian whereas… SNT ensures active involvement of the community in the management process.” Hunting in former times: pehlawan (hunters) were respected and would distribute the game amongst the community. Differences between hunting in former times and today: “In former times it was a prestigious hobby and symbol of bravery. These people were rewarded with the title of siyod but today hunters are called thieves (poachers) and they are put to trial and kept in jail.” Recites a very short song/poem