Gojal area of the Karakorum mountains
Pakistan glossary












12 July 2000



Section 1
By the Name of Allah, the most merciful. Assalam-o-Aliakum (peace be with you). Rajab sahib (Sir, term of respect) janab (Mr, sir) thank you so much for sparing time for this interview. I want to explain first, what is the purpose of this particular meeting. PANOS (London) and the Shimshal Nature Trust (SNT) are working on a joint project. As part of this project 16 individuals from Shimshal have got training to interview common people in our village, [the purpose is] to know their experiences, knowledge, and opinions about their life. I will ask you for information about tourism. I expect that you will respond to my questions openly, explaining what you know.

I want to further clarify it, the purpose (process) of these interviews. After taking interviews, we will translate them into Urdu and English. Then we will produce it in booklets. You will Insha-allah (God willing) get a copy of the booklet.

Now I want to formally start my interview with this question: How did you get interested in tourism and especially climbing? Could you kindly talk about this?
Thank you very much mukhi (local religious leader) sahib, thank you for initiating this programme (project) through which you are getting the views of common people. My interest in tourism started, when I initially joined some foreign trekkers. I got fascinated by it and felt that this could be something I should assume as a profession and sport in the future. I got my best interest and motivation when I accompanied a Canadian and Pakistani WAPDA (Water and Power Development Authority) joint [trekking] group through Khurdapin pass (a glacial pass joining Shimshal to Nagar over Khurdapin glacier) in 1986.

When did you formally join this profession?
As I mentioned earlier, it was 1986, but that was trekking. After that [my profession as a] climber started with the 1987 winter K2 (highest mountain in Pakistan, second highest in the world - 8,611 metres) expeditions [he joined it as a high altitude porter]. I spent three months on K2 in winter. After that I have continuously been getting chances to join at least one group a year.

What do you basically feel about climbing? What is your feeling about expeditions?
Basically it is a hard and risky job but you can get recognition and a comparatively good income too, that is why I have chosen this as a profession. Further I have a dream that I want to give the young men from the area a chance and training so that they could get greater success than I did in this line. I can foresee that this profession too is getting more competitive, like education; I want to have some students [he has trained many young men from the village in ice and rock-climbing techniques] who should work hard in acquiring more professionalism in this particular field and with their success they can earn a good name for their village area and country.
Section 2
Thank you. You mentioned above an interesting point here, that “after me my students should work better then me.” Could you specifically tell them that, what things they should emphasise for getting professional competence?
For that purpose I request that they should adopt a very enduring and cautious behaviour [the young are usually very enthusiastic and sometimes careless], they should always remain with team spirit and help the group they are working for (as high altitude porters or climber). They should care for the equipments and specifically the area; they should care about cleanliness of the area (routes and campsite), care for the safety of their own and their colleague’s lives and help anyone in need.

Most of the village young men are really brave, but do you think whoever joins this profession will get success or would they require any specific training?
As far I have seen of the young from Shimshal they are physically strong and acclimatised to the height. But in certain areas like techniques for climbing and safety and secondly they need to learn the rules and regulations of the job, which require training.

What can you do in this area to help them?
I have always been telling them (young villagers) that first of all they should cooperate [with] each other and secondly whatever they feel that they need to learn from me, I will be available. It could be training, guidance or making linkages for them with individuals and companies (in the cities), I will try my best to help them. But it depends on those young people; if they seek it with devotion I will help them. I believe that man is finite, I will die but if I could successfully transfer this profession (skills) to the second generation it will sustain. If they cooperate with their ministries, companies and individuals, visitors and guides they will be able to get benefit for the community.

Up till today, have you done anything for these interested young man from the village?
I had entered in this profession without any proper training or guidance and faced a lot of difficulties; keeping those difficulties in mind I have conducted training for them twice to voluntarily train them in climbing and safety techniques. I think many of the participants have benefited from those trainings and they have successfully climbed many mountains.
With the help of the Alpine Club of Pakistan I conducted training at the Malongudi Glacier for our young people. I had to convince the Alpine Club to conduct these trainings, because as per the rule it is difficult to conduct the training in such a far-flung place, where there is no road. This training was beneficial both for the Alpine club and myself. The Alpine club got many new members and I got respect [within my community]. I have great expectations for these trainees. They will be successful in the future.
Section 3
That indeed is a big contribution for our young generation, what did you feel about the behaviour of those trainees during the training? Did you find them interested in this [climbing] profession?
I have clearly observed that those young people who took a keen interest in the trainings, successfully continue it (the profession) till today and the few others whom I felt were not really interested during the training [were] left behind. It is very similar to any other profession. If you take interest you get success and if you don’t you fail. Here too there were many students. Those who [were] interested succeeded in the practical life too and those who did not could not.

To your knowledge how many climbers we have here in Shimshal?
Here in Shimshal I will say we have 14/15 people [who] are good climbers. They have… [The interviewer interrupts]

Shown good proficiency?
[Agreeing] Yes they have climbed peaks above 8000 metres. Some of them are brothers from the army and most of them are my own students. I think it is a big achievement for a small village to produce such a large number of climbers who have climbed challenging peaks and earned international fame.

Further I will ask you, as you have an interest in tourism, what effects did tourism have on your own home (family)?
There are many kinds of benefits from tourism. First I will say that… one gets changes in behaviour, habits and work. You work with people from various countries and learn many things from them. One of them is that you have to be very honest [locally foreigners are respected as being honest], secondly there comes a lot of change in your house, in your income, because we go with them and earn from them. Because of this earning I myself got a lot of changes in my own house [it is better paying than other physical work here] as you see I left the main Shimshal settlement and came here to reside in Farmanabad. I am the first person to do that and it became possible because of my earning from tourism. Because I earned enough to buy land here and started living here. This all happened only because of this otherwise it was not possible for me.

You mean it provides better income resources!

What effects do you think tourism will have on our society?
Tourism is like this that there are two lines (possible effects); it could have a bad effect and very good. The bad effect is like this – it very much depends upon ourselves. Visitors come from different societies and backgrounds. Like some of them drink [alcohol] and use drugs etc, now if we learn those things from them it will harm our society and if we get the better aspect of it and learn skills from them and earn from them that will benefit us.
Section 4
You know [about] clean-up expeditions (expeditions to remove rubbish and equipment left by previous mountaineering and trekking groups), how do you think of this for our area?
I think it is important not for our own area [only] but everywhere. It depends mostly on our own commitment and hard work. If we can develop contact with the ministry and official and Pakistan Alpine club we surely can clean up all our area. We can get some funding from them [too] but mostly if we really work. If we did not work, it would be impossible but if we just stand up and start working it is possible that we can clean up all the region.

As you mentioned earlier that you have economically benefited from tourism. I will once again ask specifically what benefits did you get?
For me the biggest benefit was that I got the prestigious Presidential Award for it. Money is something that comes and goes but the awards and certificates I have received are valuable for my family and me. So I consider it the biggest benefit for my community and me. It is there for whoever will get successes not for me only. There are always rewards and respect for people who are good and work hard. [Suggesting that younger generations should follow the path.]

Is there any permanent income available for you right now or it is just you are get paid when you join an expedition?
No, no I don’t have any source like a permanent one. I am not employed by any organisation. In the last few years I have been in a difficult condition because when I lost my son (his son died in an accident in one of the mountains) I am unable even to join any expeditions, hence for the time being I have no income from tourism.

So now I want to know your opinions about the future of tourism in Shimshal. What do you see for the future of tourism in Shimshal?
As far as I think Shimshal has got potential for tourism. It is the number one place to attract tourists. I believe that once the road reaches the village we will get a lot of tourists. I think it depends mostly on our community and mainly the young generations. If they work well and make good rules and regulations (about tourism management) they will get benefit.

Very good. I will ask one more question. Can you articulate in detail that if tourism stopped due to any reason what effects would it have on the community?
I think Shimshal would be affected if tourism stopped. Because we are not very educated and few people are working in other fields. Most of the community is economically dependent on tourism and any effect on tourism can have a bad effect on villagers’ income.

Respected Rajab janab (Mr, sir) can you please tell me whether you have worked with tourists as a porter also?
Mukhi sahib as you mentioned. For many years I have worked for trekkers as a porter.
Section 5
So you have experience of portering. What are your opinions about portering?
About portering I will say that there is too much suffering and difficulty in working as a porter. You earn by taking difficulties on your life. Here too if you cooperate with the group and guides you will get benefits. In portering I think there are some changes that need to be made. For higher altitudes like crossing passes the weight should be reduced. We should work together to ask for more wages when crossing high passes. But on the whole portering is a pretty hard job.

Yes so which height were you talking about where we need to reduce the weight and ask for more wages? And do you think if common porters demand these changes they can have them?
This [demand] should be for Khurdapin Pass and Chafchingol Pass; we should demand less weight. Because as I feel, it is difficult to carry 25 kg load with your own rations and sleeping and clothing stuff. That is really heavy and difficult. Though I don’t have experience of portering these passes, I can feel it would be really hard.

Further can you tell me if there is any chance that we [might] lose chances for portering?
There are cases like that, i.e. in Nagar area they had a lot of tourists but they increased the porter rates. Because of that tourists have changed their route and instead of going from the Nagar side they have started entering from Skardu and cross over Hispar pass to Nagar. They use porters from Skardu [porter wages are cheaper there]. The second thing is that sometimes porters argue with guides and companies [over wages and weights etc.]; that too could affect the tourism [inflow] into the community.

For good portering, what chances are [there] to make it better?
As far as improvements in portering are concerned after a year or two we will be able to make it better once the road reaches the village. Because then we can effectively impose rules and regulations for portering. We would run it like down country (refers to the rest of Pakistan). Right now we (the community) do not clearly know who came or who is to come. Individuals go from the village and wait at the road camp or porters are taken from down country. When the road reaches Shimshal from here it would be possible to effectively manage it. We (the community) will form a committee who will be responsible to discuss with [tour] companies, guides and visitors and arrange porters accordingly. Porters will only do their own duty (carrying and transporting loads).

You are a brave and famous climber but why did you worked as a porter?
I went [to work] as a porter because a person can’t be [born] a climber or brave, these all come through experience, like education starts from class one then you gradually go up to University and get a degree. I initially did portering because I am a farmer, born in a farming and herding family, because of that I have travelled in the mountains and acclimatised to the high altitude. After portering I learned how to take loads. I was physically fit. Gradually with experience I started working as a high altitude porter, after that I joined expeditions as a Pakistani member, like the one I went to Mount Everest. This I think is a process. You can’t go up directly. You start from lower and go up.
Section 6
OK, have you worked with any group (visitors) as a porter here in Shimshal village too?
Yes I did work as porter here in Shimshal for a team lead by Sher Khan sahib, who came here to climb Yokshin Gardan (name of a peak in Shimshal). I worked for them as a porter from Passu (village along the KKH) to Yazgel (name of a summer pasture in Shimshal) base camp. I had also worked as a porter for a trekking group, which crossed Verjarave Pass to go to Shuwert (main summer pasture) and a few more…many times.

So! To date as a climber how many mountains you have climbed?
There are five big peaks [above] 8000 metres in Pakistan. So I have climbed all five of them, and a few of them twice, and I have also climbed ¾ [of the] 7000 metres ones, and in Nepal I have climbed Mt. Everest but could not reach the summit because of bad weather. I have climbed many, three times K2, Broad peak twice, G1 twice, so I have climbed many mountains and successfully summated all 5 challenge peaks (those over 8000m) in Pakistan.

During your climbing and portering which thing (event) did you like the most, during your climbing?
First of all I successfully climbed Nanga Parbat (2nd highest mountain in Pakistan, 9th highest in the world - 8,125 metres - known as the “killer mountain”) jointly with a team from the Pakistan Army. I was really pleased, because before that people used to frighten me that it (Nanga Parbat) is very hard and risky and you should not go for it. When I successfully climbed it I got more interest and then I attempted K2 and other dangerous peaks too. After that wherever I went, it was with optimism and experience that I will do it. So, first from Nanga Parbat.

So can you tell me of that sort, like in this tourism line that you don’t like? Can you talk about it in detail?
Well in all this process what I dislike is that these young boys from the village… leave their education and carry loads for foreigners. That seems like… I dislike it, because education is the first priority for life, it is a basic thing. In our time there was no education (formal schooling in the village) and this was our need. Right now I say no to my son. I tell him to go to Islamabad for studying and not to go to the mountain. So what I dislike is that the young carry loads for money and leave their education. Carrying loads is not that good.

Very good, so! You used to go (work) as a porter. You will prefer to work [as porter] in your own area or other places?
I will say, first of all we should work in our own area but the main area in the North is Skardu (Baltistan) area. A huge number of people (tourists) come and go there, I will say that we should cooperate with tour operators and companies to divert people towards our area, so that our people here could benefit from that.
Section 7
Have you thought or done anything [so far] so that many tourists should come to our area?
This is the need of our people… especially young, that as much as they will cooperate with guides, tour operators… and I will say with the ministries we should talk, so many people will start coming here. Because here are main places, we have in hand, good glaciers, good passes and mountains. So that is possible, what I say is that we should work hard to attract more and more people (tourists) here.

What is your vision, thinking about your children, for example if your children came to this field would you encourage them or what else is your instructions?
As I said earlier, one of my sons is studying, I want him to go for further education. Here my home is a little far from school (7 km from the nearest school) I have two little children. If they couldn’t do well in education then surely I would train them in this field.

If one of your children came to this line what will be your special instruction/ guidance for him?
My guidance for them will be that they should stand and sit according to what are the good rules of adventure. They should work like this that if they would find people belongings lying there they should not touch them. Do not cheat anyone and never lie. That would be my advice for them then they would be successful.

OK, as you mentioned you want your son to get education. I think he can get education and join the tourism line. Do you think that would be any problem? Or better?
If my son gets an education and on the basis of that education comes into tourism, that would be very good. That is a very precious job. We entered this field on our physical qualities, if anyone comes in through education that would be very good. That would be respectable.

So you said that would be respectable. Could you tell me how that respect would be?
It is like this Master sahib (respected teacher) that when I myself took some educated young people to the Alpine club of Pakistan for training as a Liaison Officers, they successfully got the training, got certificates and went (worked) as Liaison Officers. That I think is a very good work.

One more request Rajab sahib, to tell me that those young men who got training of Liaison officers are you satisfied with their works?
I am satisfied from those young men, because brothers from Punjab (the urban area) are coming as a Liaison officer, they have got education but they are unable to acclimatise here. Once they come to the base camp they become sick and are not able to complete their responsibilities. But my students [are so strong] that if they want to climb they can reach the summit also though the government rules are that they can climb up to 6000 metres. I am very satisfied with them.
Section 8
Can you name those individuals who have got training of Liaison Officers in your supervision?
My students are Master Majnoon (the interviewer himself), Ghulam Amin janab, Inayat Ali janab (Inayat Ullah actual participant), Aman Khan janab and a few could not get training they were Master Raza, Master Khaliq and Samim Shah janab etc. I am still trying that these individuals and a few others if they are interested they should get training. They can work with pride.

Respected Rajab janab, now I request you that if you could tell us in detail about your life?
Mukhi sahib, thank you very very much. About my life, from my youth I had a good life because my father had lots of things (was economically well off); he possessed livestock like the Mir (rulers of Hunza state up to 1974). In those days livestock was valuable, because there was no education and other services (jobs). Farming and herding were really valuable. In my case my father had a lot of livestock and therefore life was easy. There were no difficulties [economically]. After that what I adopted, initially I was really interested in getting education. There was no teacher or educated man in the village in those days. Muhammad Nayab janab could learn a little. There was no school therefore I used to go to his house for getting lessons.
After that Sultan Ali janab, a teacher came here from Gulmit (one of the next villages) I learned for two years with him. It was till 4th grade I studied in the village and I was supposed to go to Gulmit or Hunza [used to be one a weeks walking distance]. But my father did not allow me; he told me that stock farming is better. When Daulat Amin janab (the first formally educated man from the village) graduated from high school from Gilgit and came back he told my father to send me to Gilgit for education but my father again did not allow me. When I was a little grown up I got an interest that I should go to work in the army. There was ban from the Mir of Hunza to work for the army. I ran away from here and went to Gulmit. My father sent one of my uncles Ehtibar Shah janab after me saying that you should bring him back. I was in Gulmit when my uncle reached there. There they lied to me saying that army people are coming to Shimshal this summer to recruit people. Therefore I should return to Shimshal and get recruitment there. That is how I missed that chance. That way I lost the age of education and the army. After that Ismat Shah janab and me opened a shop here in Shimshal. We brought goods from Gilgit on the horseback and carrying on our own back all the way here. But that too could not work.
There I felt that I have lost the good chances. Then I found tourism and decided to work in this field.

But I think tourism is better then all those other lines you mentioned, what do you think? Why do you prefer business?
Business is a fundamental thing. If you run it well, you can earn lots of benefit. There is not much physical exertion. And in those days there was no tourism. We had not even heard of it. It was after when a person named ???? [recording unclear could be Swift from the USA] came here and wrote some details about the area and trekkers started coming here. Before that we did not know any thing about it (tourism) it’s merits and demerits. Tourism started in our area when I became almost 30 years old.
Section 9
When you were running your own shop how did you used to supply goods here? Alone or people used to help you?
In those days we - two family members - had opened the shop here. Rupees were very strong in those days. I remember that with Rs1000 we bought a jeep load of goods from Gilgit. When we reached Gulmit the jeep was out of order. On horseback we transported the goods to Passu and from there almost 7/ 8 people transported them on their backs to Shimshal. Money was very strong in those days. We set up our shops with only Rs. 1000. It was profitable too but later on we could not supply goods to Shimshal and it failed.

If you could have maintained that business in what position do you think you would be today?
We might have been very different. Much better off, but that could not happen because of the road. You know after that many societies were formed like Bakhti and Ghazi kator Societies and Boqi kator societies (cooperative societies formed on a clan basis), they too started businesses but all failed because of transportation and road.

Respected Rajab janab could you kindly tell me that during your lifetime can you remember any good or bad event that you have faced and that has affected you?
In my life the most pleasant event was when I was awarded the presidential award. Though I have not faced any bad event in my life, but as is the qudrati nazam (system of nature), when I lost my son that was the most dreadful event for me and I lost courage too.
One more event I remember from my youth. I was around 20 years old. We were in Pamir (Shimshal’s mountain pastures) to construct ghell (shelter for goats and sheep) for the community. It was a community project donated for, by the name of Mother Yonic. The community had volunteered to construct it. One day someone came telling us that he had seen something (an animal) opposite the Zarsanic River. There were many good hunters who went to see what it is. When I reached the riverbank they were all standing and watching an animal on the opposite bank of the river. I asked them why they are standing? They told me well it is something they have not seen before. It is neither a snow leopard nor a mountain bear. I told them that I want to go and see what it is. When I was in the middle of the river the animal started moving towards me and as soon I touched the other bank of the river it attacked me. The animal jumped over my chest and bit my coat; fortunately I was wearing lots of clothes. I threw it aside then he bit me on my leg. Everyone from the other side of the river shouted at me to catch it. I grabbed it and never let it go till they all reached. They put a rope around its neck and killed it. We removed its skin and took it along.
Later on when the Mir of Hunza came to Shimshal we gave it to him. He also could not recognize it. His pilot told that it is “Kason”. Till today we don’t know what it was. And no one (in the village) has seen that animal again.
Section 10
What was its appearance? Did it have two legs or four?
It was the same size as a dog, had four legs. It had a long tail of three or four feet. There was a loose skin connecting its arms to legs and tails making it look like wings. It could swim fluently through the river and walk on its legs when touching the ground.

Right. Now I want to ask you if you have any suggestion for the future generations?
For the future generations I have this message that they should live with cooperation in the homeland (village) and they should try to make their best efforts to acquire education. The young people should cooperate with those who have successfully got education with teachers etc - education changes life. If we fail education we will be left behind in this meritocratic world. If they acquire education then whatever they do, be it a farmer or a herder or whatever, they will be successful, because education shows one the right path.

That is right, and thank you

So with these words I want to finish my interview. Thank you so much for sharing your very precious time. Today is a very pleasant day here in Hussein Abad, You have just laid foundation of a new Jamat khana (religious and community centre of Ismaili Muslims) here. Though you were busy with that, but you shared time for us too. I thank you very much on behalf of SNT also for sharing your valuable information with us.