Gojal area of the Karakorum mountains
Pakistan glossary














Section 1
Itís the 8th of May and Iím about to start an interview with Farman, of Shimshal who is currently working as the editor of the Dawn newspaper in Islamabad [rewind tape and play back to check itís working].... So I should first make a correction that Farmanís title is ďeditor in chargeĒ. Okay Farman, so first of all thank you very much for coming and contributing your time for this Shimshal Oral Testimony Project and the reason I think your interview will be valuable is because you know you have spent so long outside Shimshal that you perhaps have different perspectives than some of the other testimonies.

So first of all, perhaps you could tell me a bit about your family, brothers and sisters, mum and dad?
Thank you Siobhan, for honouring me to give an interview for such an international organisation as Panos. And I have a great regard for the Panos because it has undertaken a great, a gigantic job, a very difficult job, to preserve and to collect oral testimony accounts of the people of Shimshal which is the most neglected and poor we can say poor village of Northern Areas. So I do belong from that village...luckily or unluckily [laughs]. I have a background of a poor family I hale from such a family, but in Shimshal my family is considered a very wealthy and a well-to-do family. And I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters; one sister who is younger than me has already been married and she has 4 kids and she is the first teacher in Shimshal, yes, female teacher...

Whatís her name?

Fatima, yes I know her.
She is teaching in the Aga Khan Education services school in Shimshal. And the third one, who is my brother, is a BSc graduate and nowadays he is jobless and he is working socially with the Shimshal people with some social organisations and he is a freelance guide, tour guide. And the youngest brother is also a graduate, now he is giving his examination of BCom in Karachi and he will come back in the next month. And another sister who is at home, she is very simple, some problems she has got, epilepsy...so this is my family.

So are your mother and father still living in Shimshal?
Yes they are still in Shimshal

And your mother is Qandoon (her name), is that right?
Yes thatís right.
Section 2
And what about your father, what didÖ?
My father is a social worker and one of the noble persons of Shimshal. He is the pioneer of establishing institutions, jamati (Ismaili community) institutions in Shimshal, like volunteers, Aga Khan volunteers corps - he was the founding member of that organisation. And in constructing the Jamat khana (religious and community centre of Ismaili Muslims) in Shimshal, he is among those people who constructed that Jamat khana. And he was the only person, and yet he is the only person, who has constructed the school for female students, for girl students in Shimshal. And it is on record that no person, no philanthropist, no individual has constructed a school throughout the Northern Areas at their, at his own cost. So my father is the only person, who in 1971 constructed a school for girl children in Shimshal. And recently he also constructed a canal in Shimshal.

An irrigation...
An irrigation channel yeah, and that will Insha-allah (God willing) irrigate about a six kilometre square area, thatís very good agricultural land, which can be irrigated and it will obviously benefit the people of Shimshal. So he constructed that irrigation channel at his own cost, about 8-10 lakh rupees he spent on that canal.

So when you say ďhe constructedĒ, is this through the nomus system (system of donating resources for a community project in the name of a relative)?
Yes the nomus system.

And where is that land then in relation to the Shimshal village, the irrigation channel and land, is it in Pamir (Shimshalís mountain pastures) area or downside?
It is downside, itís about nine kilometres from Shimshal and near to Passu, it is called Reich.

Reich, okay, and you said your father is considered a noble man, what is the reason, why is he considered noble?
Because he has spent the whole of his life for the welfare of the people, working for the people, and fighting for the rights of the people - because he is also a politician. In the 70s when there was a turbulent history of our area when all the people of Hunza and Gojal were fighting against the ruler of Hunza, the Mir (rulers of Hunza state up to 1974)... There was a system which prevailed for 900 years in Hunza, one man rule of the Mirís, who was exploiting the people, who had imposed a lot of taxes on the people. So the people revolted against him through a political party; Pakistan Peoples Party was first introduced in the area and through the platform of PPP they struggled to work against the Mir of Hunza. So politically and socially my father was very active in the 1960s and 70s.
Another point which I would like to mention here is that there was a military post in Shimshal and a platoon of 20-30 army persons were posted there before the 70s. So they were, as you know, as happens everywhere in the world, in rural areas they (the army) trespass their areas, their jungles (forests), and interfere in their social life. So my father also fought against those army peoples and time and again he was taken to the law cops and quarter guards, so in these things and works he is considered noble.
Section 3
Yes. And you said that he was the first person in 1971 to construct this school, was he educated himself?
Yeah, in those days when there was no school in Hunza, and Gojal, when he was young, he thinks he might have been 6 or 7 years old, there was a teacher in Shimshal from Hunza. He had been sent to teach the people about their religious customs and other traditions. At that time, my father and his friends were the students of that teacher. They learnt a lot from that teacher just one class. Just primary, just class one or two. But the local people felt that if these people became educated they will not obey the orders of the Mir. And so the local rulers and his cronies conspired against the teacher and complained about him to the Mir and he was transferred from the village to Hunza.

So what year was that in do you think?
It was in 1947 or 48 I think

Okay, so how...where do you think this feeling of your fatherís Ė the importance of female education Ė came from. Because this is quite unusual you can say?
It was in the 70s when our spiritual leader, Prince Karim Aga Khan, stressed giving education to the female students. So he was inspired by that farman (instruction/guidance from the Aga Khan) and he thought that if I can do anything for my mission through this service, it would be a good service for the community. So he decided to construct a school for girls. At that time we didnít even have a school building. We (boys) used to read in open spaces in poor houses, so we got our primary education in a very poor condition. So he thought that the female students who are really sensitive, they should be provided with a respectable place where they could sit and they could get education. So in 1971, 72 he constructed the school, a girlís school for female students.

And what was the reaction of the other villagers to all this, because this must have been a new thing for them also?
Yeah, they appreciated it and they helped him in constructing that school. And after that it became a precedent and the other people also contributed towards that and constructed another room with that which was constructed by my father. And before that he had devoted a lot of his time, during his youth, for the people, for fighting and working for them and they learned the masonry expertise for the first time in Shimshal when an expert in building construction came there to construct the Jamat khana. They learned from him, and then they constructed the Jamat khana and other buildings. And after that they passed on their expertise to other people and now there are a lot of masons there.

Whatís your fatherís name?
My fatherís name is Wali Baig.

Wali Baig, okay, itís interesting...And what about your childhood, what was it like growing up in Shimshal?
My childhood I spent my childhood, mostly in my maternal grandfatherís house in Passu.
Section 4
Oh, why is that?
Because my father felt that in Shimshal itís not a good place, there is no place of education for children, therefore he took me to Passu. My uncle, my grandfather was a great visionary man, he was a very liberal and a very enlightened person who himself, gave education to his children, especially his daughters.

So your motherís educated, received some education?
Simple, she can just read the basic alphabet, but the others, my other aunts who are educated. My aunt who is third number from my mother was the first teacher of Gojal, the female teacher. So she herself got education in her home. And now she is a teacher and she is a graduate.

So what was it like being from Shimshal but growing up in Passu, did you go back to Shimshal regularly?
Yeah yeah, first of all I didnít like to stay in Passu because I was very attached to my grandfather...

Your paternal grandfather?
Yes my paternal grandfather. But I had to stay there (in Passu) because there was no chance to go back to Shimshal. And my maternal grandfather was very affectionate to me and he loved me, even my uncles and my aunts loved me very much and thatís why I had to stay there. I got my primary education in Passu and then I fell ill in Passu and I was taken back to Shimshal.

What was the problem?
I got typhoid, I was suffering from typhoid and I was taken back to Shimshal. It was a period when the KKH had started to be constructed. So, and then, after three years I was again brought back to Gulmit. Because there were only primary education facilities in Shimshal.

And in Passu?
Yeah, and then when I was in 6th class I was brought back to Gulmit, to my auntís house Ė who is now my mother-in-law!

Okay, complicated family! Okay, before we go on in your life, just to go back a minute. What do you think is your earliest memory in Shimshal?
I have small memories, but whatever it is, it is lovely, I never forget those memories. And in my childhood I was taken to Pamir by my grandmother. And Iíve just memorised those things, Iíll never forget those things. The valley, the simple people, the love and the sincerity for each other...theyíre really very unforgettable things...

And what about those three years you spent in Shimshal when you were ill, what was that time like?
It was a transitionary period, when there were tremendous changes going on in Gojal and Hunza; like the old system of Miri, Mirs and rulers of Shimshal they were being thrown out. In 1972 and 73 late Zulifqar Bhutto, when he became prime minister of Pakistan he abolished these states, these princely states of Pakistan including Hunza state and Nagar state. That was a transitionary period and the people who were used to living in the old Miri system, they were considering the ruler as a superhuman being. And he was treating [others] like he was a representative of God and nobody could go and stand upright in front of the Mir. Everyone had to kneel and then kiss the Mirís hands and feet.
So that situation made the youngsters revolt against him. And there was no, the youngsters were not allowed to go outside Hunza to get an education. And the people who went to Karachi in the 50s and 60s, they went...hiding themselves, illegally and at that time the people needed to get permits even to go to Gilgit. So when the youngsters went to Karachi and they saw a new society, an open society, where there were a lot of facilities of health and education and other things then they thought that they should do something against the ruler. And they got organised in Karachi and they started demanding the government of Pakistan to... They first demanded from the ruler to abolish the taxes and the forced labour from the people and provide basic amenities to the people. But he didnít, he refused and he scolded them, those people.
Then they started demonstrating in Karachi, there were protests and demonstrations and meetings and even they, some of them, when they went back to Hunza, they were arrested and kept in the Mirís personal jail. My maternal uncle who was leader of those people he was kept in Baltitís fort dungeon. Where in the old days when any person could not obey the Mirís orders, they were kept there and they used to die there, because of the fear and darkness of the dungeon. But my uncle was kept there for three months and then he didnít obey the Mir and he asked that, ďYou should realise that changes are going on in the world and you should provide the basic amenities to the people instead of imposing taxes and exploiting these people.Ē But the Mir didnít realise those things. He was again arrested and exiled from Hunza to Gilgit in 1973. And he remained in Gilgit for two to three months. When Zulfiqar Bhutto came there and the people demanded, ďas you have already abolished the princely states of other Pakistani states, you should also abolish this Hunza state, why you have kept this in tact.Ē Then he announced that Hunza state is abolished and it is merged with the district of Gilgit.
So there was a lot of opposition for this movement in the area because the people didnít know the benefits of it, of society, they were used to a system which was exploiting them, which was humiliating them, which had created classes. So they were used to that system, it was not easy for them to just disobey and accept new ideas, new concepts and new society. So in the early days they faced many difficulties, even socially those people boycotted those people, the political figures. And even Iím a witness of that turbulent period, when the religious institutions were misused by the old system, who were lobbying to continue the old systems. Because they were claiming that the Mir of Hunza was also head of the Ismaili council, and he (the Mir) misused his position and all those institutions. And he brought out fake farmans from Prince Karim Aga Khan, that those people who are educating for political change, who are educating for social changes they are out of the Ismaili community. So these kinds of social problems the people facedÖ Like we were just young, we were just students, we didnít have any affiliation with those people, but even we were victimised, we were teased...
Section 6
When you were in Gulmit?
Yes when I was in Gulmit, because Gulmit was the headquarters of Gojal, the Mirís people. So the people were very strong followers of the Mir there. So I am witness to those turbulent periods. And when in 1976 I moved to Gilgit for ...

So how old were you then when you moved to Gilgit?
I was hardly, 15 to 16, so I completed my 8th class in Gulmit, and then moved to Gilgit to get admission to the 9th class and my schooling for the10th class; I spent over two years in Gilgit. Throughout my school life I was the bright student of my school [laughs]. I was first position from class one to class 10. I participated in debates and in essay writings and everything. So when I completed my Matric, my secondary education in Gilgit, then I had to move to Karachi. In Karachi I met those friends, who were struggling, who were fighting for the rights of the Northern Areas.

So why did you decide to go to Karachi, rather than Rwalpindi or somewhere?
Karachi was considered the best city of Pakistan. Our relatives and our friends were already staying there and there were a lot of opportunities for jobs and education in Karachi as compared to other cities of Pakistan.

So what was it like arriving in Karachi after being in Northern Areas?
It was a new world. It was like a sea and any inexperienced person had been thrown in the sea. [we both laugh]....who is trying to ....swim....stay afloat...it was like this. There was a lot of fascination about Karachi. Itís a big city, there are a lot of things you can get whatever you want.

Whatís your first memory of Karachi?
Before 85 it was a very beautiful, very liberal city, the people were very educated and in their attitude they were very liberal. But after 85 when our government created the city of ethnic groups and they created law and order problems in Karachi, then it became hell for those people who did not belong to Karachi, but belonged to a certain ethnic group. Now it has ????? [audio inaudible] it is an abandoned city. There are civic bodies there is no elective government there it. ..????? [audio inaudible] and everyday you can find the law and order situation there. You have to confront a lot of problems in Karachi nowadays. But before 85 it was a beautiful city, it was a real cosmopolitan city.

So going back to when you first arrived in Karachi what did you like about it, what were the things that you personally liked about it?
Well, as any rural youth can like to see in a city, is to see the cinema and the markets full of commodities, to get everything, thereíre a lot of opportunities for entertainment. First of all anyone can go and avail those facilities. So my cousin was also there he was in the armed forces so I first of all went to him and he allowed me to enjoy everything.

How did you feel about, you know in your early days in Karachi what were your feelings about Shimshal?
It was something very...what can I say... a very different thing. That the world we are living in, in Shimshal itís very backward and it needs a lot of attention from the government and it needs a lot of initiative of the people, of other people and other organisations. But after two and three years I badly missed my native town, my village. The calmness, the sincerity of the people and the love for each other - those were the things that I badly missed in Karachi. Because in an urban society you can very well imagine that people are very selfish, become very selfish. And they donít care for each other, they donít have any affinity, any sincerity, if they provide anything as a service, they can expect a reward in return for that service. But in Shimshal people are providing services to each other without any reward, without any...just whatever they have they can just offer to you if you are in need, if you ask. But in Karachi itís totally different they are two poles apart, two different societies to have their own....[cassette finished turned tape over]...
I spent the best years of my life in Karachi...but in those 20 years I achieved a lot of things, education, awareness about society and above all this profession which I am working in. These are the things which Karachi gave to me which other cities, other areas couldnít have.
Section 7
So when you first arrived in Karachi, what did you find most difficult, what problems did you face when you first arrived?
I just became very hesitant with what was going on...there are a lot of people going here and there and with the traffic and a lot of noise and a lot of very strange fumes and smoke and it wasnít easy for me...where these people are coming from and where they are going...and how many vehicles are on the roads here... and why such a lot of vehicles are in Karachi and not in other areas... so these questions rose in my mind... those things... and I felt the difference of life, that some people in Karachi, in posh areas, living, their living standard was quite different from the living standards of the majority of people in Karachi. These things increase injustice in society and corruption in our system these things raised questions in my mind.
And then we started the struggle in Karachi. I became a political activist...affiliated with some left [wing] progressive youngsters and worked with them for the rights of Northern Areas. Because you know the Northern Area has still been neglected and denied of its basic human rights, like its identity has not been given to it. The people of Northern Areas have been denied their democratic rights so we, a few youngsters, started to write for these things. And we were the first people who organised an organisation, set up an organisation in Karachi with the name of Northern Areas Students Federation and through its platform we started writing, highlighting our issues through small newsletters... ď???? KarakoramĒ which I started editing at that time. Because from my early childhood I had got an interest in writing and reading magazines and newspapers when I was in my maternal grandfatherís house. Because my uncle was a political activist and he used to read magazines and newspapers and then I used to read those newspapers in his house in Passu. So at that time I developed an interest in reading newspapers and writing for any newspapers. And when I went to Karachi in 1979, in 1980 then I started writing in Urdu magazines first. So after two years the government banned that newspaper, that newsletter.

Of the organisation...?
Yeah of the organisation, and the Ziaís regime banned political activities of student organisations....Then in 1984 we set up another political platform, it was the Gilgit Baltistan Jamari Mas (Gilgit Baltistan Democratic Front). We started organising the people who were working in Karachi and the students and the youths, all kinds of people, we started organising them and giving them awareness about their rights, their democratic and their national rights. So it becameÖthe government felt that these people will create a problem for us in Northern Areas and that was the time that the Russians invaded Afghanistan. The Zia regime felt that the new ideas which are coming from Russia, then these youngsters will also accept those ideas, and these are socialists and they will create a problem for us in Northern Areas. As there was our programme that we should organise the people of Northern Areas on a progressive platform, and then they will fight for their rights. To fight this idea, this struggle, the government mobilised a trained guerrilla force from Pakistan to Northern Areas under the leadership of Gulawat ?????? Afghan fugitive, Mujahadeen leader, and this ????? of Azad Kashmir and.....who is the chief veteran of the Taliban. These people organised a very trained guerrilla force of 40 trucks and they sent them to Gilgit and they created carnage there, they killed about 200-300 people in Gilgit.
Section 8
In what year was this?
It was in 1988. It was on May 25, 1988. There was a programme with the ???? government signed the Afghan peace accord. And under that peace accord there was a plan that the Afghan refugees will go back to Afghanistan but ?????? rejected the peace accord and they said that they will fight against the Najeeb government, the Afghan government. And we will set up our own exiled government in Northern Areas and then from the Northern areas we will fight against the Afghan government. Under that plan they mobilised these forces, and there was a plan to capture the Northern Areas, and from there they will set up an exiled government in Northern Areas and fight the Najeeb Ullah government of Afghanistan. But the people resisted and gave them a tough time and they retreated from there.

So there was fighting in Gilgit?
Yes there was a lot of fighting. 15 villages were raised, by these people on their way to Gilgit...Jalalabad, Haramosh....Still the people have this very alive in their minds.
This carnage created, washed out our struggles, which we had created during that period and which made the people united for the common issue of their identity and for their democratic rights. After that carnage the people divided on sectarian lines and now it is very difficult to unite them.

I was going to ask you about this, two questions I suppose. First, you know in some places when people leave the villages and go to the town, they forget their rural areas and get sucked into the urban areas. But in Karachi you had this very strong Northern Areas movement, so people were very aware of their identity...why do you think this was different compared to other situations?
Because Karachi is a different place from the Northern Areas. The people who come from Northern Areas to Karachi they have a strong affiliation with their land, with their community, with their people. So itís not easy for them to forget their norms, their relationship with the land, with the people so this is one thing. Another thing, which made them remain intact and fight for their areas, was their grievances and problems Ė those were common. So thatís why they thought that ďwe can fight for ourselves and we can become the rulers of our own area which is rich in minerals, and everything, we can exploit them and alleviate our poverty. And we can make our area like a Switzerland.Ē This awareness was given to the people by us, by the political activists.
Section 9
So you said that until 1988 you had managed to unite people despite their different Islamic sects, so how did you mange to do that? Itís hard for me now, knowing the differences between sects to think that before people were united?
You know one thing, you will agree with me, that people have a strong relationship with their land, thatís why they give preference to their land than their religion, their sect. The people of Northern Areas till 1977 were very strong. They had a strong relationship with their land, their area... They had very natural feelings and were very simple and very original people. Because there was no interference of other areas in their lives, in their culture or in their everyday life affairs. So they had a strong affiliation, they had a strong relationship with their land, with their people no matter what sect they were, whatever their language. But the common thing which made people remain united was this feeling for their land in which they are living and their problems, that is common. I made them realise that the problems a Sunni is facing, are also faced by a Shia person because he is also going through the same problem, he is also facing the same problem which is faced by a Sunni, a Shia an Ismaili. So we can fight for those problems united. That is the only way to address, to solve those problems, that is to struggle united. And the common thing is our land, our area, and our natural relationship, that can make the people remain united. Religious feelings came there, after, during Ziaís period. The sectarian strife, he introduced there. But now you can say that the people have realised that this is not the solution to our problems, so still they are reassessing their approaches and their relationships and they are again striving to become united on a nationalist point, and then struggle for their national identity and then for the democratic rights.
And a united front, a united alliance has already been made in Gilgit last December, in December 4 or 5, well 12 small nationalist groups, even religious groups have united and made an alliance, Gilgit Baltistan nationalist alliance.

So itís interesting, do you consider yourself to be first a Shimshali or a person from the Northern Areas. Because Shimshal is quite different from other places, but how do you feel?
I would like to clear this thing. That I have to some extent abandoned all small petty relationships. And I have, even I donít believe in religious things. I have one strong belief that is humanity, I donít believe in Islam, Ismailism and such things I just believe in humanity and up to that I would prefer to be called a man of Northern Areas. And then finally a Shimshali. Because Shimshal is a small village in Northern Areas, my identity as a person, as a journalist is a representative of Northern Areas, not a representative of Shimshal, though I am proud to be a Shimshali, but I would prefer to be called a Gilgiti and a Hunzai. And I love all those people, I love Baltistani people, I love to be called a Baltistani, I love to be called a Gilgiti, any, whatever. So I believe in universal laws and universal beliefs that is humanity.

Me too, Iím not religious
Thatís good [laughing] we both have a common thing.
During this period we have faced a lot of problems, even educated people have created problems for us. They described us as ďthese are anti-religion people, these are socialists and these are communistsĒ and a lot of things. So we donít care for those things. And now they have realised that the approach and the ideas which we had given to them in Ď88, that was good and that should have been followed. The defining thing is humanity, the primary thing is with humanity and then religion is an individual issue, whatever you follow you follow it. ??????? Mad things Ė if you follow them thatís your personal problem.
Section 10
So itís a very long struggle from your fatherís time, your grandfather even, to a lot of problems when your organisations were banned... and no one has given up... still you are fighting, struggling?
[Laughing] yes itís a very interesting struggle I think, for a child, for a boy who has come from a very isolated village, a very ???? and very closed society and he has just broken all the chains and come into an open society. And he claims to be an internationalist, and a universal citizen and striving to become a universal person. So it needs a lot of struggle because during this period one has to face, one has to encounter, a lot of problems, social problems, village problems, so we faced a lot of problems. Even my engagement was endangered when I fell in love with my fiancťe, now my wife. My father-in-law was very orthodox, a very religious person. At that time I was not so famous in my profession, I was just a jobless person. So how can a person give his daughter to such a jobless person. Even we were both of us, my father-in-law, is an orthodox religious man but I am totally different from this. So that created a lot of problems for us. Even the people of his village jointly persuaded him that you will never give your daughter to that person who doesnít believe in religion, who is against our system. But my wife stood with me, she took a stand and said that this is my personal matter. She was the first student of Qadi Azam University, here in Islamabad, from Northern Areas, posted her MSc from here...

In Zoology?

Sheís a famous woman, Iíve heard about her! Let me pause you a minute [slight interruption]. So Farman bhai (brother) you were talking about your wife, and this is an interesting story
This is also, I claim that this is on my credit, that I broke the taboos of my society and introduced a very respectable tradition of loving each other, of a person and then to marry her. There was no such tradition in our area, even today there are a lot of restrictions on, even in our society in Hunza and Gojal, there are a lot of restrictions on the girls, they canít meet freely with the boys and make friends, and select from them, their life partner. The majority of the marriages and weddings are arranged marriages, even anyone who dares to fall in love with anyone, it is not possible to be successful in achieving the ????? of becoming life partners. And I was the first who made it.

So how did you meet your wife, how did you meet her?
It was a very memorable thing for me. After staying in Karachi a long time, it was the first time when I was going back to Shimshal. During the way coincidentally when my vehicle stopped in Rahimabad, you know Rahimabad.... Its I think 15-20 kilometres from Gilgit on the way to Hunza. When my vehicle stopped there for a short break and they took lunch there was another vehicle and there were a lot of girls there. I saw my cousin, my wife now, she was also there, I was impressed with her. She was the first student of the Aga Khan Girlís Academy in Karaimabad. At that time they were brought to Gilgit for a picnic and they were going back to Hunza. On the way we met there, but I didnít express my feelings to her, but I liked her, she was though very small. After 2 or 3 years I proposed to her, but I got a strong opposition from her village and family, but I was quite determined that this is the person with whom I can share my life and with whom I can share my views and she is up to the mark or my mind. Because she is very bold and very intelligent, so I thought I should achieve her and make her my life partner. But I got a strong resistance and strong opposition from their family. I went back to Karachi and then kept writing letters to her and in 1992 when I first joined as a sub-editor and business reporter, then I personally came here in Islamabad. She was studying in F-7/2 girlís college in Islamabad, she was studying in inter, HSc part 1. So I met her to express my views that I want this, she accepted and was okay, ďbut it is subject of the approval of my mother.Ē So I told her, ďI donít care of their approval, but I just want your approval.Ē But after that there came a lot of ups and downs in those barriers and they tried to reject that proposal and get her married to other persons. But she resisted and finally when she completed her MSc they finally agreed that there is no chance, you have to marry.
Section 11
So when did you get married?
I got married in 1996. And John Mock janab (Mr, sir), he also participated in my marriage party.

So your marriage party must have been in Shimshal?
Yes in Shimshal, Passu and Gulmit. It was a memorable party, because it was something impossible for Gulmit, Passu and Shimshal. Because there were a lot of my relatives in Gulmit, Passu and in Shimshal. A lot of arrangements were made by my maternal uncle in Passu, in Passu Inn, Ghulam Mohammed.

Oh yes I know him.
So a lot of people participated in the dancing, for two days in Gulmit and Passu and then we went to Shimshal. And I married on the 25th of March 1996 and on April 12th we went back to Karachi. After a while she joined the Aga Khan University as a research officer working there with some NGOs. And in the meantime she gave the test of the Federal Public Service Commission. Itís the highest body of appointing grade 17 and above recruitments. She passed and she was elected as a lecturer in Northern Areas education department. Then we decided to move to our areas although there were a lot of incentives and facilities in Karachi, but we thought that we should serve the people of our area, they are in need of good people, of educated people, to give them good quality education. But we had suffered a lot of loneliness, still facing through that. In a year we can meet each other two or three times. In winter vacations she comes back to Karachi and stays with me for 2 and 3 months, and in summer vacations and in between I frequent to Hunza.

So do you think that will be easier now you are in Islamabad?
Yeah, it brings us much closer, but still we canít meet, we just talk on the telephone daily.

Section 12
So when do you think youíll see her again, whenís your next meeting?
Sheís coming on 16th of May here for 2 weeks and then obviously whenever I get two or three days vacation I will go and meet her in Hunza.

You said her family were kind of opposed initially, what was the response of your family?
My family were ready they were trying their level best to get me married with her. But it was because of the remoteness and the isolation of Shimshal that the people were opposing. Because the village of Shimshal is isolated and there are no facilities available there... and how can an MSc girl live there? But they didnít think that an MSc girl will not stay in Shimshal, she will obviously work in a town, in a city. So now the people have got courage and they are, the youngsters are meeting, and they are selecting their own choice and they are getting married.

So you are responsible for this? [laughing]
[laughing] Yes I am responsible for that.

So your story is a combination of personal and political struggles?
So it is because some people are very against me, that ďthis is a person who has broken the old social taboos and these old social traditions...and this is a person who has broken the old orthodox religious norms and traditions.Ē But they canít do anything against me, I have got a lot of strength. And a lot of the younger generation are appreciating my views and they are following me and I have trained the youngsters as journalists and there are a lot of friends of mine in Hunza and Gojal but not that much in Shimshal.

But the testimonies Iíve read, even some of the older people when they are asked about marriage they....I think even their attitudes are changing towards marriage. As an outsider whatís your feeling about the culture in Shimshal and how itís changing or not changing?
I think a lot of changes have taken place in Shimshal to the culture. And it has been distorted especially by and dominated by the religious organisations, the Ismaili religious broad organisations which were introduced there. They have introduced a very distorted view of things which have come to dominate our social life. Before these organisations, there was a natural, an indigenous and original cultural tradition and way of interaction in our society. Since the introduction of these organisations, like Ismaili council, Ismaili volunteers, and they have just taken the models of an urban society and western society and they are just copying those things, this is very regrettable I think. And now the people are becoming very religious and very sectarian. Before these organisations the people were very secular in their attitudes and in their minds and because they were just following their natural old traditions.
Now the old traditions and natural traditions have been replaced by the religious system. Religious constitution has been introduced in our society and the religious council, and the religious organisations, they are just copying and imposing the directives of an urban society like Karachi. Because most of the directives and most of the set up and the new ideas are coming from Karachi. And these people are just copying those things. It is an introvert attitude which is not useful and in the long term it will distort and damage, it will destroy our culture and traditions. Even there is a positive change in the minds of the people they are feeling in Hunza and Gojal, that we should not copy, we should not obey all those things which are coming from outside, from Karachi from other places. We should develop, we should evolve, our own system of things, of cultural activities.
For instance before the introduction of these religious institutions there was a very good tradition of singing folklore folk songs in our society in Shimshal. There was a very classical and a very qualitative poetry of Shimshal. You might have gone through these interviews and found the old poems and folk songs. But after becoming religious that process has stopped, no one is singing verse and singing poetry like those old people who were praising each other and who were praising their area, the natural beauty of their area. That system has stopped, that process has stopped. And the people who are dominating these institutions are mostly a mercantile society, they are based on a mercantile society like Karachi, they are people of Karachi who are mostly educated and sophisticated people, they are running the Aga Khan institutions. And they donít have their own land, the Ghujar people who are mostly forming and running our institutions. They have no affiliation with any land, with any country, they just move from one country to another country so they have no cultural base, they have no cultural heritage, so they just run these organisations like a business. This business like running of organisations is very dangerous for our society, it has created alienation and resentment amongst the people of Hunza and Gojal, that ďwhy these people are coming from Karachi and imposing their own traditions, their own norms on our society. We have a sontr (?), we have old, very natural traditions; we have very natural customs and religious traditions so we should follow those things. This feeling has started among the young generation.
Section 13
So now, itís interesting, and a bit complicated, but whatís theÖ usually we think the older generations are keen to keep their customs and the younger generations are not and are easily changed, but youíre saying perhaps the younger generation are now starting to see the value of their culture. Can you explain to me, can you talk a bit about the differences between the generations in terms of attitudes towards culture or religion?
There are two things which need to be explained. One is the old outdated traditions which I am also against, those outdated and obsolete traditions should be ended.

For example?
For example, restricting girls in the house and discriminating against them. That the girls are inferior and the females are inferior to the men. This is a tribal and a feudal mindset this approach, this should be abandoned. And there was a tradition that the females were dancing alongside the men during the marriage parties and other parties. Since the last three decades this has been stopped, this is I think a very regrettable thing. On the one hand we are crying that we have achieved a literacy rate of 60-70% and we have progressed, we have developed our society, but in our attitudes and our other things we have become so orthodox and we are becoming so conservative. This is a very contradictory thing I think. And some twenty years back when we used to go in our areas we used to listen to the beautiful flute songs, and other folk songs. Now you can go in Hunza and everywhere you will find, they are just playing their ginans (religious songs), its very regrettable thing. Even a beautiful voice of a girl, I couldnít remember her name, she has a very marvellous voice, but she canít sing cultural songs she just sings religious songs now in Hunza. And everywhere in vehicles, in mini buses, and in ...ginans...this is I think not good for our society. This is why I am always saying that religious institutions and thoughts have dominated our traditions and our way of life. Some 20 years back there was no such thing, people were very secular in their attitudes, in their traditions and culture. Now everywhere in our normal cultural events, festivities there are religious things, first they start with the religious rites, the religious songs, farmans and ginans and they dance and make other things.
Section 14
Did the older generation or the younger generation push the religious thing more?
I think it was those people who were ruling during the Mir system. When they saw that there is no place for them to rule now, to rule the people, they dominated the religious organisations and they started exploiting the peopleís sentiments, their religious sentiments to maintain their own power on the people. This was those people. These were the older people, and they have manipulated and they have corrupted the youngsters, those youngsters who are educated and they offer them jobs in Aga Khan institutions, offer them lucrative salaries, and they have created a pseudo elite class. In their ??? life they are so corrupt and on the other hand they are posing themselves as religious people they are defending the religion and the institutions. This is a big hypocrisy. This should be condemned and this should be exposed.

So how did the older generation who had lived through the years when culture and traditions were stronger, how did they feel or respond to this religious domination as you put it?
Now those old people are decreasing in number and they have become helpless they canít resist, they canít do anything they are just following what these people are saying to them. Because these semi-literate people have just got degrees and became tools of this system, they are distorting the tradition, the facts, they are distorting their culture and they are distorting even the religious education. They are not well aware of even the religious teachings. They have created a ďhotch potchĒ system in our area, it is neither religious, it is neither cultural or social set up. This system is I think very dangerous for the people. For instance some young people last month went to the organisations and the highest organisation, the Ismaili Regional Council and they had a scuffle with those people. That ďyou should change, you should mend your ways, and you should stop this corruption, making corrupt the people and you should serve the people as youíre claiming,Ē So there was a scuffle and they beat a retired major that is leading the regional council now. When he told them that ďI am a major, I have served 25 years in the Pakistan armyĒ, the youngsters said, ďto hell with your service, you are here as an Ismaili institutionís head not as a major.Ē Then they beat him there. They asked him to stop these things, misusing their jeeps and pajeros (type of 4-wheel drive) and corrupting the people, ďYou are here to serve the peopleĒ and instead of copying the urban traditions and urban culture you should evolve our own natural our own indigenous values and our own indigenous ways of development.

So then, now do you think there is starting to be a battle against this religion among younger people?
Section 15
So there are some younger people who want to revive the cultural traditions?
Yes they want to revive the cultural traditions and interact with other communities. They donít want to remain isolated and bound within the community, they want to be part of the other communities and struggle with them for their common issues, like education, for their jobs and for their democratic rights, for their national rights.

So are you talking about the young people in this Gilgit Baltistan Association?
Yeah. So I think this will be a good development and will also reduce the sectarian feelings and create common, national feelings amongst the people and they will be able to defend their indigenous culture and their indigenous ways and create a common society based on humanity, based on democratic values and national values.

So whatís your feeling then about the future in Shimshal. Iíve been to Shimshal now three times, my knowledge of Shimshal is quite little, Iíve met some people to do with this SNT and through this project, but whatís your view of the future in Shimshal, socially, culturally, economically, environmentally even?
I think there are a lot of problems, there are a lot of challenges for the youngsters in the future, like environmental degradation, like unemployment, and the interference of the outside world in our society, the influx of tourism and their education. But if the youngsters are not prepared to face these challenges obviously they will face a lot of problems - as is going on in Shimshal, then on petty things they fight each other, on the luggage of tourists, ďThat luggage should be given to meĒ. There is not any system, they have not evolved a system to distribute systematically and provide jobs and opportunities to everyone. So anyone who is able to snatch the luggage he can get it and go. This creates a problem for the people. This is a problem I think due to the economic crisis, economic problems, due to the unemployment. This should be addressed, this should be solved through creating social awareness through creating social organisations, youngstersí organisations and prepare the people that after the opening of this village with the outer world, what kind of problems we are going to face and how can they be solved. So I think I will always stress on the youngsters to get united, and give social awareness to the people. And make them aware of the future, because of the outside world, so if they become prepared to face those things, they can stop those dangers and they can develop a society. But if they donít then there is a lot of danger for our society.

What do you feel about the road then, what are your hopes and fears about the road?
The road is a basic necessity for our life development. But as I told you that with the coming of the road, the other things will also come, the outside worldís impact, will also come here. The people should prepare themselves to control their area and their resources and prepare themselves to face those dangers and challenges which in the near future they are going to face.

You mentioned about the portering, how do you feel about tourism and portering in Shimshal, is it useful to the community or is it exploitative?
I think this is the only source of income, there is no other source of employment. But this should be done in an organised way, in a justifiable way. The benefits should be given to the community, rather than to the individuals. And creating individual influential people, we should create as a whole, as a society as a village. I am always stressing this point. Because I believe in equality, I believe in a community. And the community can be developed in a collective way...through collective efforts, not individual efforts so some individuals can become influential and they can manipulate and they can easily exploit the people and it will disturb the balance of the society so I always advocate collective efforts and the collective development of the village. Take care of the weak and the orphans and the individuals.
Section 16
But to an outsider, Shimshal compared to other areas seems to be very organised and collective relatively?
Yes, exactly. But it is I think due to their problems, their enormous problems, which have kept them organised, which have kept them united. When the road comes to Shimshal then they will scatter and everyone will try to get money and easily in a very short time and it will influence everything there. So it is time that the youngsters should realise this thing and create a common platform and common organisation to work for the common issues of the people for the common interests of the people. This is the time, they have just only two or three years after that they wonít be able to stop the influx of the things, and the inflow of the outside influence...

Do you think SNT is trying to do this?
I donít think so because there are some differences amongst the youngsters on SNTís approach and on itís operations, on itís ?????? as some people are working in SNT, others think that some people are getting benefit from the SNT instead of giving it to the community. Using the SNTís platform and then getting benefit for their own interest, thatís not good. Thatís why some of the youngsters are opposing its approach and its way of operation.

What about...as an outsider, Shimshal looks like there is equality between the people and its hard to see whatís going on. Are there big wealth differences in Shimshal, are there people who are living in much poverty compared to others?
Yes, yes the equality of standard of life that the other areas people have attained will take some 10, 20 years for the people of Shimshal to reach on that level

Within Shimshal are there differences between poor families and rich families?
Yes there are, some people who are becoming very influential and are manipulating things and in future due to the isolation of the society they are not openly doing those things. Once the road will come there, they will get a chance and they will do ???? manipulative things. And create a problem in the society, for the village, disturb the social balance, itís ????? as you can visibly compare, see the other areas like Passu, Gulmit, thereís a hell of a difference between Shimshal and those places. So I think we have to work a lot.

What about, you mentioned that, you talked about the care of invalids and orphans, is there a tradition of care in the community for orphans and invalids, widows etc.
There is no such thing in our society because there is not any collective fund for the orphans for getting them an education, for their day to day needs. So they have to do their own.

How do widows manage in Shimshal?
They are facing a very tough life in that society. Because no one is ready to work for them, because nowadays everyone is off to make money. Anyone who gets a chance wants to go with a tourist instead of working for a widow instead of working for an orphan. These are the main problems we have to address.
Section 17
What about women who are maybe divorced, who left their husbands, or would they leave Shimshal altogether?
There is no such case of leaving Shimshal. There are cases of divorce and there is no tradition of leaving their husbands...There are a few families whose husbands have died of any accident, of any illness and their in-laws have left them and got separated, there are families who are living a very miserable life in Shimshal. And even the institutions are not taking care of them, the community institutions. There is not any tradition of sparing anything for those people, for giving them commodities or money. To my knowledge there is no such thing.

So you are talking about households which are female-headed, yeah, so I mean is there one or two or are there five or six?
I think there are above 10 families.

Where a woman is managing by herself?
Yes there was a tradition before ??????? who was significantly helping the people providing them wheat flour and other commodities, but now our family has also divided. We were the highest number of family members in Shimshal, 25-30 members were living in the same house, even three years back...so we were very well-off and we were very strong. And we used to help people in terms of providing them with wheat flour, taking care of their sheep and their animals. because we have a lot of trees, so we often used to provide them with these things and help them. Now we are also not in this position because our family has divided so for this, my father has also some 20 years back created a collective fund. In which during the festivals when people collect things and bring them to the Jamat khana it was a tradition they distributed all the things on one day. But he gave the idea that we shouldnít waste these things, like when the people bring 10-20 goats, ox for slaughter.
[New side of tape]
These things they started collecting and saving for harder times, so that they stored a lot of grain, and anyone who needed to get it he was provided from that and on the next season of the crop they returned back those commodities. Now I donít know if it is still existing or it is finished. This was a system that was created by the volunteers, my father and his friends. So I think that this will not continue in the future, everyone will want to get stronger, strengthen himself, his family. The individualistic approach will encroach on the society. To cope with that situation, our youngsters and especially our SNT people should work on the issues and save something, some commodities, some goats and some other things for harder times and for needy people. They should create a fund to help the needy students, the orphans, this is I think I should request them and stress them to do so.

Yeah itís a good idea.
Because you know itís a small village and we can do it we can manage, a lot of people are working in cities, they are in a position to contribute some money to that fund and help the needy students.
Section 18
So that you can have more people educated, rather than a few?

What do you think about your own future, do you see yourself ever living in Shimshal again?
Yeah, obviously I will move back to Shimshal after 10 or 20 years getting retirement from my job, and I will obviously go to my Shimshal and the remaining years of my life I will, ...even remaining here in Islamabad, I will try my best to work for them, influencing the government institutions, the ministries and bureaucrats to do for my village. And I think I have done a lot of things...because during the last 20 years whatever I have written in newspapers and in other things that has forced the bureaucracy, the government, to do something for Shimshal...like the wireless they provided there, like now they have provided a telephone facility for them. So I think this is due to the writings and articles of mine, which have forced the government to do something for them. This is the only weapon of mine through which I can do something for my people. I can write, I can influence the government to do and to provide facilities to the people.

So you obviously feel that the media has an important role?
Yes. It is the only, it is the only effective tool through which we can influence the government. There is no other institution, parliament or any other institutions which can influence or which can force the government to provide basic amenities to the people. The media has helped in the country...which is forcing the government, which is pressurising the government.

Do you think the media influences people, ordinary people in their attitudes as well as the government?
YesÖitís a two-way approach, and itís a two-way effect. One is the government and the other is obviously the people. But the problem here is that the Urdu journalism is not disseminating the information, the correct information, the right information to the people. The Urdu journalism is rather distorting the facts and providing distorted facts to the people. And it is making people more sectarian, and giving more sectarian news and stereotyped nationalist things to the people, thatís very dangerous. But the [Pakistan] English [language] media is somewhat very serious, very sober, it is very secular...the English media, it is trying to stop this approach...religious orthodoxy and fanaticism and so called Pakistani nationalism, the war mongering people, we are... we are facing this onslaught from the government and then from the society. But we are trying to persuade the people and the government and the people who are at the helm of affairs that this is not the period of war, this is not the period of destruction, this is the period of development, it is an information technology period. The government should concentrate on education, on science and technology rather than on jihad (Islamic holy war) and religious orthodoxy or conquering other countries or other people or other societies. So we are trying to write these things and to disseminate the real information, the real education to the people. But our target, our audience is very few, but it is very effective.

A few more questions, you said that obviously you will go back to Shimshal, but explain this to me a bit as an outsider, you know usually in retirement people want to have an easy life, you could stay in Islamabad and have an easy life, why obviously will you go back to Shimshal?
Because in this situation I donít see any future for my community, for my people to remain in Pakistan. The policy, the approach, they have adopted towards the Northern areas and towards the minority communities, so I donít think for that, in future we will remain intact with the Pakistan. There is a tendency that we will create our own state, our own autonomous state, yeah. Itís growing, these feelings are growing in the Northern Areas. So when there will be a moment, there will be a struggle, and then I will obviously work for that movement and I will have to move to my area.
Section 19
It is amazing, and what about looking back on your life so far, what would you say is your happiest memory?
My happiest memory is my wedding day of course. And becoming a journalist and the recent one is transferring to Islamabad.

Why is it better to be in Islamabad?
Because itís nearer to my wife, to my family. And itís an organised city itís very beautiful and green here. I have a lot of memories here, of this city, before my marriage and I used to come here and meet my wife....

So romantic memories in Islamabad?
Yes romantic.

Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
I think you have covered a lot of aspects of my life...if thereís anything else we will communicate by email, if you have any further questions which arise in your mind you can ask me, and then I will give you the information which I forgot during this interview.

I really appreciated, I really learnt a lot because you have quite, obviously you are a strong person with strong ideas and it was very interesting to learn about your strong and unique ideas. So thank you very much I really learnt a lot.
Thank you. But I am very impressed with this work you are doing for the people of Shimshal. And I want to express my gratitude for this service and it will indeed go a long way in our friendship in our work in future. If we can create a civil society, a democratic enlightened society.

So we should think about the different ways in which we can use these testimonies. I have been reading some of the testimonies and some of the interviews with older people, which are quite sad about the disappearance of certain aspects of culture...
This is the effective tool to reach people and rejuvenate their nationalist and humanity spirit, so itís good it will go a long way.