Gojal area of the Karakorum mountains
Pakistan glossary












28 February 2001



Section 1
Today I have come to interview Wafa janab (Mr, sir). His house lies adjacent to the civil dispensary and the cricket ground. At the back of the house is the Diamond Jubilee School. I am just preparing to get the information from Wafa regarding his experiences.

Assalam-o-Aliakum (peace be with you) Wafa janab. What is your age at the moment?
Thank you Doctor sahib [interviewer is a male nurse by profession and generally known as doctor.] My age is 49 years.

Where were you born?
I was born in Shimshal

Good! From where did you marry?
I married here in Shimshal.

You married according to your own will and wish or on the will of your parents?
Yes almost it was with my own consent.

Would you like to tell me for how many generations your family has been living in Shimshal for?
Exactly! From grandfather Mamu Singh to my nephew i.e. Yahya’s son, there have been thirteen generations passed in Shimshal,

Okay thirteen generations! Very good. During the thirteen generations, have any of your ancestors performed an extraordinary work that has benefited your family and the community?
Dr. Sahib! As you asked me about the meritorious work of my ancestors, we have heard that my grandfather Ghulamchee was a famous man and after him there was my grandfather Chughbai, who caught the German spy from Furzeen (the place of birch trees) in Pamir (Shimshal’s mountain pastures). There were two Englishmen with the German and they had a horse with them. He carried the German on his back all the way down to Hunza crossing the great pass of Shimshal as the German’s feet had been affected by frostbite. These people were then handed over to the Mir (rulers of Hunza state up to 1974).
Then my grandfather Murad constructed the channel for Deodur (place), my grand father Ghulamchee constructed an irrigation channel for Dasht (place) and Yalakhsh (plan across the river). My grandfather Khushal was carpenter; he constructed almost all the bridges that existed in Shimshal. He was a good architect. This was a brief account about the activities of my ancestors.
My father was also a carpenter like his ancestors; there was only one route to Pamir that was through the passes but my father explored another – the shortest but the most dangerous route which is known as Okharsar (The ladder Pass). We were very young when my father offered his wealth for the philanthropic work of the construction of this route in the name of his mother, and when we matured we deemed it necessary to reconstruct and improve the trek so we also performed nomus (system of donating resources for a community project in the name of a relative) in the name of my father and offered material assistance for widening the trek with the help of the community. This facilitated the travelling to Pamir.
Section 2
Wafa janab! It is quite right and as you told that the construction of Okharsar trek greatly facilitated the trekking to Pamir. I would like to ask you, what benefits did your family get from this nomus?
Yes my dear cousin, I think that the benefit we got from the philanthropic work, which we performed in the name of our father, was the sense of satisfaction. The resources which we offered for this cause didn’t matter to us much; instead it brought good fortune to our earnings and our lives. It caused no deficiency to our wealth. Sometimes I think that it multiplied our livestock and agricultural products, I deem it as a good fortune for my family.

Wafa janab! Would you like to tell us what was the effect of this nomus on the community?
Dr. sahib! I think it was a great facility for the community; facility in the sense that the route to Pamir through the passes was very steep ascending and descending, and was very long – it normally took three days to reach the pasture. The first day trek was from the village to Wayeen sar (top of the pass), sorry not Waeen sar but Zerth garben (beneath the yellow rock), it would normally take four hours to reach there. The second day the trek would take five hours to reach Waeen sar and then a steep descending down to the Yarzeen (place of Juniper), then it would take another six hours to ascend to the top of Shachmerk sam (dog’s death pass), then descend to Targeen (name of local plant) camping there for an overnight stay. Then the next day from Targeen a steep descent down to Peryen and ascent to Peryen sar (top of trek). Throughout this trek there was no vegetation for the livestock. This old trek would normally take four days to reach Shujerab (the pasture) along with the livestock, but the new route along Okhar sar takes the people with their livestock two days to reach Shujerab. It is a very comfortable trek and water and vegetation (fodder) is available throughout the trek. The trek is straight and shorter, there is neither steep ascending/descending nor is it dangerous. It is quite a comfortable trek and I think it has benefited and facilitated the community.

Wafa janab! What will be the effect of the road on our lives, what is your perception about it?
Dr. sahib! The road will certainly have an impact on our lives when it links our village. It will bring with it the facilities. At present there is no road facility and we suffer a lot in terms of transporting daily commodities such as tea, salt and other commodities of daily use which we transport from Gilgit to Passu comfortably but from Passu to Shimshal we carry them on our backs, that is the major problem of the village. We also have problems in terms of school and the hospital. I mentioned the hospital though there is a hospital but it is not a good one. When the road links our village the condition of the school will improve and the government will upgrade this school to a secondary level. The government representative will visit the village and will renovate the hospital; specialist doctors will also come to the area. X-Ray machines will be installed and it will be the central hospital and we will not bother going to Gilgit, instead the treatment will be provided here.
Section 3
Wafa bhai (brother)! Do you think that the road link will adversely affect the community? Please give your comment.
The road link will surely affect our culture and we will not remain as united as we are today, it will also destroy our peaceful environment. At present our women go to Pamir and we are out of the village on treks but we are not worried because we are isolated and there is no external interference. The road will bring with it certain advantages and disadvantages, because travelling by jeep is more risky and there are more chances of accidents and we have not seen such accidents, God save us from such accidents. When the road links the village a lot of tourists will come here it will be quite difficult to keep a proper relationship with them because we have never seen such a variety of people; we are limited and our thinking is also limited.
Secondly we have witnessed in down valley (refers to Hunza and Gojal) the people who got loans from the banks for business they have access to the Karakoram highway and they have links with people across the border but if we imitate them and get loans I fear we will not be successful as we have no business aptitude. It seems to me that it will bring difficulties and worries to us.

Wafa Sahib! What is the role of men in the development of the village? What is your opinion about it?
Doctor Sahib! The role of men in the development is such that if one performs nomus then the men offer their services and carry out work. They fetch timber wood for construction, dress the stone and construct the building. These are the works carried out by men.

Very good. Is there any role of women in nomus?
Yes why not! The role of women is such that they go to Pamir, prepare cheese, butter and look after their livestock. After that with the consent of women they allocate a certain quantity of their wealth to nomus. Both (women and men) equally contribute to this cause.

Wafa janab! As you said that women go to Pamir and prepare butter. Would you like to tell how they prepare butter?
Yes Doctor Sahib! I have some knowledge about this and I will share it with you. When they arrive at the pasture first of all they perform a custom called Mirgichig (purification custom, to give thanks to God) and then they separate their livestock, the livestock are grazed collectively but the saghen (dairy products) are made individually. This was the custom of making dairy products. Then there are certain grazing systems and rules, the milking goats and sheep are grazed in a separate grazed area whereas the milking yaks, the yak calves and the baby goats and sheep are grazed separately in different areas. In the evening first of all the calves and the young goats and sheep are returned to the animal shelter, then the goats and sheep and yaks. First of all the milking of the sheep and goats is carried out and then the women go to the vandan (place where shepherds take their yaks for milking) and carry out the milking of yaks. After completing the milking, they return to their houses and divide the milk into two parts. One part is mixed with water and is put on the stove for boiling. When it is boiled then they add some quantity of yoghurt to it and then mix it with the unboiled milk, after a few minutes the milk turns to curd/yoghurt. Then this curd is put in the saghoo (cylindrical wooden instrument used for extracting butter) and about three to four times water is added to it and it is stoked (by a wooden piston) and after two hours the butter is ready and this butter is then collected which is about two kilograms and called a dheeg. In this way the butter is collected and 20, 30 and 40 dheeg of butter are then packed in a rughun (an animal’s hide sack) and that becomes a pack of 40 or 50 kg butter. Then there are methods of preparing qurut (local dried cheese), which I forgot to tell you.
When the butter is extracted from the milk the residual is then taken out of the saghoo and poured in a large pot and put in the oven. The whole day it is cooked and when it gets dense then it is taken out and about 35 cakes are made out of this pot and are dried on the roof of the house. When it is completely dried it is then packed in bags and stored. Each household makes about three to four packs of qurut. When both qurut and butter are ready it is then transported to the village with the help of yaks.
The women also assist the men in collecting the wool of sheep and hair of yaks and goats. The women in addition to their task of dairy products also clean the wool and hair and then make lawars (spiral shapes of yak and goat hair prior to spinning) and these are then collected and transported to the village. That is all about the activity of women at Pamir.
Section 4
Wafa Sahib! I want to know from you something about our social institutions, what is your opinion about Shimshal volunteers?
I think not only in Shimshal but also elsewhere in the world volunteers play an important role in developing the society. Volunteers are always on the alert when there is any calamity in the village, and then the volunteers also help the weak elements of the community in their works. In my view the volunteers render exemplary service to the community. Scouts also render commendable services, they constructed a big bridge in Pamir, and then they constructed an irrigation channel. They also constructed the community centre at Aminabad, thereafter the scouts built an office here, on several occasions when our road was blocked by landslides that was also cleared jointly by scouts and volunteers. In my view scouts and volunteers constantly work to ease our hardships. Volunteers also carry out the entire community works including the philanthropic banquets.
Volunteers also make the arrangements for the guests that come from outside because there is no arrangement from the government (i.e. government rest house, lodges etc.) The volunteers make all these arrangements
Section 5
Very good cousin! As you talked about the volunteers I think that the boys scouts are co-partners of the volunteers and have an equal share in the community development. So what is your impression about Shimshal Boy Scouts?
As I told you these two institutions are very powerful and effective, but in my view the Scouts play the leading role because it consists of the youth and it is more swift and effective than the volunteers. The Scouts built their own office and they constructed an irrigation channel in the soil plain and also constructed the Shimshal road. In the lower valley they built two bridges. The institution of the scouts is not a small one. It is a big institution, which carries out the difficult tasks for the community.

Would you like to tell us about the Shimshal arbitration board and the government’s court of law?
Dr. Sahib! It is a very important question regarding the arbitration and government judiciary. I think one would be unlucky to go to the court because we have our own institution of justice and arbitration where the disputes are resolved and mediations are made free of cost. In the government’s courts of law people spoil their resources (money) and life as the decisions take several years and there is no brotherhood between the parties. For this reason I think the government’s court of law is not favourable. Our Maula (literally master; the Aga Khan) has established institutions for us and we should approach these institutions for speedy and cheap justice instead of going to the courts of law.

Wafa janab! What is your opinion about Shimshal Nature Trust (SNT)?
Dr. Sahib! My views regarding SNT is such that the government started to designate our land for National Park and SNT took the responsibility to safeguard the area and the wildlife. This was the commendable work of SNT. We are grateful to those of our educated brothers who work for SNT. Then SNT imposed a ban on hunting, though the government had banned it but people did not respond to it positively. When SNT appealed to the community, the community completely banned hunting in response to the SNT’s appeal. The only drawback in SNT is that they banned hunting and ibexes are abundantly found everywhere in the area. Ibexes are even found along the road and Waeen ben (place) has become the permanent habitat of ibex. But our brothers in SNT do not invite trophy hunters (those who pay the community to hunt a large game animal) so that the community has not benefited from the trophy hunting as the people in Khyber have earned lots of money through their organization. Trophy hunters come to Khyber (a village), they make sure that the ban on hunting is effective and they hunt game and pay the community.
Likewise we have also banned hunting and we have a lot of ibexes in our area as I mentioned Waeen Sar, there is another place called Malungodi, there the ibexes come down to the settlement and in central Shimshal the ibexes come down to the settlement slopes. In this way if SNT motivate the spectator (wildlife lovers) and trophy hunters and they pay money to the community then we will also be sure of our initiatives and would be motivated for conservation efforts. It was my feeling about the advantages and the drawbacks of SNT.
Section 6
Wafa janab! As you told that if there were no SNT the government would have formed our area as national park. So what are the disadvantages of the National Park please comment?
The reason is that Shimshal is famous for its pasture (Pamir) because it is said that Shimshal is the place of butter and meat, and these things in such a large quantity cannot be found elsewhere in the area. And the mutton and beef of Shimshal is famous for its taste. These are all the famous things about Pamir, but we also have our personal agricultural fields in Pamir. Beyond Chikor there are our agricultural lands and still we grow crops there. When it is constituted as a national park then I think we would be deprived of our land and our pasture and consequently we would become poorer. At the moment we have almost 3000 to 4000 yaks in Pamir, but when it becomes a national park our yaks will be driven out of the area. As I already requested you about the dairy products such as qurut, milk and butter in Pamir then these things will no longer exist. Our friendly and peaceful environment will be destroyed and our women will no more go to Pamir and this will cause complete destruction of our community. It is all about the disadvantages of the National Park.

Wafa janab! You talked a lot about the benefits of Pamir and the disadvantages of National Park. Do you think there is any advantage from the National Park?
Dr. Sahib! Surely there might be some advantages but for the people of Shimshal it would not be very beneficial because our entire subsistence depends upon the livestock. We sell our livestock and out of this money we educate our children and meet our day-to-day expenses. We have our agriculture land at Pamir as I mentioned earlier, it will be confiscated if it is formed as the National Park. Secondly we have no highly educated persons that will occupy the higher positions in the National Park. People will come from outside and will rule us, sure! A few services will be offered to us but as a whole, the National Park will not benefit us. We have been cheated several times before by the government and we were promised that we would be given a lot of money and services to each household to force us to show willingness for the National Park. But our elders and our youth got united on the issue and rejected the plan. They presented their unwillingness even to the extent that the proposal of chief secretary Shakil Durani janab was also turned down and he left the village in a state of embarrassment, but that was our genuine stand based on principles, which was exhibited by all the villagers. I think that it is not beneficial for us as Pamir is part of our life.
I would like to quote some words from the famous song of Shireen Shah who was deeply inspired by Pamir.
Beneath the spotless blue sky, the flowers field (landscape) is persuasive
Alas! The only limitation here is the winter that is harsh and unfriendly.
But don’t worry! The pleasant summer will soon approach and
The virgin beauty (landscape) will sound as touching as the nightingale’s song
We will go on an excursion to this impressive land
The virgin beauty (landscape) will sound as touching as the nightingale’s song
The violet has bloomed as gracefully as it deserved, all around me
The virgin beauty (landscape) will sound as touching as the nightingale’s song