Mountain of Forty Souls


Balochistan is a country rife with tales of hidden treasures left behind by passing hordes through the long and creative years of history. From the arid wastes of Makran through the juniper-scented valleys of Kalat to the sun-baked hills of the Marri-Bugti area, echo tales of hidden riches. Some, therefore, believe that the name refers to that untold and undiscovered wealth in Hazarganji.
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HAZARGANJI

THE POSSESSOR OF THOUSAND TREASURES

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by Salman Rashid

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Some 20 kilometres south of Quetta, past Dasht-e-Bedaulat (‘Wretched Plain” — a misnomer now because electricity and tube wells have turned this once barren land fertile) there rises an imposing purple loom west of the road. Rising to 3,308 metres (10,850 feet) above the sea, this, in common parlance, is Chiltan. Ask any Brahui who lives in its shadow and he will call it Chehel Tan — Forty Souls. He will also tell you that the valleys below are called Hazarganji — Possessor of a Thousand Treasures.

Aside: Balochistan is a country rife with tales of hidden treasures left behind by passing hordes through the long and creative years of history. From the arid wastes of Makran through the juniper-scented valleys of Kalat to the sun-baked hills of the Marri-Bugti area, echo tales of hidden riches. Some, therefore, believe that the name refers to that untold and undiscovered wealth in Hazarganji.

But the Brahui will tell you another story. Long years ago, there lived a poor Brahui shepherd and his good wife who remained childless despite years of wedlock. Then, Providence gave them not one nor two, but fully forty children. Worried how they would feed this brood, the couple resolved to keep one and abandon the others in the forests of Hazarganji. Days went by and reports filtered in of the mysterious ravines being inhabited by a bunch of elfin children who enticed travellers away. No one could catch them and anyone who pursued them was forever lost in the unknown folds of Hazarganji. (more…)

The World’s Most Dangerous Border – KASHMIR



According to a Rand Corp study, an Indo-Pakistani nuclear exchange would immediately kill two million living souls, injure or kill 100 million later, pollute the Indus River and send clouds of radioactive dust around the globe.
That is the excellent reason why we should keep a weather eye on Kashmir and press India and Pakistan to make a fair settlement of this exceptionally dangerous 66-year dispute. In other words, no military solution to the long standing dispute over Kashmir. Let diplomacy have its way over stupidity of war games in Kashmir.
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TO AVERT A NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST,  WORLD MUST FIND A SOLUTION FOR KASHMIR 

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by Eric Margolis

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ISTANBUL –  Reports of fighting along Kashmir’s  cease-fire line don’t normally receive much attention in the western media.  Last week, for example, saw  a series of clashes on 8 and 10 January that killed both Pakistani and Indian troops.

One of the Indian soldiers was decapitated, provoking fury across India and calls from its extremist Shiv Sena Hindu party for a nuclear attack on Pakistan.

Gunfire is common on the 1947 cease-fire line known as the Line of Control that divided the beautiful mountain kingdom of Kashmir into Indian and Pakistani-controlled portions. Fighting in that tense region always has the potential to quickly escalate into a  major war – or even nuclear conflict.

Having been under fire numerous times on the LOC, I used the experience in my first book, “War at the Top of the World” to illustrate just how dangerous the simmering Kashmir dispute remains. 

A dispute that went from bad to critical after India and then Pakistan acquired and deployed nuclear weapons.  This, I wrote, was the most dangerous strategic threat facing the globe.

India and Pakistan have fought three  wars and some very large battles over Kashmir. Both claim the entire mountain state.  Pakistan’s intelligence service, ISI, has waged a long covert campaign to insert guerillas into Indian Kashmir to aid a series of spontaneous rebellions  against Indian rule by the state’s Muslim majority.

This writer has joined mujihadin fighting their way across the lethal Line of Control which is defended by Israeli-constructed fences, electronic sensors, minefields and Israeli-supplied drones. Losses  run very high among those trying to cross the line.

Muslim Kashmiris have been in almost constant revolt against Indian rule since 1947 when the British divided India. Today,  500,000 Indian troops and paramilitary police garrison rebellious Kashmir.  Some 40,000-50,000 Kashmiris are believed to have died over the past decade in uprising.

India blames the violence in Kashmir on “cross-border terrorism” engineered by Pakistani intelligence. Human rights groups accuse Indian forces of executions, torture, and reprisals against civilians.  Large numbers of Hindus and Sikhs have fled strife-torn Kashmir after attacks by Muslim Kashmiri guerillas.  It’s a very bloody, dirty war.

The Kashmir conflict poses multiple dangers.  First is the very likely chance that local skirmishing can quickly surge into major fighting involving air power and heavy artillery.  In 1999, a surprise attack by Pakistani commandos into the Indian-ruled Kargil region provoked heavy fighting.  The two nations, with more than one million troops facing one another, came very close to an all-out war.  I have on good authority that both sides put their tactical nuclear weapons on red alert.  Angry Indian generals called on Delhi to use its powerful armored corps to cut Pakistan in half.  India’s cautious civilian leadership said no.

Second,  the Kashmir conflict also involves India’s strategic rival, China.  Beijing claims the entire eastern end of the Himalayan border separating India and China, which Chinese troops occupied in a brief 1963 war.  China also occupied, with Pakistan’s help, a high strategic plateau on the western end of the Himalayas known as Aksai Chin that was part of historic Tibet.

China is Pakistan’s closest political and military ally.  Any major Indian attack on Pakistan would risk intervention by Chinese air, ground and missiles forces in neighboring Tibet.

Third, in the midst of all these serious tensions, India and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons – delivered by air and missile – are on hair-trigger alert.  This means that during a severe crisis, both sides are faced with “use it, or lose” decision in minutes to use their nuclear arsenals.

The strategic command and control systems of India and Pakistan are said to be riddled with problems and often unreliable,  though much improvement has been made in recent years.

A false report, a flight of birds, and off-course aircraft could provoke a nuclear exchange.  By the time Islamabad could call Delhi, war might be on.  A US Rand Corp study estimated an Indo-Pakistani  nuclear exchange would  kill two million immediately, injure or kill 100 million later, pollute the Indus River and send clouds of radioactive dust around the globe.

That is the excellent reason why we should keep a weather eye on Kashmir and press India and Pakistan to make a fair settlement of this exceptionally dangerous 66-year dispute.

copyright Eric S. Margolis 2012

More from Eric Margolis on Wonders of Pakistan

1. Dangerous war games in Syria 2. Egypt headed for an explosion 3. Facing the Writing on the Wall in Kabul  4. Nuclear missile Viagra for India 5 Obama does the right thing in Afghanistan 6. Will the US back real democracy in Egypt? 7.The man  who prevented World War III
Eric Margolis is an American born journalist and writer. He is contributing editor to the Toronto Sun chain of newspapers, writing mainly about the Middle East, South Asia and Islam. He contributes also to the HuffPost & appears frequently on North American tv channels.

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Why British Pakistanis should visit their motherland


We may not be a nation that abides by rules but there are some unwritten laws that we Pakistanis never break; such as running down our country every chance we get. Wherever you see four or more of our countrymen together you can be sure to find some Paki bashing going on.
Whether it`s politics or society, fashion shows or TV dramas, absent servants or ever-present in-laws, heck, even the person next to us, as long as he is out of earshot. And so, on as we gather to snitch and moan about how the country has gone to the dogs, let`s take a break and think of those who are no longer there to join in the bonding…I mean complaining.
Yes, those very same ex-countrymen who escaped to greener pastures….green being the colour of longing for a time when they too were Pakistani.
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DIL DIL PAKISTAN, JAN JAN PAKISTAN

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by Zab Mustefa

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Back home, the vast majority of second generation British nationals of Pakistani origin wouldn’t dream about visiting their parent’s homeland – unless it was for shopping, or a wedding of course. 

Unfortunately, the topic of Pakistan is followed by mockery, ridicule and stereotypes, which consist of uneducated, toothless villagers driving rickshaws and eating paan.

People in Britain don’t realise that Pakistan is a country full of colour, culture and a talented young generation that is truly aiming for change. I don’t understand why so few of my young generation would like to visit the country of their parent’s origin. Of course, there is a big cultural difference, but in a way it’s refreshing to truly go back to your roots.

The majority of our parents immigrated to the UK back in the 1950’s. My father arrived as a fresh-faced teenager to Glasgow. Similarly, my mother came to London when she was 22. Unashamedly simple to this day, both are patriotic towards Pakistan and love their homeland.

Before leaving for Pakistan, I was given several perplexed looks; everybody was confused as to why I was going there with family and relatives. They were bemused at the fact that I wasn’t going shopping nor was I going to a wedding.

 

If I were to tell cousins in the UK that the street art along the walls of Garhi Shahu in Lahore is more impressive than that of an east London wall, I would be met with shock and awe.

If I were to describe the intellectual students coming in and out of universities here, rather than sleazy Pakistani guys with bad haircuts, it would be beyond belief.

This close-minded attitude towards ones own heritage is sort of like a love-hate relationship with Pakistan.

It’s interesting how most second generation British-Pakistanis speak Urdu and/or Punjabi fluently. They also love their curries and shalwar kameez, yet you mention Pakistan and an uncomfortable silence will linger.

Personally, hearing the sabzi walaa (vegetable seller) push his cart through the narrow side streets makes me smile. Watching flat-bread coming out of the tandoor is a million times better than waiting at the bakers section of your local Tesco supermarket to get chewy, artificial dough that is supposed to resemble “fresh” bread.

In some ways, being born and bred in a British society with Pakistani culture does equate to an identity crisis.  However you take the best from both. There is nothing wrong with embracing the western lifestyle, after all you become accustomed to the society you live in. However, problems arise when you forget your heritage and everything about your origin becomes ridiculed.

Yes, we all like to imitate our parents and joke about things our auntie jees (aunts) do. Like the time an aunt refused to pay £1 for a cup of tea, insisting that she would wait till she went home and make it herself.

However, there is a difference between humour and the ignorance that many young British Pakistanis have towards their land of origin. I can tell you that not many know who the current prime minister is or are aware that some of the most prestigious designers participated in Pakistan Fashion Week last month.

Unfortunately, for many, though not all, Pakistan is all about beards, buffaloes and extremism.

We should make more of an effort to know our history and background. Without sounding condescending to those already here, I am sure that you are already aware that Pakistan is indeed a beautiful country; there is so much to see and so much to do.

There is nothing wrong with being British and proudly admitting that you love Pakistan.

 Zab Mustefa is a British journalist who specialises in women’s rights and culture. Read more by Zab here, or follow her on Twitter @zabadabadoo

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Kalasha: Happiest people in Pakistan?


Gul Sayed, 25, sports a grin a mile wide as she hugs the writer, a lone foreigner in her home.
Gul Sayed is a member of the Kalasha, a peace-loving pagan tribe living in the remote villages that lie between Northern Pakistan’s Chitral Valley and the Afghan border.
She’s dressed in a black robe embroidered with rainbow threads, a beaded headdress adorned with cowrie shells and colorful necklaces.

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KALASHA, THE HAPPIEST PEOPLE 

Sexually liberated women, colorful clothes and lots of festivals — happiness comes easy to this animist tribe living in Chitral

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by Jini Reddy

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The Kalasha are an animist tribe living near the Pakistan-Afghan border. Said to be descended from Alexander the Great’s armies, they have been given government protection.

Rumour has it the blue-eyed, fair-skinned Kalasha are the descendants of the armies of Alexander the Great. But unlike their putative bellicose ancestors, the country’s smallest minority group — numbering around6,000 — prefers to make love, not war.

Proud of their warm, caring, crime-free culture, these could just be the happiest people in Pakistan.

With a warm, caring, crime-free culture, Kalasha are probably the happiest people in Pakistan.

We sing, gossip and sew. No chores

— Gul Sayed, member of Kalasha

Festivals are a significant part of Kalasha life, where girls gather in groups to clasp each other to dance, stomp and shuffle.

SEXUALLY FREE

Take the tribe’s approach to matters of the heart.

Loveless liaisons hold no appeal for the spirited Kalasha women: “We choose our husbands, and if they don’t treat us well, or it doesn’t work out, we can leave and find a new partner,” says Gul, as her two friends, teenage mothers Farida and Asmar, nod and blush.

Nothing to shout about if you’re a Western woman, but under rural Pakistan’s strict Islamic code, it’s a radical divergence from the norm.

Here in their rustic one-room homes in the valley of Rumbur, the ladies clutch calm, cherubic infants, the progeny of such liberal unions.

They live in tune with nature, amidst fields filled with crops, walnut, apricot and mulberry trees, and flanked by fast-flowing streams.

From the terrace of Gul’s house, a web of channels and aqueducts fans out to distribute water to everyone in the village.

In the distance stands a mill, and further away a darkened temple, its wooden statues and altar stained with the blood of goats that are occasionally sacrificed to honor the Kalasha’s spirit ancestors.

The fair-skinned Kalasha are said to be descended from the armies of Alexander the Great.

PASTORAL LIVES

As we nibble on grapes and apples laid out on a rug on the floor, Gul explains that she has just returned from the seclusion of the Bashali, a house at the bottom of the village, where the women are quarantined during menstruation or pregnancy.

You’d think being viewed as impure, as Kalasha women are during this time, and forbidden to mingle with the menfolk, might dampen their spirits.

But no. It seems the Bashali is the perfect excuse for women to chill out. “We sing, gossip and sew — no chores,” says Gul, smiling.

Up in higher pastures, a shepherd, who like most Kalasha men wears the Pakistani garb of shalwar kameez, is tending his goats.

Managing livestock is the main occupation of the men. “My husband has six cows and three hundred goats,” says Asmar.

And from the rooftop of Gul’s house, I can see what the women do when they’re not in the Bashali, or gathering water, fruit, or firewood from the forests.

A couple of meters below, a girl is milling maize to make flatbread to be eaten with vegetable and goat curry, honey and tangy goat’s cheese, or tea, for a Kalasha-style Continental breakfast.

Milling maize to make flatbread to be eaten with vegetable and goat curry, honey and tangy goat’s cheese, or tea, for a Kalasha style Continental breakfast.

On a roof to the left, another violet-eyed beauty is bent over a sewing machine, her eyebrows knit in concentration as she adds a rainbow-colored border to a dress.

By her side a wizened old woman sits with a loom between her legs, weaving black cloth for the new clothes they will wear for the three-day Joshi Spring Festival.

Dancing and festivals make up a bit part of the Kalasha lifestyle.

PARTIES THROUGH THE YEAR

The Kalasha love a knees-up. Joshi, held in May, is one of four major festivals celebrated by the tribe. “We seek the blessings of our gods and goddesses for the safety of our herds and crops,” explains Gul.

The three-day Joshi Spring Festival is one of the key events of the year.

At the break of dawn on the first day, children gather walnut branches and flowers to decorate their homes, and the doorway of the temple.

As the sun rises, the villagers drink goat’s milk and the men light a fire on the altar of the temple. They make offerings of goat’s blood, wine and honey to their spirit ancestors.

Then the fun begins. Girls gather in groups, clasp each other’s shoulders and dance, stomp and shuffle in circles. The men beat drums, play flutes and clap their hands to cheer them on.

Year round, the Kalasha dance their way through a stream of festivals and rituals, and socially and culturally, theirs appears to be a joyful existence.

The only shadow on their rich, textured lives are the attitudes of some local Muslims towards their beliefs.

“They call us ‘Kafirs,’ unbelievers,” says Gul, who like many of the Kalasha are fearful of their Islamic compatriots who live outside the valleys.

Still, times are changing.

In years gone by the Kalasha were threatened with forcible conversion to Islam, now the tribe receives government protection, improved health and education services, and — bar an isolated incident when a Greek volunteer was kidnapped by the Taliban in 2009 and later released — are largely untouched by the region’s political troubles.

Left to get on with living life to the brim, the Kalasha do just that, with compelling devotion.

Jini Reddy is a London-based freelance journalist, writing on independent, outdoors and eco-friendly travel, as well as personal development & lifestyle, for assorted newspapers, magazines & online media. Visit Jini Reddy’s website: www.jinireddy.co.uk
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Kalasha – The White Tribe of Pakistan

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Kalasha – The White Tribe of Pakistan


The Kalasha of Chitral or simply Kalasha, are an ethnic group living in the Hindu Kush region of Pakistan. They are [probably] an ancient Dard people who speak the Kalasha-mun language, have light skin, eyes, and hair, similar to what one would find in Southern Europe.
Many Kalash claim that they are the direct descendants of either Greek settlers, Alexander the Great’s army, or even Alexander himself. The claims are questionable, as there is proof of their existence before Alexander’s invasion of the Persian Empire.
One theory suggests that similarities in the culture of the Kalasha and Greek people stem from the expansion of Proto-Indo-Europeans.
It is important to note that there is no current connection between the Kalasha of Chitral and the Kalasha of Nuristan. These two populations descend from different branches of the Indo-Iranians, a division that goes back some 5,000 years.
According to linguist [Richard Strand], a professional in this area, the people of Chitral apparently adopted the name of the former Kafiristan Kalasha, who at some unknown time extended their influence into Chitral.
There is still controversy over what defines the ethnic characteristics of the Kalasha and what exactly is their number. An estimate puts current population of ethnic Kalasha around six thousand; who continue to worship their polytheistic gods, while many thousands more have converted to Islam (whether genuine or for economic and social gain), yet still live within the Kalasha villages and maintain their language and their traditional centuries old way of life.
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KALASHA – THE WHITE TRIBE OF PAKISTAN

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by Kuroisitas

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The Kalasha are indigenous people residing in the Chitral District of Pakistan. They speak the Kalasha language, from the Dardic family of the Indo-Iranian languages, and are considered a unique tribe among the Indo-Aryan peoples of Pakistan. (more…)