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.




by Salman Rashid


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…)


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.



by Zab Mustefa


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

Related Posts:

1. My beautiful Pakistan: Gilgit-Baltistan, 2. The Wonders of Deosai Plains 3. My beautiful Pakistan, the land of Balochistan, 4. Traveling through Pakistan – The Katas Raj Temple, 5. Pakistan, A Treasure Trove of Wonders. But do we care! 6. Do We Understand Tourism? Asks the Industry Guru, 7. Tourism: A Vista of Opportunities for Our Ailing Economy
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A pluralistic past

Takht means “throne” and bahi, “water” or “spring” in Persian/Urdu. The monastic complex was called Takht-i-Bahi because it was built atop a hill and also adjacent to a stream. Located 80 kilometers from Peshawar and 16 kilometers Northwest of the city of Mardan, Takht-I-Bahi was unearthed in early 20th century and in 1980 it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage list as the largest Buddhist remains in Gandhara, along with the Sahr-i-Bahlol urban remains that date back to the same period, located about a kilometer south.




by Huma Yusuf


ONE of the most peaceful places in Pakistan is the Buddhist monastic complex of Takht-i-Bahai near Peshawar. Situated on a hill, the grand cluster of stupas, courtyards, residential cells, and meditation chambers remains enveloped in mist and mystery. (more…)

Once Upon A Time in Pakistan… [1.3 ]

A modern ‘rail car’ made in Pakistan in  collaboration with Japanese engineers, parked at the Lahore Railway Station in 1964. Popular with travellers wanting to move rapidly between cities, the cars were commissioned out of service in the 1980s.



by Nadeem F. Piracha


Crowds gather at a runway at the Karachi Airport to witness a ‘flying parade’ and joint military exercises of American and Pakistani armed forces.


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.



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


by Jini Reddy


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.


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.


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.


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:
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Kalasha – The White Tribe of Pakistan

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