A new festival in Upper Chitral

.. by Prof Rahmat Karim Baig

A brisk movement has been launched in the past few days for publicizing  a festival called ‘Zani pass’ Festival which is reported to have a number of events. The Zani pass is a name given by western trekkers and members of foreign expeditions  who crossed the Terich Aan ridge, over this pass to reach the BC of Terich Mir and other high peaks lying in the sub valleys of Terich. This pass connects Terich valley with Mulkho area and was used both in winter and summer when jeep road had not been constructed in this part of Chitral. Before announcing  this festival the district administration should have taken information about the background of this pass, the valleys around it and the villagers who have used it since time immemorial. The pass ( 3880m) connects two valleys of Mulkho Tehsil and has its traditional  local names- heritage side of the issue- is that the people of Terich have used it even in severe cold in winters and have lost lives  in avalanches.

The original name of this pass is Quran Panji. Panji i.e. cairn means a round structure of stones on vital points in the wilderness to show the path to strangers as well as to be used as a signal point in winter snow. There was a cairn on the top of this pass and in a shelf of the cairn an old copy of the holy Quran had been placed  for good omen and safe journey over the pass which is highly risky and avalanche prone. The people of Terich valley call it Quran panji and also Tori Aan which means the pass at the upper edge of the Terich spur. The word Aan means pass as well as hillside or in the broader sense a large pasture. In The Mulkho side of the Aan there are specified plots of a natural fodder called MUSHEN owned by the people of Terich valley that  were cut, bundled and then  carried over the spur Into Terich valley for winter stocks.

The Festival is said to have some other events to be held at Kagh Lasht such as jeep rally. The fragile landscape of this plateau is not fit for such an event. This type of rally is held in sandy plains. It will be a great disservice  to environmental point of view as the dust arising out of it shall be carried to the nearby glaciers and hasten their melting rate which is already at an accelerating speed. This rally will prove harmful for the whole valley.

The indigenous name of the pass viz. Terich Aan  or Qurban Panji or Tori Aan would have been a better choice for its historic significance instead of the Zani pass option. When a festival is held it always signifies some old aspect of the geography, culture or history of the region. The same applies here. It is a new introduction  and should carry the name which has a wider  and historical perspective instead of a small insignificant value without a historical or geographical or mythical background. At this early stage the name Terich Aan Festival would better represent the region rather than the zani pass festival as the whole ridge is widely called Terich Aan- the Terich range or spur that has run down to this spot and further down from the main radius of Terich Mir. .. Prof R.K Baig, Chitral 29 Sept 2021

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