Chitral and Wakhan ? past and present

Published on: 03/05/2018 | Comments: 2 comments 

.. by Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig,

The two valleys begin almost at the same knot in the south of Pamir and run parallel for about 200km? and then Wakhan valley opens to north ?just below Qazi Deh while Chitral turns to south and joins the districts of Dir and Swat. The geographical location of Chitral had perplexed the British Indian Authorities for its passes and confusing spurs and their Russo-phobia made them almost insane to stop Tzarist penetration into Hindu Kush region ?and her possible seizure of the passes that is why they made wild efforts to reach? Chitral before the Russians did and find the routes that had been in use between Chitral, Badakhshan and Wakhan since time immemorial.

The eastern most pass that opens into the source of Oxus river is Darwaza pass in the east of Boroghil which is also used to reach south Pamir. The second in this series is Boroghi pass which is not a high one? and also plain enough for military and touristic activities. There are few settlements in that part of the Oxus valley while the Chitral side of Boroghil is fertile enough which had attracted the pastoralist of Wakhan and crossed the pass to graze their flocks in the Chitral side of Boroghil for which they paid tax in the shape of sheep to the governor of Mastuj? called ? Kafpuli? ?but the Wakhi shepherds went back to their own side of Boroghil in autumn and after the Communist revolution in 1917 a good number of Wakhi refugees crossed the pass to seek asylum in that area which was allowed by the Mehtar of Chitral and thus the Wakhi refugees became part of Chitralis. After Boroghi pass the next pass as mentioned in the records is Kan Khun pass just above Yarkhun Lasht but a difficult one as well as higher than Boroghil. Other passes further west are all glaciated and no more passable as this part of Hindu Kush is known? as Eastern Hindu Kush is the highest in the whole chain and there is no exit or entry point till Chap Aan ?at the end of Arkari valley followed by Nuqsan, Khatinza, Akram and Durah. The last was used as a commercial route in summer throughout the history of Chitral till the Taliban hold in the recent pass and now stands sealed.

The Durah pass was used in summers regularly and Badakhshi and Tajik trade Caravans brought salt, rugs, horses, carpets, Russian chint cloths, Zerah, Salajeet, opium etc. into Chitral market and stayed in the Sarai built in the Bazar for that purpose and bought tea, sugar, spices etc. Sale of Lapiz was a later addition whereas purchase of Orpiment ( yellow arsenic) mined in upper Chitral was also one of the main items that was carried to Kabul and this product was later sold to merchants from India and the Kabul market was closed. Food imports over these passes into Chitral was not common nor it was sold to them as there was a shortage of this product in either side of the Hindu Kush.The local food products were hardly sufficient for the inhabitants who lived on subsistence farming and sale was not possible. Finished goods such as rugs, carpets or Chitrali Patti were much sought by both sides that enhanced the manufacture and sale of the local cottage industry. Women did hard work in the making of these items so raw material was to be raised and herding was promoted for supply of the raw material as well as to add to their food supply of mutton. Yaks were also used by the Wakhi community in Boroghil to carry local products over Darkhot pass into upper Yasin valley ( also known? Selgan) and they brought back tea, spices and food items on yaks over the same pass and this Wakhi community seldom paid visits to Chitral city as it is a long distance and Yasin markets is a short one; and this trade was a small one compared to the trade over Durah pass into Chitral and Garum Chashma markets. Hence impacts of Badakhshan and Wakhi culture and language are more prominent in the culture of these valleys of Chitral including opium addiction in the border areas of Boroghil and upper Lotkuh valleys. The passes between Nooristan and Kalash valleys of Chitral have not been used for trade but for marauding and abductions that made life difficult for the Kalash community as their livestock and flocks were driven over the passes and could not be retrieved which is still a headache for the inhabitants.

( Rf. R.C.F. Schomberg?Kafirs and glaciers; Hindu Kush Study Series Vol. 1 & 2)

Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig,

2 thoughts on “Chitral and Wakhan ? past and present

  1. This is a wonderful discription of the topic. You have done a nice job. We will be waiting for more productive discussions on similar topic. God bless you.

  2. Dear Prof. Baig,

    Thanks for a beautiful article, It would be great to have a topographical map to go along with the description.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *