The deserted valleys of Chitral

.. by Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig

Chitral was once regarded a land of mountain communities who worked hard enough to live independently –without any kind of import of food  items and provision stores from neighbours. They worked on their own plots, supplied their own water sources to irrigate their crops and reaped various kinds of cereals  for their families for the twelve months of the year. No wheat or corn or potato or pulses or rice was imported. What was imported was  salt, cloth,metal utencils etc. but food was produced from the farms  and the farms were fertilized by manure from the livestock that they raised. The inhabitants of Chitral depended on the hard work of their own hands and  strangely enough they were much more generous and gave grain and food as charity to widows and orphans as well as those who suffered a natural calamity such as floods or crop diseases.

The old men and  women of Chitral worked side by side. No member sat idle nor was allowed to do so by the head of the family. All the members of a family, hence a community contributed to the general weal of the social set up and the elders worked as hard as the youth. The role of the elders was a model for the youngers- the males for males and the females showed their diligence to be a model for the young women. In this way the zeal and passion to compete with each other- community versus community, clan versus clan and tribe versus tribe continued to operate and brought good results for the whole unit beside agricultural duties they also produced raw material for manufacture of ammunition which was their basic requirement to defend their independence against inroads of rival communities from across the borders of the state.

The main works of farming ended in November/ December but manufacture of  articles of defence could be done in winters. These included bullets, gunpowder, swords, daggers, sheaths, arrows etc.  They also did a number of other works like rug and carpet making, weaving  woolen cloth, cottages industry articles etc. What I aim to say is that the old inhabitants of Chitral never sat idle but all were hard workers to live a life that needed so many major and minor things to be used round the year. BUT  the Chitrali of today  is an idle man or woman. He / she abhors work ,let alone hard work. They play into the night and sleep till noon. Their plots have become deserted. Half  of the plots of the cultivated ones have gone waste lands. The distant farms have become desert because the water channels are no more repaired yearly.

The collection of fodder for flocks has been refused by the new generation. The total mass of cultivated lands are shrinking hence desertification is booming. The occupation of livestock raising is a story of the past. The long pedestrian journeys are  tales of the Arabian Nights  to the present generation. They have forgotten so many items of cuisine, herbs, skills of farming, skills of weaving etc. They are on the brink of total collapse. The educated women cannot cook old varieties of food, cannot weave any thing from wool, cannot tolerate advice of parents; the boys pay deaf ear to the advice of parents or openly oppose the suggestions of the elders and condemn their point of view. The quality of obedience is gone and with that every thing is  upside down. We require revival !!!!! .. Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig, Chitral 02 Aug 2021

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