Bid to enlist Kalash on the World Heritage List

Efforts to preserve Kalash Culture 

Published in Pakistan Observer

Sana Jamal

Islamabad – To the good fortune of Kalash people, the government of Pakistan has finally moved to take long-awaited measures for the preservation of Pakistan’s rare tangible and intangible cultural heritage.
Following the repeated demands from the endangered community and a comprehensive deliberation held on Wednesday at Lok Virsa, the concerned officials eventually nodded their heads and agreed that Ministry of National Heritage and Integration would propose UNESCO to enroll Kalash on the World Heritage List. The draft proposal will be prepared by 12 member committee supervised by the Federal secretary for national heritage and integration Faridullah Khan. In this regard a second meeting of experts will be held within next two weeks to finalise the document within next 45 days.

Faridullah Khan speaking at the workshop on
Protection of Kalash Heritage in Pakistan.

Speaking at the one-day workshop, Faridullah Khan said that keeping in view “the heritage value and serious threats being posed to the living Kalash Valley, the ministry will introduce a comprehensive plan for safeguarding the endangered heritage of Kalash Valley.” He wished-for a special development package for Kalash people and assured cooperation from the ministry for documentation and preservation of the Kalash culture.

Presenting case for Kalash, Luke Rehmat, President of Kalash People’s Development Network, said that “serious efforts for the protection and conservation of Kalash culture may be taken by the global community if Kalash culture as site of world heritage by UNESCO.” The participants from Kalash valley including Wazir Zada, Sherzada, Zahir Gul, Syed Gul and Luke Rehmat demanded the government of Pakistan to prepare a package for the Kalash minority to protect the threatened and endangered community and to include Kalasha religion in NADRA database.

During the presentation, when participants were informed that one traditional house of Kalash was built in as early as 1359 A.D. the Federal secretary suggested to preserve the historic architecture to present it as “the face of Kalash.”

Located in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the Kalash people live in three isolated mountain valleys: Mumuret, Biriu and Rukmu. Population and culture of Kalash face the danger of extinction, said Luke, adding that “During the last years, the population of Muslims in Chitral is increasing at the rate of 2.5% per annum and the population of Kalash has decreased from 10,000 to 3800.”

Describing traits of the Kalash valley, Luke remarked: “Kalash is the only culture in the world which represents more than 3000 years old beliefs in origin form with all rituals, dress code and cuisines.”
The participants of the workshop included Lok Virsa’s executive director Khalid Javaid; director general department of archaeology and museums Dr. Fazal Dad Kakar; Dr. Shah Nazar from archaeology & museums KPK; Zakir Hussain from Survey of Pakistan; Inamullah Khan from IUCN; Waqar Hussain Abbasi from national disaster & management division; Pervaiz Sabat Khel from culture department KPK; Shamsuddin from Chitral; Abdul Makal from Chitral; Syed Gul from Bumborate museum; Muhammad Arshad from Auqaf Hajj department ministry of religious affairs; Zia-u-Rehman from district government Chitral.

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