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Kohistan Valley

Besham  ||  Dassu  ||  Kohistan  || 

Location of Indus Kohistan

Indus or Abasin Kohistan is the most backward district of Hazara division in North West Frontier Province. It is located along the well-known Himalayas of Pakistan from 34.40 to 30.35 degrees of altitude and from 75.30 to 50.72 degrees of longitude. Naran, Kaghan, Siran, and Allai lie in the east and south of Kohistan, Swat in the west while the valleys of Chilas, Darel and Tagir are located in the north of it.

River Indus originates from Mansoro lake att the altitude of 17000 feet in Himalayas. Fed by River Gilgit and other tributaries on the way, River Indus flows down through the middle of Kohistan. The Silk Road, that links Pakistan with China and serves as an important trade route between the two countries, leads down all the way along the River Indus bank up to Besham at the end of District Kohistan.

Silk Road has long been a thoroughfare for the tourists, traders and conquerors from Central Asia. In the past, business delegations would use this passage to travel up to Europe and the Little Asia (Kochak). Moreover, it was an important outlet to the land of Sind. At present, the Silk Road and the Basphorus bridge in Turkey have made it possible to travell by road from Atlantic Oceans to the shores of Pacific in Asia.

In the vicinity of Silk Road, there exist the rock inscriptions of universal importance. These inscriptions pertain to various historical periods, languages, races, religions and civilizations.

Kohistan is located on such a global space where it serves as a natural boundary for environmental regions in the chains of Himalayan, Korakorum and Hindukush mountains.

The Climate

Kohistan is comprised over mountains and the hilly agricultural regions. Many high mountains and thickly grown beautiful forests of good quality are found on those mountains containing the trees of cedar, pine, juniper, fir, Chilghoza, Olea erruinea, oak, Shisham, walnut, birch and many more.

The lower regions in Kohistan get very hot in summer and extremely cold in winter season. In the higher regions, weather remains pleasant in summer. Due to the intensive snowfall, traveling to and from the valleys remains closed in winter. The mountains are very tall. The raining in the region mainly depends on intensive and continuous blowing of monsoon winds. The valleys are green and pretty and many small glaciers are found on the higher altitudes.

Average MonthlyTemperature

Months

Besham

Naran

Max.

Min.

Max.

Min.

January

14.4

5.6

3.3

6.9(-)

February

16.1

6.7

4.4

5.8(-)

March

22.2

11.1

7.2

2.8(-)

April

27.8

16.1

4.1

1.1

May

33.9

20.0

18.1

8.7

June

38.8

22.8

24.8

12.0

July

36.7

24.4

25.0

10.6

August

34.4

23.3

25.6

12.6

September

33.3

20.0

20.5

9.6

October

30.6

15.6

17.0

0.6(-)

November

25.6

21.7

11.3

2.2(-)

December

18.3

7.8

6.8

4.4(-)

 Monthly Average relative Humidity        

Months

Chilas

Naran

0800 Hrs

1700 Hrs

0800 Hrs

1700 Hrs

January

64

18

64

68

February

60

32

75

70

March

53

27

70

71

April

45

24

69

68

May

37

19

58

-

June

28

14

45

39

July

34

17

49

47

August

41

20

65

53

September

37

18

62

4

October

36

21

60

5

November

44

24

71

6

December

55

33

61

6

The Valleys

Kohistan is divided mainly on the east and west across River Indus. Its western part was called Swat Kohistan and the eastern part as Yaghistan (the rebellious land) and Hazara Kohistan. On the western bank, Bankhar, Duber, Jijal, Pattan, Kehal, Seo, Razqa, Khandia and Gabral are located while on the eastern bank are situated the valleys of Darra Madkhel, Batera, Kolai, Palas, Jalkot, Sumar, Sazin and Harban. The valleys of Khandia and Palas are relatively larger and green.Following are the main valleys of Kohistan:

Dassu, Khandia, Besham, Pattan, Sumar, Komila, Sazin, Talil valley, Kolai, Palas, Jalkot, Harban, Darel,
Basha, Tangir, Shatial

Area and Population:

Kohistan is included over the area of 8581 Kilometers. Its capital is Dassu having three tehsils of Palas, Pattan and Dassu. According to the demographic survey in 1981, the population of district Kohistan is about one million. The average literacy rate is around two percent. But the actual literacy rate based on the field data shows that this rate is three times more.

Around one and a half lac Kohistanis, who speak Shina and Kohistani language, live in other cities and villages outside Kohistan. Of these, 70% of the population speaking Shina belongs to the areas between Darra Madkhel and Basha.

The Economy

The people in Kohistan largely depend on herd rising for their economy. Culturally, they go on seasonal migration. The main elements of their economy are agriculture, forest, hunting and herd rising. Only one crop grows in the high altitudes. However, at the lower areas grow two crops. Cultivation of barley and paddy has almost been given up. Poverty is common in the area due to which pine, spruce, Chilghoza, Olea erruinea (kao), cedar and oak trees are cut for sale. Many medicinal herbs are vanishing in the area on account of short-sighted exploitation. Generally people rear buffaloes, cows, sheep, goats and bullocks. They get wool, skin and butter of them.

Besides this, for cash income, timber logging, sale of herbs, fuel wood, walnuts, walnut bark (dindasa), honey, butter, wool, pulses, weapons and minerals and hunting are common. Honeybees are reared and honey is grown in plenty. In winter season, the local men go to urban areas in search of work.

The Religious Sects:

It becomes known from the old ruins found in Kohistan and Chilas that art and magic began in this territory during the middle of Stone Age. The local folk attributions to the moon, the sun, fire and snake and the evidence of their worship, the taboos about rains, the local concept of "Rui" (bitch) and "Ra:Chi" (the protector), the local belief of moon eclipse, significance of ibex and "Markhor", certain tenets and taboos related to a few trees, the folk view of the universe, erection of particular type of epitaphs at their tombs (the epitaphs resembling to the heads of horses and birds), and numerous other customs in ancient times and before Islam. Long ago, such temples existed in Besham where people worshipped fire. During the last twenty five years or so, people have given up the customs such as burning fire for seven days on a fresh gave locally called "Juma RaChon" (Watching for Friday) It is evident from the statement of a Chinese tourist,

Fah-hien (490-515 A.D) and also from certain inscriptions that Buddhism has been very popular in this land. There was a huge temple in Darel where people from China and Tibet came to worship. Buddhism was already on the decline after Fahiyan's time, when Hwang Swang (631-642 A.D) was passing through these places.

In Shatial and Dassu, inscriptions of Maharaja Ashok are also found which reflect that Ashok had been going through here. Similarly, the ruins found in Khandia are the proofs of Hinduism and the Hindu rule in this region. Buddhism was

eliminated during the invasions of the Huns. Hinduism replaced Buddhism. During this era, the Shin tribes in the north began to indulge in feudalism as is seen in the history of Gurez and Gilgit.

Islam was introduced in Kohistan from three to three and a half centuries before. People coming to this region from different directions worked for Islam among the local people. The Mian, Pukhtoons and Syed were included among the early converts to Islam. In Kolai, Palas and Jalkot, the two brothers named To:lo and Dodo:ko converted to Islam in the beginning. The Shins in Kohistan converted much later than the Shins of Gurez, Gilgit and Astor. (In Ladakh, certain tribes of the Shin are still the followers of Buddhism).

Superstition was quite common in this region until some twenty-five years ago. Currently, the entire population is the followers of Deobandi sect and is largely associated with the Raiwind Center. Religious education is imparted at homes as well as in the mosques. About 62.83% of the local people are daily reciters of holy Kuran. According to a survey in 1981, this average is highest in all the districts of Pakistan (Please refer to Half Yearly "Ham Log", July-December Issue, p. 55). There are several renowned local theologians who are the scholars of Hadith, logic (mantaq), philosophy, Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqa), Arabic grammar (sarf) and linguistic construction and the knowledge of herbal medicines "hikmat".

The Political Perspective

Linguistically, culturally, historically, geographically and by race, the inhabitants of Kohistan are related with the population of Northern Areas while electorally this region is annexed with the Province of North West Frontier.

The Greek historians Herototus and Patolmi have described this Kohistani region as "Dadicae". During the ancient times, this territory has practically or hypothetically been included under the rule of several foreign rulers as is proven by many rock inscriptions. The population between Gurez and Hindukush has generally been referred to as Dardic or Dadric race. The Russian Researcher Yuri Gangofsi says,

On proof that these people lived in the seventh province of the Kingdom of Makhamanshi, is that the Dardic lived in the neighboring areas of Ghandara and fought many battles as one platoon in Iranian army standing side by side with the residents of Ghandara. It is obvious from certain rock inscriptions of Maharaja Ashok's era that these people were his subject. As for Indus Kohistan, the history shows that no one was locally able to become a head or "Sardar" and the people always lived as free tribes. The Western historians have been describing them as anti-ruler nations.

The influence of the Tibetans, Kashmiris, Chinese and finally the Sikhs and the English in the north of Kohistan had started much earlier and they had also acquired an access to these areas. The Kohistani tribes had become a headache for them.

Sometimes they would collude with the people of Chilas and sometimes invade Kaghan. Sometimes they would take part in the battles between Wali of Swat and Wali of Amb states and create dangers. These people were united under a central system of diversified groups. Therefore, they were normally safe from the outer invaders. No one could ever conquer these areas. But generally the external rulers considered these areas as a part of their states. This tradition was continued until the British time. Dr. Karl Jettmar says in the past this region and the valley of Kunhar had been the part of Baloristan Kingdom. These areas were beyond the reach of the English during their reign in India. Still at another place, Jettmar says,

"The valleys on the both sides of River Indus in front of Tagir and Daril could neither be conquered by well planned British attacks nor by the missions of the adventurous princes. These valleys remained out of the European military access."

Kohistan had the important political impact when the Wali of Swat stirred by the English, took over Duber in 1938, Pattan in January 1939 and Khandia and Sea in July 1939 and merged the western part of Kohistan into Swat state. The main reason for his success did a few tribes of Pattan and Duber extend the support to him. Otherwise, the Swat Militia's defeat at their hand at Lapar was not a secret matter. The Wali of Swat has mentioned in his autobiography that Kohistanis usually posed a threat to his state because any one could easily provoke them against the State. In order to cope with these risks, the Wali of Swat made a few local alloys by posting them on honorary positions and granting them privileges. On the contrary to this, the eastern part of Kohistan remained independent or unadministered land till 1988.

The Swatis and Gujars of Allai, the Syeds of Kaghan and the Wali of Swat himself made several efforts and conspiracies but did not succeed in them due to the local group cohesion and effective defense. These people enjoyed the support of Amb State also through Kutu Malak because the Wali of Amb was the opponent of the Wali of Swat and they created difficulties for each other.

The following text is available in the book "History of Northern Pakistan", "Shumali Pakistan Ki Tareekh" on the subject of Kohistan's political affiliation:

"Historically and culturally greater part of the Kohistan district is a part of Northern Areas. It was considered so until late in the beginning of the present century, when the ruler of Swat, probably with the convenience of the British Master, raided right up to the western bank of the Indus and advanced even to Khandia valley in order to establish his administration control over the region. Even then the part, east of the Indus remain Yaghistan (unadministered area). This is confirmed by the following letter No.381 of 1913 from S. M. Fraser, Resident in Kashmir to Lt. Col. Sir George Roose-Keppel, Chief Commissioner of Peshawar, dated 24th February 1913....The Jalkotis, as you are aware, are a Kohistan tribe occupying a valley on the Indus of the south-west of Chilas and west of Kaghan in the Hazara district. Their country is independent territory but their political relations, so far as such relations exist, have been mainly with Gilgit Agency.

Further I think it will be agreed that since Jalkot falls naturally within the sphere of Gilgit Agency, by reason of geographical position, race, language and inter-communication, it is politically expedient for the initiative to lie with Chilas authorities."

This position is further confirmed in a letter No. Y 103/27, dated 12th February 1928 from the Resident in Kashmir to Col. C.P. Gunter, Director of Frontier, Survey of India, wherein he writes:

Unadministered areas, i.e. Darel, Tangir, Khandia, Jalkot, Sazin, Shatial and Harban.

"This position remained until 1947 and even later in 1950, when with the constitution of Kohistan district the area was separated from Gilgit Agency."

During the period before ending, the people on western bank of River Indus dealt their matters with Swat and the people on the eastern bank with the English in Kaghan. In case of any attack on Kaghan or looting, the representative Jirga was called there and advised to keep peaceful. The English never meddled with them in person. The English author, Oliver writes in his book "Pathan and Baluch":

"It is the land of rebellions or anarchists who deny of orders from high officials or are care-free of them." (p 320)

Mr. Emerson, ex-Commissioner, Hazara has also made such comments in his report "Sind Kohistan" compiled in 1931. But as it is apparent from the references given above that these areas were administrative part of Northern Pakistan mainly for its relations by reason of geography, history, race and language.

The rural representatives were selected from these areas during the reign of Ayub Khan. It was the first time that these people joined a big national momentum. In other words, from the British time to 1955, the area from Kolai to Jalkot was the part of Northern Areas, while from 1955 to 1986, it remained under the administration of the tribal tribes of NWFP and in 1988, it was formally converted into a district by giving the representation in the Provincial and National assemblies.

 

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