Chitral

Chitral is a beautiful valley surrounded by high mountains of the Hindukush in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan . The valley, at an elevation of 1,128 meters, is famous among mountaineers, anglers, hunters, hikers, naturalists and anthropologists.

The majorities of the regions' population are khowar speakers; and are referred to as Chitralis. Khowar is an Indo Iranian language that shows the imprint of Central Asian and South Asian "linguistic areas". Chitral is located in the a highly mountainous region of Pakistan: the Hindukush, Hindu Raj and Pamir mountain ranges all meet in Chitral. The regions itself is made up of four major valleys, and several tributary valleys. chitral


Chitral was an independent monarchical state until the late nineteenth century, when it became incorporated as a "semi autonomous" princely state of British India . Culturally the Chitral state drew on the traditions of status, politeness, etiquette and "high culture", which were characteristic of the Mughal-Timurid states and Khanates of South and Central Asia , despite the fact that Chitral was never fully integrated into Mughal empire. Until its full incorporation as part of Pakistan state in 1969, Chitral was ruled by a hereditary dynast (mehtar), who belonged to the ruling family (katoor).


Different aspects of Chitral culture play important role in making social relations in Chitral open to change and continuity. Music programmes in Chitral, for example, not only inspires the creative thinking of Chitral people in the face of powerful and dominating global movements but also provides a space for resistive power of local people within the status conscious and "high culture" social system of Chitral. Social relations also go through the process of change and continuity in the gatherings during the polo games and other traditional sport festivals. Besides, the Kalasha people have several festivals, which attract tourists from around Pakistan and abroad, and thus provide the local and exotic norms and values with opportunities to interact.

Chitral as a whole is a predominantly rural region of Pakistan , and even in the biggest urban centre, Chitral town, many families are engaged in farming. The Chitral region is remote. In the winter all passes are blocked by snow and ice and people must take an unreliable and expensive flight from Peshawar to Chitral, or travel by way of a dangerous overland route through Afghanistan .


chitral shandur

All Chitralis live in settled towns and villages, although there are small populations of semi-nomadic Gujuri speaking herders (Gujurs) who mostly live in the southern valleys of the region. In the far North of the region there is also a small population of semi-nomadic Wakhi speaking herders (Wakhik) who keep yaks and cows, which they graze on the high plateau of the Pamir mountain range that straddle the Pakistan Afghanistan border along the Wakhan corridor. There is also a small population of about 3000 sedentary non-Muslim Kalasha people, who have been the focus of considerable Anthropological research.

Chitral is also known for its hand woven woolen fabric called "Shu". It has been woven for thousands of years, as clothing for the family, and for meeting everyday household expenses by selling it in the local market. All the valleys in Chitral are directly involved in Patti production. The village people still own sheep and continue in the traditional management systems; they still spin and weave "Lasprikan" and "Torkhow or shoka" Patti, as well as knitting socks, sweaters and gloves, and weaving the brightly colored traditional rugs.

History

From ancient times, Chitral was an important point on the trade routes from northern Afghanistan (ancient Bactria) and the Tarim Basin to the plains of Gandhara (in northern Pakistan), and the region near Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan. The ruling family of Chitral traces its decent from Baba Ayub, a disciple of the saint Kamal Shah Shamsuddin Tabrizi, who settled in the village of Lon and Gokher. According to family tradition, Ayub was a son of Fareidun Hussein, tenth son of Shah Abu'l Ghazi Sultan Husain Baiqara Bahadur Khan, Padshah of Khorasan. However, Persian, Central Asian or Mughal sources are silent on such a connection. Baba Ayub is said to have arrived in Chitral from Khorasan, married the daughter of the ruler, a supposed descendant of Alexander the Great. The grandson of this marriage founded the present dynasty. Accordingly, the family actually owes their fortunes to Sangan Ali, sometime Minister to Shah Rais, ruler of Chitral during the sixteenth century. His sons seized power following his death in 1570, establishing a new ruling dynasty over the state.


The present ruling dynasty descends from the second of these two sons. The period between Sangan 'Ali's accession to power and modern times is clouded by fratricidal warfare, contests for power with the former Raisiya dynasty, the Kushwaqte family and endless disputes with neighbouring rulers. So much so that it is nearly impossible to date the reigns or lives of many of the rulers. Only during the middle of the nineteenth century, when permanent Dogra rule was established in Kashmir, European travellers, administrators and scholars began to enter the area and take an interest in its history, and gradually the history of the country, its people, languages and culture, began to emerge from the mists of time. However, this task is far from complete and it will be many years before Chitral yields up all its mysteries and secrets.


Shah Afzal II, who ruled from the beginning of the nineteenth century until its middle, fought against the Afghans in support of his allies, the rulers of Badakhshan. He also fought against the Dogras and against his Kushwaqte kinsmen, but later switched sides and concluded treaty relations with the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. Thereafter becoming a protectorate of Kashmir in return for an annual subsidy to pay for troops and the supervision of the Afghan border. Aman ul-Mulk, Afzal's younger son, succeeded his brother in 1857. After a brief dispute with Kashmir, in which he laid siege to the garrison at Gilgit and briefly held the Puniyal valley, he accepted a new treaty with the Maharaja in 1877. After a relatively long reign, he died peacefully in 1892. Aman's younger son, Afzal ul-Mulk, proclaimed himself ruler during the absence of his elder brother. He then proceeded to eliminate several of his brothers, potential contenders to his throne.


This initiated a war of succession which lasted three years. Afzal ul-Mulk was killed by his uncle, Sher Afzal, the stormy petrel of Chitral and a long-time thorn in his father's side. He held Chitral for under a month, then fled into Afghan territory. Nizam ul-Mulk, Afzal ul-Mulk's eldest brother and the rightful heir, then succeeded in December of the same year.

At about that time, Chitral came under the British sphere of influence following the Durand Agreement, which delineated the border between Afghanistan and the Indian Empire. Nizam ul-Mulk's possessions in Kafiristan and the Kunar Valley were recognised as Afghan territory and ceded to the Amir. Within a year, Nizam was himself murdered by yet another ambitious younger brother, Amir ul-Mulk. The approach of a strong military force composed of British and Kashmiri troops prompted Amir to flee with to his patron, the Khan of Jandul. The British had decided to support the interests of Shuja ul-Mulk, the youngest legitimate son of Aman ul-Mulk, and the only one untainted by the recent spate of murder and intrigue. After entering Chitral and installing the young Mehtar, British and Kashmiri forces endured the famous defence against a seven-week siege by Sher Afzal and the Khan of Jandul. The British then captured Sher Afzal and Amir ul-Mulk, deporting them both to Madras. Although Shuja ul-Mulk was now firmly established as ruler, the Kashmiris annexed Yasin, Kush, Ghizr and Ishkoman.


Kashmiri suzerainty over Chitral ended in 1911, Chitral became a salute state in direct relations with the British.

Mastuj, also removed from the Mehtar's jurisdiction in 1895, was restored to him within two years. Shuja reigned for forty-one years, during which Chitral enjoyed an unprecedented period of internal peace. He was probably the first ruler to journey outside Chitral, visiting various parts of India and meeting a number of fellow rulers. He supported the British during the Third Afghan War in 1919, during which four of his sons and the Chitral State Forces served in several actions guarding the border against invasion. Nasir ul-Mulk, succeeded his father in 1936. He was the first ruler of his line to receive a modern education, becoming a noted poet and scholar in his own right. He took a deep interest in military, political and diplomatic affairs, and spent much of his time on improving the administration.


Dying without a surviving male heir in 1943, his successor was his younger brother, Muzaffar ul-Mulk. Also a man with a military disposition, his reign witnessed the tumultuous events surrounding the transfer of power in 1947. His prompt action in sending in his own Body Guard to Gilgit was instrumental in securing the territory for Pakistan. The unexpected early death of Muzaffar ul-Mulk saw the succession pass to his relatively inexperienced eldest son, Saif ur-Rahman, in 1948. Due to certain tensions he was exiled from Chitral by the Government of Pakistan for six years. They appointed a board of administration composed of Chitrali and Pakistani officials to govern the state in his absence. He died tragically in a plane crash while returning to resume charge of Chitral in 1954.


Saif ul-Mulk succeeded his father at the tender age of four. He reigned under a Council of Regency for the next twelve years, during which Pakistani authority gradually increased over the state. Although installed as a constitutional ruler when he came of age in 1966, he did not enjoy his new status very long. Chitral was absorbed and fully integrated into the Republic of Pakistan by Prime Minister Bhutto in 1971. In order to reduce the popular Mehtar's influence, he, like so many other princes in neighbouring India, was "invited" to represent his country abroad. He served in various diplomatic posts and retired from the service as Consul-General in Hong Kong in 1989.