Chitral (CN): The beautiful culture of the northern areas of Pakistan has been well guarded and preserved by the inhabitants. Despite the changing times, the influx of outsiders for business, tourism and trade purposes has little affected the core values of simplicity, lovability and mutual respect of the indigenous people. The people of Gilgit (mostly those of Ghizr Yasin, with whom CN team interacted) were found to be proud of their dress, their language and their traditions.
Being in the neighborhood and naturally having similarities with the contemporary culture of Chitral, there were some striking differences too.. A festive occasion in Chitral like a marriage function followed by an ‘ishtok’ (Dancing session) cannot be imagined without a good many participants consuming local brewed alcoholic drinks, but in Gilgit it was found that not a single person had a drink nor even any smoking was seen, yet the dances were extremely lively and participatory by all and sundry, young and old. It was particularly surprising that the young generation was happy and active without alcohol or cigarettes.. Here the Gilgitis certainly beat Chitralis, as the later cannot imagine an ishtok party without the ‘spirit’ behind it.
When asked as to why the Gilgitis did not drink, whether it was the religious people’s pressure or what ? they said, it had nothing to do with any religious pressure, rather it was due to the example set by the elders that the young generation follows. The intra family love and informality was also very conspicuous and enviable.
Another encouraging impression registered was, When the Chief Judge of the GB chief Court, Raja Jalaluddin was asked by our reporter whether he found any difficulty in dispensing justice, he replied with conviction that he is being given a handsome emolument and privileges enough to meet his everyday requirements and the least he can repay back is by doling out justice without any fear or favour.
“For where God built a church, there the Devil would also build a chapel“ — Martin Luther.
Keeping the positive and pleasant experiences in the visit to Gilgit, aside, one negative observation was, the marked sectarian tensionin Gilgit town. Both Shia and Sunni seem hard at each other’s throats there. The Imam of Jamia Masjid Gilgit town was seen being escorted to the mosque in a police cavalcade to lead Jumma prayers . Similarly the Shias also have fortified themselves all ready to ‘fight’ their detractors.
As a bottom line, if the scourge of sectarianism be eliminated and the people of Gilgit Baltistan guard and preserve their culture, then the following verse of the mogul conqueror Babar would aptly apply to the area.
اگر فردوس بر روۓ زمیں است ہمیں است ‘ ہمیں است ‘ ہمیں است ‘
“if there is a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here”