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Kalash Valley

The Kalash, are the smallest group among the religious minorities of Pakistan. Unlike the other minorities, they live exclusively in a particular geographic area: the three valleys of Birir, Bumburet and Rumbur situated in the Hindukush between the Afghan Border and the Chitral Valley. Muslim Labeled the Kalash Kafir and their area Kafiristan. Until 1896 Kafiristan also included present-day Nuristan in Afghanistan, inhabited by the ‘Red Kafirs’ where the Kalash were the ‘Black Kafirs’.

History: Kalasha myths tell the Kalash originally came from Tsiam, through to be near Yarkand. The kalasha oral tradition also tells that Kalash are descendent from Alexander the Great’ brave general Shalak Shah of Tsiam to whom Alexander gave the Chitral Valley as a reward. Kalasha language is of great interest to linguists as it belongs to the ancient Dardic branch of the Indo-Europe languages, suggesting a Central Asian origin. Around 1500 AD the Kalash were dominant throughout southern Chitral; the Kalasha oral tradition mentions eight great Kalasha kings. Local people outside the valleys often find remnants of building reveling evidence of former Kalash settlements.

After this, Kalasha period Islam became dominant in Chitral. Islam at first have seen to be adopted by the king who then converted their subjects more or less forcibly. The most persistent of the Kalash took refuge from conversion in the less accessible side valleys. As a result the Kalash became marginalized; a subjugated people bound to pay tributes and corvee labour to the Mehtars, economically exploited and subject to frequent raids from their neighbors in what is now Nuristan.  

When the British established the Durand Line the Kalasha valleys became part of British India and so part of present-day Pakistan. This protected the Kalash from the forcible conversions to Islam carried out by the Afghan king Abdur Rahman in 1896.  Groups of Red Kafirs fled these conversions into Chitral. The refuges were given land in the upper part of the Kalasha valleys and still have their villages there. Ironically they are later gradually converted to Islam. In 1969 the kingdom of Chitral became part of Pakistan. To the Kalash this meant a lifting of their serfdom and the enriching of their constitutional right to practice their religion.    

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