In a progressive move earlier this month, a Peshawar court recognised Kalash community in remote Northwest mountains as an individual ethnic and religious community after its long battle with oblivion.
The Pagan tribe that claims lineage to soldiers of Alexander The Great comprises of around 4,000 people today.
Kalash people have lived in isolation for hundreds of years, since 2,300 years, the time when Alexander had invaded the region. The community has been able to preserve its individual identity, its culture, lifestyle, and religion.
In a move to be lauded, the census that is underway since March 15 will count the community separately for the first time in Pakistan. The 6th census in Pakistan is the first in 19 years that is scheduled to complete on May 15.
Recognition by a Pakistani court means a lot than you think it does. Kalash are now to enjoy rights equal to those given to Pakistani minorities.
Though Pakistan is to achieve a lot on that front considering there have been many condemnable incidents in the recent past but it sure is a development that heartens one. Kalash now have the legal cover for representation in the provincial assembly.
Petitioner Wazir Zada who fought for years to bring Kalash their identity said the news spread like a fire in the community and Muslim neighbours of the community members congratulated them.
Kalash people have been victims of violence by Taliban and other extremist outfits and forced conversions, to begin with.
Inhabiting an area that is prone to natural disasters, the community is left to its own devices to earn livelihoods. Tourists who visit the locality are one source of income for the people.
For many in Pakistan, Kalash is a community of nonbelievers and they are addressed to like that.
Kalash mainly follow an ancient form of Hinduism with traditions and rituals unique to them. Part of the community that had occupied an area out of Pakistan with respect to Durand Line was attacked multiple times by Afghan leaders in the past.
Their beliefs permit a married woman to elope with a lover bearing no untoward consequences. Boys, after hitting puberty, can enjoy an intercourse with any of the community women whom they choose.
The community does not mourn its dead. It is a completion of a journey for them. They feast and celebrate with music for three days to mark the completion of a journey.
However, those inhabiting the Pakistani area were shielded owing to the border.
The Pakistani community shares close cultural and linguistic resemblance to its kin in Afghanistan now as Nuristan meaning, enlightened.
When both the Nuristanis in Afghanistan and Kalash in Pakistan claim to have descended from Alexander’s men, a journal stated in 2014 that they had chunks of DNA from an ancient European civilisation.
On international front, the community is fighting for inclusion in UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List but the bid remains victim of sluggish bureaucracy for past nine years.
In 2004, Greece funded construction of Kalasha Cultural Centre which has artifacts, clothing, jewelry, sculptures and other items exclusive to the group.
In coming month of May, Kalash will be welcoming summers with a tradition known as Chilam Joshi festival which is known for its dance, music, generically brewed alcohol, libations of milk and showering flowers on houses.
According to Kalash Peoples Development Network, the traditions are under threat of extinction.