Pakistan needs to safeguard Kalash’s valley traditions: Report

BEIJING, June 11 (INP): Tourists coming from home and abroad needed to take care of the glorious traditions of the people of the Kalash valley.

In a remote valley in Pakistan, dozens of Kalash minority women dance to celebrate spring’s arrival. But as a gaggle of men scramble to catch them on camera, the community fears an influx of domestic tourists is threatening their unique traditions, says a report published in China Daily on Tuesday.

Every year the Kalash?a group of fewer than 4,000 people confined to a handful of villages in the north?greet the new season with animal sacrifices, baptisms, and weddings at a festival known as Joshi.

As celebrations kick off, tourists with phones jostle to get close to Kalash women, whose vibrant clothing and headdresses contrast starkly with the more modest attire worn by many in the Muslim-majority republic.

“Some people are using their cameras as if they were in a zoo,” said local tourist guide Iqbal Shah.

Known for their pale skin and light-colored eyes, the Kalash have long claimed ancestral links to Alexander the Great’s army, which conquered the region in the fourth century BC.

They worship many gods, drink alcohol is a tradition and they choose their own spouses?unlike in the rest of Pakistan where unions are often arranged.

However, the community is far from a liberal beacon. Members of the community often wed in their teens. Women are poorly educated and expected to perform traditional roles in the home.

Stories about the Kalash are nonetheless frequently fabricated, and this has been amplified in recent years by the proliferation of smartphones and social media.

Some call them “beautiful infidels” and say “anyone can go and marry any girl there”.

“How could that be true?” asks Luke Rehmat, a Kalash journalist.

“People are systematically trying to defame the community. They are fabricating stories… when a tourist comes with such a mindset, he will try to experience (it).”

In the main Kalash village of Bumburate, a hotel manager estimates that about 70 percent of Pakistani tourists visiting his establishment are young men, who often inquire about where to “find girls”.

Most of whom were men traveling in groups, their primary interest in exploring the Kalash Valley was to learn about a new culture.

“We want to be part of this festival but it doesn’t mean that we want to mix up with girls,” said tourist Sikander Nawaz Khan Niazi from Lahore.

INP/J/LK