Stakeholders vow to protect Karakoram, Pamir, Wakhan shared culture; activist rails at organizers
Gilgit, July 30: Local, national and international cultural enthusiasts, music experts, scholars and civil society members have vowed to work for the protection and promotion of culture and music of the trans-boundary region comprising Karakoram, Pamir and Wakhan — also known as Bam-e-Dunya or the roof of the world — and Chitral, Kohistan and Swat at large.
The pledge was made at an international conference organized by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), the WWF-Pakistan, the Karakorum International University (KIU), GB Folks, the Ministry of National Food and Research and the Gilgit-Baltistan government.
“The conference aimed to protect and nurture the phenomenal potential of the rich music and culture of the diverse ethnicities of GB, Kohistan, Chitral, Swat and many places of Wakhan and Pamir culture,” said a press release.
The conference was the first of its kind to provide a huge platform for researchers, artists and other stakeholders to highlight the diversity and rich culture, music and literature/linguistics of the Hindu Kush, the Karakoram and the Pamir (HKP) landscape.
The organizers said that connecting stakeholders including artists and musicians from across the region was a milestone to sustain, promote and celebrate the diversity.
GB Legislative Assembly Deputy Speake. Jaffar Ullah highlighted the importance of music to engage the youth in healthy activities to help cope with extremism and religious fundamentalism.
He asked the civil society, academia and development organizations to assist the GB government in protecting endangered languages in the mountain region through documentation and by including local languages in curricula.
Researchers presented research papers on endangered languages and musical instruments, historically used by the mountain communities, and shared the commonalities of instruments, rhythms and songs.
It was recommended to devise a mechanism for researchers and artists to have get-togethers to share their learning, experiences and commonalities to protect and promote the cultural and musical diversity and create room for fusion with modern musical instruments.
It was noted that artists, researchers, cultural and musical buffs can help overcome the prevailing mistrust among neighbouring countries in the region through such events.
Researchers from Afghanistan and Tajikistan also shared research papers and highlighted the challenges, threatening the mountainous indigenous music and musical instruments.
The participants strongly recommended for the setting up of new music and cultural academies or departments in universities, patronage of artists/musicians, strengthening exchange opportunities, documentation and digitization, enhanced research to cope with evolving challenges and closer collaboration of the government, academia and civil society.
Meanwhile, Umar Rafee, a pioneer in social activism in Broghel and Ishkoman, complained about the Baam-e-Dunya musical conference saying that the programme at the KIU was disappointing for the Wakhi speakers.
He said that great Wakhi PhD scholar Shir Ali, who had been invited from Japan, was allowed to speak only for three minutes to share an informative presentation on the Wakhi language and its background. He said that they felt dejected by the behaviour of the management of WWF and GB Folks.
Rafee said that Zubair Torwali, an activist, a writer and cultural critique from Swat, was offered the podium twice to speak for more than 30 minutes but the Wakhi scholar was asked to finish up his presentation within three minutes.
“It was purely a conference on the Pamiri music and language but it was badly ignored by the organizers,” he said adding “we also missed the real stakeholder organizations working on the Wakhi culture and music at the conference.”
He said that at the event wonderful young professional musicians of Bilbilik, a musical band based in Gojal, were not given a single chance to perform on the stage.
Rafee said that “I would suggest Bama-e-Dunya Network, the main stakeholders in Gojal, Karumbar valley Ishkoman and Broghil not to cooperate with the WWF-Pakistan for such future such conferences or activities if they did not take their complaint, they were going to lodge with the organisers, in the future, seriously and ensured their full participation.”
The activist said that they had travelled all the way from Broghil to Islamabad and then to Gilgit thinking that organizers and speakers would be only from the Bama-e- Dunya Network communities and countries including Zurkhol, Tajikistan, Wakhan, Badakshan, Broghil, Chitral, Karumbar, Ishkoman, Khunjerab, Gojal and Tashkurgan, China.
He said these six regions of four countries were the only part of this network created to establish linkages between Wakhi communities and ensure conservation of natural resources to cope with climate change issues, protection of wildlife, environment, culture preservation and exchange knowledge among four regional countries with above six regions, where the majority or dominant communities are only Wakhi Tajiks.
“This Bama-e-Dunya Network has been established to encourage more and more participation of these six regions in four countries for trans-boundary cooperation on holistic future development and exchange of best practices. Today, Shina music, Chitrali sitar and Pashtu speakers dominated the whole conference with a handful of the audience from Wakhan, Tajikistan, Broghil and Gojal in the attendance. Many talented scholars, musicians and local community-based organizations working on the Wakhi culture and music were totally missing.”
He said that Ishkoman was even not officially extended an invitation and honourable representatives from Tajikistan and Wakhan were highly dissatisfied with the event managers and they may hesitate to participate in such events in the future.
“I don’t think scholars from Swat, Chitral, Chilas etc would preserve our music, culture, environment, ecosystem and play a role for the trans-boundary cooperation under the banner of Bama-e-Dunya Network in the future,” he said.