Shafqat Amanat Ali’s my Gilgit Baltistan

My Hunza Paradise on Earth


Norooz in the pages of History and in my epoch

Nowrūz (Persian: نوروز, “New Day”, originally “New Light”) is the name of the New Year in Iranian calendars and the corresponding traditional celebrations.Nowruz is also widely referred to as the Persian New Year.

تاریخ کے اوراق

Norooz, always begins on the first day of spring,  Norooz ceremonies are symbolic representations of two ancient concepts – the End and Rebirth.
now (Old Persian nava) means “new” and has the following cognates, in English new, in Latin novus, German neu, Sanskrit nava, etc. The Persian pronunciation differs in the many dialects of the language: while the eastern dialects have preserved the original diphthong ,the western dialects usually pronounce it with a different  and some colloquial variants (such as the Tehrani accent) pronounce it with a monophtong .and rōz (also with various pronuciations, such as rūz, rozh, or roj) means “day” in Middle- and Modern Persian, as well as related languages,
Nowruz is celebrated and observed by Iranian and Afghan peoples and the related cultural continent and has spread in many other parts of the world, including parts of Central Asia, Caucasus, South Asia, Northwestern China, the Crimea , Pakistan and some groups in the Balkans.

Nowruz marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the year in Iranian calendar. It is celebrated on the day of the astronomical vernal equinox, which usually occurs on March 21 or the previous/following day depending on where it is observed. As well as being a Zoroastrian holiday and having significance amongst the Zoroastrian ancestors of modern Iranians, the same time is celebrated in parts of the South Asian sub-continent as the new year. The moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is calculated exactly every year and Iranian families gather together to observe the rituals.

The term Nowruz in writing, first appeared in Persian records in the 2nd century AD, but it was also an important day during the time of the Achaemenids (c. 648-330 BC), where kings from different nations under the Persian empire used to bring gifts to the Emperor, also called King of Kings (Shahanshah), of Persia on Nowruz. The significance of Nowruz in the Achaemenid empire was such that the great Persian king Cambyses II’s appointing as the king of Babylon was legitimized only after his participation in the New Year festival (Nowruz).
The UN’s General Assembly in 2010 recognized the International Day of Nowruz, describing it a spring festival of Persian origin which has been celebrated for over 3,000 years.During the meeting of The Inter-governmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage of the United Nations, held between 28 September – 2 October 2009 in Abu Dhabi, Nowrūz was officially registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage


of Humanity
The term Nowruz is a Persian compound-word and consists of:
The first day on the Iranian calendar falls on the March equinox(اعتدال شب و روز), the first day of spring. At the time of the equinox, the sun is observed to be directly over the equator, and the north and south poles of the Earth lie along the solar terminator; sunlight is evenly divided between the north and south hemispheres.

The Shahnameh, dates Nowruz as far back to the reign of Jamshid, who in Zoroastrian texts saved mankind from a killer winter that was destined to kill every living creature. The mythical Persian King Jamshid (Yima or Yama of the Indo-Iranian lore) perhaps symbolizes the transition of the Indo-Iranians from animal hunting to animal husbandry(پالنے) and a more settled life in human history. In the Shahnameh and Iranian mythology, he is credited with the foundation of Nowruz. In the Shahnama, Jamshid constructed a throne studded with gems. He had demons raise him above the earth into the heavens; there he sat on his throne like the sun shining in the sky. The world’s creatures gathered in wonder about him and scattered jewels around him, and called this day the New Day or No/Now-Ruz. This was the first day of the month of Farvardin (the first month of the Persian calendar).

Persepolis (Persian: تخت جمشید meaning the throne of Jamshid) all nations stair case. Notice the people from across the Achaemenid Persian Empire bringing gifts. Some scholars have associated the occasion to be either Mehregan or Nowruz.

Today, the festival of Nowruz is celebrated in many countries that were territories of, or influenced by, the Persian Empire: Iran, Various Iranian Peoples including Kurds, Afghanistan, parts of the Middle East, as well as in the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. It is also celebrated by the Zoroastrians as well by certain Iranic inhabitants in Pakistan’s Chitral region and Gilgit Baldistan in Hunza. It is also celebrated by the Iranian immigrants from Shiraz in Zanzibar.[31] it is called Nevruz in Turkic, Uyghurs who live in Northwestern China call it “Noruz”, and it is called Sultan Nevruz in Albanian. In Kurdish communities located in parts of western Iran, the holiday is referred to as Newroz, which is a variant of the Persian word Nowruz
narooz mubaraak
The message of norooz signifies hope, peace and prosperity … may the magic of this day brings lots of happiness in your life,

جہاں بھر میں ہمارے عشق کی تشہیر ہوجائے

جہاں بھر میں ہمارے عشق کی تشہیر ہوجائے
اُسے کس نے کہا تھا دل پہ یوں تحریر ہو جائے


میں سچا ہوں تو پھر آئے مِری تقدیر ہوجائے
میں جھوٹا ہوں تو میرے جرم کی تعزیر ہوجائے

میں اپنے خواب سے کہتا ہوں آنکھوں سے نکل آئے
ذرا آگے بڑھے اور خواب سے تعبیر ہوجائے

زباں ایسی کہ ہر اک لفظ مرہم سالگے اُس کا
نظر ایسی کہ اُٹھتے ہی دلوں میں تِیر ہو جائے

وہ ہر پَل جس میں اپنے پیار کی یادیں دھڑکتی ہیں
مِری جاگیر ہو جائے، تجھے زنجیر ہو جائے

سبب کچھ تو رہا ہوگا ترے حیدر کی حالت کا
کبھی جو بے سبب ہنس دے، کبھی دلگیر ہوجائے

حیدر قریشی کی  مکمل شاعری

دس دنیا ستر آخرت

اشفاق احمد کی کتاب زاویہ دوم کے باب “ان پڑھ سقراط” صفحہ نمبر 237 سے اقتباس

“خواتین و حضرات! سقراط کسی اسکول سے باقاعدہ پڑھا لکھا نہیں تھا۔ کسی کالج، سکول یا یونیورسٹی کا اس نے منہ نہیں دیکھا تھا۔ آپ کے حساب سے جو ان پڑھ لوگ ہیں وہ Experiment بھی کرتے ہیں۔ ایک حیران کن بات ہے اور آپ یقین نہیں کریں گے۔ میں جہاں جمعہ پڑھنے جاتا ہوں وہاں ایک مولوی صاحب ہیں۔ اب جو مولوی صاحب ہوتے ہیں ان کی اپنی ایک سوچ ہوتی ہے۔ انہیں سمجھنے کے لئے کسی اور طرح سے دیکھنا پڑتا ہے اور جب آپ ان کی سوچ کو سمجھ جائیں تو پھر آپ کو ان سے علم ملنے لگتا ہے۔

وہ نماز سے پہلے تمام صفوں کے درمیان ایک چار کونوں والا کپڑا پھراتے ہیں جس میں لوگ حسب توفیق یا حسب تمنا کچھ پیسے ڈال دیتے ہیں۔ اس مرتبہ بڑی عید سے پہلے جو جمعہ تھا اس میں بھی وہ خانوں والا کپڑا پھرایا گیا اور جو اعلان کیا وہ سن کر میں حیران رہ گیا۔ وہ اس طرح سے تھا “دوحا قطر سے کوئی صاحب آئے تھے۔ انہوں نے مجھے پانچ ہزار روپے دئے ہیں۔ میں نے وہ پیسے دو تین دن رکھے اور پھر میں نے ان روپوں کو سوسو اور پچاس پچاس کے نوٹوں میں Convert کروایا جنہیں اب میں یہاں لے آیا ہوں جو اس چوکونوں والے کپڑے میں ہیں۔ عید قریب ہے ہم سارے کے سارے لوگ صاحب حیثیت نہیں ہیں اور جس بھائی کو بھی ضرورت ہو وہ اس کپڑے میں سے اپنی مرضی کے مطابق نکال لے۔ وہ کہتا ہے کہ ہم پڑھتے ہیں کہ “دس دنیا ستر آخرت۔

آخر دینے سے کچھ فائدہ ہی ہوتا ہے نا! شاید وہ یہ ٹیسٹ کرنا چاہتا تھا کہ یہ بات جو لکھی ہوئی ہے یہ واقعی درست ہے یا پھر ایسے ہی چلتی چلی آ رہی ہے۔ میں نے دیکھا کہ اس کپڑے میں سے کچھ لوگوں نے روپے لے لئے۔ ایک نے پچاس کا نوٹ لیا۔ ایک اور شخص نے سو کا نوٹ لیا۔ کچھ ڈالنے والوں نے اس کپڑے میں اپنی طرف سے بھی نوٹ ڈالے۔ اگلے دن میں مولوی صاحب سے ملا اور ان سے کہا کہ گزشتہ روز آپ کا عجیب و غریب تجربہ تھا۔ ہم نے تو ایسا آج تک دیکھا نہ سنا۔ تو وہ کہنے لگا کہ جناب جب میں نے آخر میں اس رومال یا کپڑے کو کھول کر دیکھا اور گنا تو پونے چھ ہزار روپے تھے۔

Melting Lake, Frozen Souls By Ghulam Amin Beg

As the spring is approaching, the thick ice sheet covering Attabad Lake might have started melting down, but enabling support to sustain life for the 25,000 souls in Gojal or upper Hunza continues to remain frozen.

The federal government through NDMA, the GB government, UN Agencies and agencies of the AKDN might have joined hands in mid July 2010 and came up with winter contingency plans and early recovery plan and might have foreseen the risks of a frozen lake and many other scary scenarios in paper, but the actual deployment of resources on ground including provision of all weather dedicated passenger boat or heli service for emergencies, provision of immediate and safe dwellings for IDPs and support to extend quality secondary health care and uninterrupted access to education-the first priority of the affected people, remained mere promise during the winter.

Though the flash floods in Gilgit Baltistan in late July 2010, and later flooding all over Pakistan, made things worse for the affectees of the Attabad landslide disaster, however harsh winter and strong winds multiplied sufferings for the stranded people of Gojal valley, upstream the lake.

Having said that nobody should discount the fact that lack of political will, weak implementation capacities and corruption of the government machinery, and indifference of and uncoordinated response and communication by humanitarian and development agencies also played its due role in downplaying the real sufferings of the people and failing to make a real humanitarian, strategic and business case for swift opening and draining of the lake water, and providing resources for implementation of the various contingency and early recovery plans.

For example, against a target of PKR 1.2 billion projected for 18 months early recovery activities in July last year, for areas like winter extended relief, health, education, livelihoods and agriculture, basic communication infrastructure and community restoration, the government was able to mobilize PKR 100 million and other agencies mobilized resources to the tune of PKR 200 million. Much of these funds related to relief and provision of food and non-food items-NFIs. Thanks to initial food aid to IDPs by FOCUS/AKDN, and later the swift response by the Chinese government and then the pre-planned but coincidental after response by WFP with support from donor countries including USAID that the food deficit and fuel problems were mitigated for six months now. What will happen after six months is anybody’s guess.

But as in one complaint letter addressed to the head of a regional institution and copied to ‘all concerned departments’, dated 5th February 2011, a rehabilitation management committee of the IDPs of Shishkat wrote:

Only food is not enough. Feed is given to animals, to beasts in the cages in a Zoo or to criminals in jails. But we are none of them. IDPs are human beings like non-IDPs. They have good or bad feelings in response to the circumstances. IDPs have also their social life. They have to join happy or unhappy occasions in society. They have to educate their children with dignity and need access to health facilities. Besides food is more then eating rice, tea and local bread for months? Our children are fed up of eating same food, they demand quality food, we are unable to provide, because we are cash drained.

Shelter was a key need. However the IDPs from Shishkat complained that they were forced by the government and the community institutions to leave the village and migrate to central Hunza. False promises were made that they will be provided rents to live in rented buildings, job opportunities shall be offered and that living allowance will be made available. Now they complain except for food, no promise was kept and over 150 households are facing problems as they don’t have cash to pay rents, utility bills, mobility costs, school fees and health costs. The temporary winter shelter could only be completed for half of the total IDPs and the winter is near ending.

Then, education was prioritized first by the suffering souls and IDPs. What they needed from the government and the long established non-governmental provider of education, to upgrade two of the existing schools, one for boys, other for girls into higher secondary or inter-colleges to reduce the pressures of young girls and young boys migrating across the lake to other regions in search of education. Annually over 200 students, over 70% girls pass 10th grade and leave the area, as there is no inter-college. That would have reduced costs, trauma and above all retained young people in the area. Providing fee remission to students in other educational institutions was another plan.50% students received from the government, six months remission. The rest are waiting for a promise unrealized. Government and large development agencies with governance structures away from the region, and politicians with myopic visions and party interests move only when there is public pressure, political clout, and institutional voice. The stranded people and the IDPs had none.

Then there was priority for secondary and tertiary health care. The government has a very good building in Gulmit, equipments are in place, but there were no doctors, technicians and paramedics. The government and again largest provider of private health were unable to provide incentives and packages for doctors to stay in the affected area. They only moved in and out for a week or ten days. When the harsh winter came, the doctors were first to fly, as there were no insulated rooms for them, no fuel to cook and no electricity to light. Bharia Foundation provided team of doctors and nurses for three months, and they equipped the hospital, provided a system, but they were giggled and they left. The government wanted the largest provider of health service in the area to take over, but their decision making processes normally followed normal peace time protocols, and went beyond emergency response, and it was too late. Now there is another talk of the town, that Bharia Foundation has been requested to come again. Meanwhile the whole winter passed, and during the last three months, probably twice doctors were mad available for seven days each.

And now snail pace work on the spillway. While the now notorious FWO, is again digging and blasting, this time for 670 million PKR, and promising to lower the lake by 30 meter by 15th May 2011. The first time this contractor, promised to open the lake initially in two weeks, then in 45 days 250 million, but later provided a bill of 800 PKR, and later is history, how settlement upon settlement were inundated and billions worth of trade with China were lost, billion worth livelihoods and assets submerged in the lake, and over 25 kilometres of Karakoram Highway-KKH and vital bridges were destroyed. People complain that in broad day light the FWO officials are selling the fuel oil to boat operators and vehicles on a daily basis. The joke is that the only benefit people have in Hunza from FWO is cheaper diesel which they are blamed they sell in black market.

At one stage, people took a sign of relief when the news came that the President, PM and COAS have agreed to request the Chinese to do the work. Rumours also came out of traders visiting China that even fleet of engineering corp of PLA are ready and on the move. But suddenly, they saw the same workforce at work who ditched them a year ago!

And now, dedicated passenger boat service provided by the army/NDMA remained off the lake for many reasons; high winds, frozen lake and more so lack of transparency and absence of a standing operating procedure or SOP in place. For example no timetables for boat operations were ever displayed, so that passengers, the old, sick and children and women who wish to travel in emergencies know when to leave their home, and when to reach their destiny. So uncertain, humiliating and crooked were the operations that people would wait for 2-4 hours to actually see a boat operator coming and boating at will. If a passenger or group of young people start complaining on late start, they will switch off their motors and float alone. The cargo boats, operated by businesspeople have obvious profit maximization in mind, they are providing the services, and remain the only hope, but people also blame the operators of treating the stranded people like prisoners or criminals.

There is no choice for the people, but to live a prisoner’s life.

In conclusion, the lake is melting down, the actual deployment of resources on ground including provision of all weather dedicated passenger boat or heli service for emergencies, provision of immediate and safe dwellings for IDPs and support to extend quality secondary health care and uninterrupted access to education-the first priority of the affected people,remained mere promise.

One reason for this inaction being, the souls of the 25,000 people are frozen. They have lost their voice under the roaring winds over the lake. They have lost their sense of being free human souls, but living a prisoner’s life. Some youth and literati may be raising voice on this injustice and inhuman treatment, but majority are tranquilized by dozes of divisive petty politics, administrative religious verdicts and stick and carrot policies of the administration.

Currently the Mafiosi, a nexus of corrupt officials, border traders and petty local political opportunists, rule the souls and minds of the suffering people.

The rest of the so-called responsible agencies both governmental and others,with a mandate to respond and deliver, are living in comfort zones in five start office complexes in Islamabad and other places, playing with figures and doing PowerPoint presentations, and flying in helicopters with donors to ‘untroubled’ areas, or making areas ‘trouble-free’ when high officials plan to visit an affected area.

Let’s end this on a positive note. After every winter, there comes a spring. Could the youth find its voice back, as they did in Egypt and the larger middle east?

The only ray of hope for the future. Engage Chinese expertise and technology and engage the army higher command directly advocating that vital national interests and interests of the local affected people converge. Only the youth and the retired servicemen from the area could make a strong case for it.

As one elected representative said, ‘This is the last chance for FWO. If the spillway was not lowered by the target date this time, the peoples faith in the ability of the army to deliver shall be badly shaken, and we will not be able to stop the people for whatever decisions they make as a result of this failing’.

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