Shimshal Pakistan – Introducing the area – 1 AM000000100000001031 7, 2008Posted by Mыsofer in Villages.
Northern Pakistan borders Afghanistan, China and India and is home to three significant mountain ranges: the Hindu Kush, the Western Himalaya, and the Karakoram. The Karakoram mountain range contains the greatest concentration of high peaks in the world and the longest glaciers outside the Polar region. Five of the world’s 14 peaks over 8000m are in Northern Pakistan, including the world’s second highest mountain K2, and there are some 82 peaks over 7000m within a radius of 180 kilometres. The region is also characterised by much diversity in terms of language and culture. There are more than 10 different languages, several different Islamic sects (including Ismaili, Sunni and Shia), and several communities belonging to non-Islamic belief systems.
The testimonies in the Pakistan collection are from Shimshal, a community whose territory makes up a significant part of the Karakoram mountain range in Northern Pakistan. It includes many peaks over 6000 metres, numerous glaciers and productive alpine pastures. “We have something…that others don’t: beautiful nature – the mountains and glaciers, and independence,” says Inayat, conveying the pride and attachment Shimshalis have for their environment.
Shimshal village lies at 3100m and most of the cultivatable area lies between 3000 and 3300 metres. The short growing season at this altitude allows only one crop to be cultivated in a year; the major crops are wheat, barley, potatoes and peas. Shimshal is one of the few communities in Pakistan’s Northern Areas that grows enough agricultural produce to feed itself. It is the sole steward of vast areas of high-altitude pasture, and extensive herding of sheep, goats, cattle and yaks allows Shimshalis to earn much of their income from the sale of livestock and livestock products.
Shimshalis trace their ancestors back 14 generations to their “grandfather” Mamusing who settled in the area with his wife. Their son, Sher, claimed rights over the Pamir – the pastures – after winning a polo match against herders from Kyrgyzstan. Several narrators describe this story in detail. Others recall the era when Shimshal was part of the independent principality of Hunza, ruled and taxed by the Mir. In 1974, President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto declared an end to the remaining princely states in Pakistan, including Hunza.
Shimshalis are Wakhi speakers and Ismaili Muslims. Members of the same cultural-linguistic group live in other valleys in Northern Pakistan, as well as the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan, and parts of China and Tajikistan. Ismailism is a branch of Shia Islam and Ismailis follow their living Imam (spiritual leader), currently the Aga Khan.