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Linguistic Diversity in NWFP

Posted on May 7, 2008
Filed Under >Manzoor Ali Shah, Culture & Heritage
27 Comments
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Manzoor Ali Shah

The NWFP has always been in limelight, but for wrong reasons. From the British raj’s Afghan wars in eighteenth century to Russian invasion in 1979 and American ouster of Taliban from Kabul in 2002, NWFP had been pivotal to the imperialistic designs, as it provides road access to Afghanistan. Later, the emergence of local Taliban and militancy, itself a product of 30 years long Afghan war, put the Frontier on the map of world, as the bastion of terrorism.

The media stereotyping put the beautiful aspects of its culture, history and people on the backburner and nowadays world knows the people of the Frontier as mere suicide bombers and terrorists. However, there are many a remarkable traits and cultural aspects, which only the Frontier could claim and linguistic diversity of the province is one of such traits.

There are around 69 languages are spoken in Pakistan, 26 out of these spoken in NWFP, and 12 languages in Chitral district alone. According to Frontier Language Institute (FLI) Bateri (20,000), Chillaso (2,000), Gowro (200) and Kohistani (200,000) are spoken in Indus Kohistan.

Chitral district, according to renowned Norwegian linguistic Georg Morgenstierne, was the area with the highest linguistic diversity in the world. The languages give the district a unique flavor of socio-cultural richness and ethno-linguistic diversity. Dameli (2,000), Gawar-Bati (200), Kalasha (3,000), Khowar (200,000), Palula (2,000), Wakhi (2,000), Yidgha (2,000) and Kam-Kataviri (2,000) are the languages spoken in district.

Kalasha is the mother tongue of the famed and mysterious race of Kalasha living in the valleys of Rambur, Bomboret and Berir, while Kam-Kataviri is of the Nuristani people. Nuristanis are the people believed to be subject of a Kipling story “The Man Who Would Be King” which was adapted as motion picture starring Sean Connery in 1975. Unlike Kalasha who are known as the black Kafirs (infidels) due to the black outfit they wear; Nuristanis are known as Red Kafirs due to the red color of their skin.

While, Domakki (200) Hunza, Shina (200,000) Gilgit, Balti (200,000) Baltistan, Burushaski (20,000) Hunza, Nagar and Yasin, Kashmiri, Kundal Shahi and Pahari-Potwari are spoken in Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir.

Gwari (20,000) is spoken in Swat and Upper Dir, while Torwali (20,000) and Ushojo (200) are spoken in Swat, while Kalkoti (2,000) is spoken in Dir Kohistan and Ormuri (2,000) is spoken in South Waziristan.

Pashto and Gojari are spoken throughout the region and Hindko is spoken in Peshawar, Kohat and Kashmir. However, as most of these languages are spoken by small communities, therefore, qualify for categories of languages near extinction and threatened languages and it is need of the hour to preserve this marvelous part of our ethno-linguistic heritage.

* Number within brackets shows number of speakers in excess of the number

27 comments posted

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  1. November 1st, 2010 7:44 am

    good thinking dear seema saeed

  2. Watan Aziz says:
    May 7th, 2010 2:24 pm

    There are around 69 languages are spoken in Pakistan, 26 out of these spoken in NWFP, and 12 languages in Chitral district alone.

    And this should be part of the standard text for the social studies.

    We keep reading the wrong books, have wrong information and make wrong decisions. And then we wonder where we are and why?

    Can we respect diversity of peoples, faiths, languages, cultures?

  3. Seema Saeed says:
    March 29th, 2010 9:27 pm

    Changing name of NWFP: A political drama towards disintegration.
    For decades ANP used the issue of renaming the province as a political agenda, and now when they are in absolute power, they have no option, but to address the issue they once created. I am wondering how the changed name of the province will bring a favorable change in the life of those who are living in this province:
    • Will the intensity of bomb blasts decreases or the suicide bombers will stop exploding?
    • Will the masses get better health and education facilities within a clean environment to live?
    • Will there be no more load shedding of electricity, gas, sugar and ‘atta’?
    • Will the lawlessness and cases of kidnapping for ransom will decrease?
    If the answer to these questions is yes, then I am the first to swear that I will fight till death for this noble cause. However, if this is not the case, then what is the logic of making a bigger crisis out of this ill-advised and poorly perceived issue?
    If the ANP is successful in changing the name, what can be the consequences? To address this critical question, we have to accept the hard reality that Pashto is not the primary language of majority in Chitral, Kohistan (both Swat-Kohistan and Indus-Kohistan of Manshera), Abbottabad, Manshera, Haripur, Kohat, and Dera Ismail Khan. These will be the aggrieved districts, if the name is changed to Pashtoon-Khwaa or Paktoon-Khwaa or Afghania etc. Similarly, the majority in these districts will resist to varying degree against this unpopular decision. Once, the Pandora box is opened, then we should not forget that our hidden and apparent enemies will help the locals in these aggrieved districts to claim some autonomy, merge with others, stay independent or whatever. If the ANP is under the impression that they will control the future mob and resistance, they have an open choice now to test their muscles in FATA, even with the full support of Para Military and Armed Forces of Pakistan.
    The actual strengths of the NWFP are its unique resources like water, forests, natural gas and vast agricultural lands of the south. Regarding water resources of Pakistan, we have to admit that most of the water ways and water storages are more in the control of those potential aggrieved districts mentioned above. Once the resistance due to changed name is started, the control of water will be no more be in the hands of those, who are controlling the things now. Thus, if ANP by virtue of its stance as the local party working for the welfare of people of NWFP; will lose its strength of being custodians of water resources of Pakistan, then what will be their say in the national politics.
    Similarly, most of our productive and valuable forests and associated wildlife are in Chitral, Kohistan and Manshera. Again all these are the potential aggrieved districts. We cannot neither find the valuable Diar nor the globally recognized and most expensive trophy animal of the world – Markhor in Charsadda and its surrounding districts. These forested areas are also a great source of tourist revenues for NWFP. Most of the national and international tourists are interested in visiting Chitral, Swat Kohistan and Hill tracts of Hazara. Except for Lower Swat all the areas are again the potential aggrieved districts. We also have to take into consideration that whether any tourist will ever bother to visit lower Swat, when they are aware of the fact that Green Chowk, the business centre of lower Swat was the favorite site of certain hidden forces for hanging the beheaded bodies of the residents of Swat.
    Natural gas in Karak district is another great resource of the province. The Khattaks of this area are smart enough to understand that they will never be like the residents of Sui, who are still without gas, where as the gas of Sui is distributed from North to South and East to West corners of the country. The Khattaks are already agitating whenever they feel discriminated in matters related to gas. Moreover, ANP is present in papers once we cross the Kotal pass or the Kohat tunnel. So, leaders of ANP should stop daydreaming that they will ever negotiate on the basis of the natural gas resources of Southern NWFP.
    Another big resource of the NWFP is its vast potential agricultural lands of Karak, Lakki Marwat and Dera Ismail Khan. In the past, these areas were kept intentionally backward by the political forces of NWFP, so that the dominance of Charsadda and its surroundings should stay intact. However, who so ever is a regular visitor of these areas for last few decades would have noticed that now these areas are turning ‘green’. Thanks to the Chasma Right Bank Canal, as it improved the water table in the southern districts of NWFP. Now with the cheaper but technologically improved water pumps (tube wells), the virgin lands of these southern districts are turning into more productive agricultural lands. Again, the masses of these districts have no sympathizes with ANP, their leaders and their political agendas. They still remember the words of the then leader of ANP, Abdul Wali Khan, who during the cold war era, declared the people of these districts as the potential “labour class” of independent Pakhtoonistan.
    FATA always enjoyed the independent status, so, if ANP leaders will try to merge the tribal agencies with their Paktoon-Khwaa or Afghania, they will only face resistance. Same will be the case of the PATA, as they will definitely keep their separate identity and will be more comfortable with FATA, as against some other alternative arrangements.
    When ANP and their Paktoon-Khwaa or Afghania, will be without the water resources, forests, natural gas and vast agricultural lands, on what basis will they take part in the national or local politics? Their remaining strongholds of Charsadda, Mardan and Nowshera will produce nothing except a few ‘Khans’ and lot of their enemies.
    If we as Pakistanis want our separate identity, it is high time that we come together, join hands against our hidden and apparent enemies and talk about integration. For that to happen, we have to forget our differences and political agendas and it is an excellent opportunity for ANP in NWFP to come with the suggestion that we will definitely change the name of our province, but the name of that province will be “Amnistan” – a place of ‘Amn’ or in other words ‘a place of peace, serenity and tranquility’. First, they will swear and promise that this province will never be a battle field for others to fight their war over here, and then we will promise that we will never allow anyone to use our lands as battle fields for others. If such words will come from the souls and bodies of all of us, our future is bright, InshaAllah.

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