PESHAWAR: The dispute over the conversion to Islam of a Kalash girl was resolved on Friday as the 14-year-old recorded her statement before a judicial magistrate saying she converted out of free will, a government official confirmed.
On Thursday, the girl's decision to convert sparked a clash between the Kalash tribe and members of the Muslim community in the Bamburate Valley of Chitral district, forcing police to use teargas to disperse the mobs. The dispute started apparently because the girl backtracked on her conversion, and the Muslim community accused the Kalash tribe of forcing her to do so.
Deputy Commissioner Chitral Usama Waraich along with his staff reached the valley on Friday and convened a jirga of elders from both sides.
Waraich told DawnNews that the jirga thoroughly discussed the issue and both sides agreed that the girl’s statement will be final and they will accept her will. He said that the administration shifted the girl to Chitral town and presented her before a judicial magistrate.
The girl recorded her statement before the magistrate, “saying she was not forced by any community to convert to Islam,” said the deputy commissioner.
He said the girl's family and the Kalash community accepted her statement.
“It is now up to the girl whether she lives with her Kalash family or the Muslim community,” he said.
Usama said that the district administration and police are investigating causes of the clash and have registered a First Information Report.
A villager earlier told Dawn newspaper by phone from Chitral that the girl converted to Islam on Wednesday “under the guidance” of a local Muslim, left her home and decided to stay with the man’s family in the same village.
But Luke Rehmat, a Kalash activist, said the girl, a student of class IX, had a change of heart on Thursday, saying that she had made a mistake in converting to Islam and returned to her home.
Following this, he told Dawn, a group of villagers started marching on the Kalash quarter of Bamburate village. They alleged that the girl’s relatives had forcibly taken her away from the Muslim home and compelled her to go back on her conversion.
The Kalash activist also claimed that the villagers attacked a Kalash house with stones and sticks.
Reports said the Kalash community elders and the girl's family were of the view that the teenager was lured and forced to change her religion.
About 3,000 Kalash live in Bamburate, Birir and Rambur Valleys — all in southern Chitral. Increasingly their youth are converting to Islam, prompting activists to campaign to preserve the traditions of the ancient, diminishing tribe.
Chitral, a northern district of Khyber-Pukhtunkwa province, has long attracted tourists for its beauty.