For the first time in the country's 70-year history, a man from the Kalash community has been nominated for a minority seat in one of the country's legislatures, it emerged on Wednesday.
Wazir Zada, who hails from Chitral, has been awarded a ticket for a reserved minority seat in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).
According to PTI leader Atif Khan, the party has named Ravi Kumar as their top choice and Kalash man Wazir Zada has been listed as their second choice on the priority list submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
It is the first time a member of the Kalash community, which is Pakistan's smallest ethno-religious group, has been nominated for a seat in the provincial assembly.
Wazir Zada is well known for his social and political services to the community. He has worked with zeal to bring together the Muslim and Kalash communities and for the social uplifting and infrastructural development of the region.
Appreciating PTI's gesture, he said the party has won the hearts of his people and he hopes that he is given a chance to be a representative in KP Assembly and bring to light the myriad problems the community and its near-extinct culture is facing.
The National Commission on Human Rights had last year sounded the alarm about the Kalash community in a report in which it noted that the numbers of the group were only around 4,000 and cited “unwilling conversions and cajoled marriages with non-Kalash” as being among the immediate threats facing the community.
The report also referred to environmental stressors such as the denial of land rights which has played havoc with the pattern of their lives.
The younger generation, already deprived of adequate educational facilities, has no choice but to study from textbooks meant for adherents of the majority faith, which amounts to what the NCHR chairman described as “conversion through subtle indoctrination”.
The fact that there is no written Kalasha script has further endangered the preservation of their heritage.
Illegal logging has increased the frequency of flash floods in the valleys where they reside, and the mushrooming of hotels in the scenic location violates the Kalash’s customary property rights.
Moreover, the growing tourist traffic to the area, drawn by the community’s unique rituals and its laidback culture, has brought out some of the worst instincts of the Pakistani public.