Chitralis move to higher pastures to escape Covid-19

Published June 8, 2020
A herd of sheep grazes in Upper Chitral. — Dawn
A herd of sheep grazes in Upper Chitral. — Dawn

CHITRAL: The Covid-19 dread has shifted the village hustle and bustle to the pastures in the highlands in Upper Chitral and the Lot Koh and Sheshi Koh valleys, thus reviving a practice abandoned thanks to modernity.

Due to the dependence of the pastoral economy of Chitral on cattle farming, almost each village has its own pasture land (ghari in Chitrali language) where the villagers graze their livestock in the summer by staying there for three to four months in the makeshift houses.

Festivals used to held at times of migration to the pastures (ghari nisik) and descending from the pasture to the village along with the cattle (ghari khomik), but these have been abandoned with the advent of modern times, and now majority of people prefer to stay in villages.

The traditional hustle and bustle and festivities of the summer season have reportedly returned to the highland pastures this year as the villagers did not like to be confined to their homes due to the coronavirus dread.

Aziz Khan of Lone village said almost all the villagers working in different cities of the country and even abroad had returned to the village this year, and most of them had along with their families shifted to the pastures moved by nostalgic passions.

He said the problem of electricity had been solved by the solar power systems which provided uninterrupted supply there. Mobile phone connectivity is yet another boon in the pastures, and pure milk products are available there to help prolong their stay in the highlands, he added.

Buzurg Wali of Rech said in the previous years, very few families came to stay in the pastures in summer, but this year, the situation was totally different as almost all the men could be seen in the vast expanse of the pastures where spring is at its full bloom.

He said that the villagers coming from the down districts found the pastures as safe place from the coronavirus pandemic

“History is repeating itself as the summer pastures have once again become the centre of the villagers as it used to be in his childhood days when he used to spend the summer vacations with his parents in the pastures,” said Wali.

Seizing the opportunity, the village shopkeepers have also opened grocery shops in the pastures in the makeshift cabins making available the essential commodities.

Shapir Khan of Mastuj said the Chumrkan pasture was situated at a distance of six to eight hours trekking from his village, where one can find everything ranging from mobile easy load cards to cigarettes to eatables.

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2020

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